First ever pictures of mysterious mammal
Tuesday 20 July 2010
One of the rarest and most threatened primates in the world, so mysterious it was once thought to be extinct, has been has been caught on camera for the first time.
The pictures of the Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides) were taken in the montane forests of central Sri Lanka by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Sri Lankan researchers.
Until now this subspecies of slender loris has only been seen four times since 1937 and disappeared from 1939 to 2002, leading experts to believe it had become extinct.
Conservation biologists from ZSL’s Edge of Existence Programme surveyed 2km transects for more than 200 hours, looking for signs of this elusive wide-eyed primate.
The pictures of the nocturnal creature, which is classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, show an eight inch long (head and body length) adult male slender loris sitting on a forest branch. It is characterised by his short limbs and long, dense fur.
Conservationists have discovered that both the fore and hind limbs of the Horton Plains slender loris appear shorter and sturdier than the limbs of any of the other loris found in either Sri Lanka or southern India showing how the mammal has adapted to live in the cool montane forest.
ZSL Conservation biologist Dr. Craig Turner said: “We are thrilled to have captured the first ever photographs and prove its continued existence – especially after its 65 year disappearing act. This is the first time we have been able to conduct such a close examination of the Horton Plains slender loris.
“The discovery improves our knowledge of this species, but we need to focus our efforts on the conservation and restoration of the remaining montane forest where this species still exists. Currently this accounts for less than one per-cent of the land area of Sri Lanka.”
Research leader Saman Gamage added: “This discovery is a great reward for the ongoing field research we undertake across much of south-western Sri Lanka.
“Nearly 1,000 nocturnal surveys have been completed in 120 different forest areas looking for all loris species to assess their status, ecological needs and current threats. We are now conducting further studies to establish whether the Horton Plains slender loris could even be a species in its own right.”
You can find out more about the Slender Loris on the EDGE of Existence website
All images © C Mahanayakage