Saving slender lorises in Sri Lanka

Red slender loris

Characterised by enormous eyes and long, thin limbs, the red slender loris (Loris tardigradus) is a small nocturnal primate found only in Sri Lanka. The species has been identified as a global conservation priority by ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme due to its evolutionary uniqueness and threatened status. 

Why we are there

The red slender loris is classified as Endangered by the IUCN. As Sri Lanka lost much of its rainforest to development, populations of slender loris declined. Today, fewer than 2,500 individuals are thought to survive in isolated forest patches across south western and central Sri Lanka. ZSL has been engaged in a collaborative project, the Red Slender Loris Conservation Programme (RSLCP), since 2008 to bring conservation focus to the species and its remaining habitat. 

There are two subspecies of red slender loris, and the habitats of both are rapidly being lost and fragmented due to agricultural development and firewood collection. The western red slender loris (Loris tardigradus tardigradus) inhabits wet lowland habitats and is estimated to number approximately 1,500 individuals. The montane slender loris (L. t. nycticeboides) is in an even worse state, and was thought to be possibly extinct from 1937 until its rediscovery in 2009 by members of RSLCP. The population of this subspecies is estimated to number around 80 individuals, making it an urgent conservation priority.

Key achievements and goals

  • 2009-2011: Over 1,000 surveys across Sri Lanka to collect vital information on loris distribution, habitat preferences and threats
  • 2009: Rediscovery of montane slender loris, a subspecies that was thought to be possibly extinct having not been closely examined for more than 70 years.
  • 2011: Initiation of habitat restoration project in Nuwara Eliya, central Sri Lanka, to restore and connect fragmented forest patches containing populations of montane slender loris



Project information

Key species

Red slender loris Loris tardigardus

Lorises are small nocturnal animals that inhabit the forests of India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia, and feed primarily on insects. 

People involved

Nisha Owen runs ZSL’s EDGE of existence programme

Parners and sponsors

Open University of Sri Lanka

University of Colombo

Funded by: Darwin Initiative; IUCN Save Our Species; BBC Wildlife Fund; Synchronicity Foundation; Fauna and Flora international; Nando Peretti Foundation; Van Tienhoven Foundation for International Nature Protection