The Little Fireface Project is the world’s longest-running slow loris conservation project. The project aims to learn more about all slow loris species, with a focus on the Critically Endangered Javan slow loris and educate local communities so as to promote the conservation of the species. It supports the conservation of the Javan Slow Loris through research and education.
The Little Fireface Project, headed by world-renowned Professor Anna Nekaris, studies the ecology of the Javan slow loris, and contributes wherever possible to conservation and ecology to loris species throughout their range. The project’s scope of research is widespread, encompassing behavioural ecology, museum studies, genetics, acoustics, taxonomy, conservation education and chemical ecology. The Little Fireface Project team also conducts outreach and education programmes for local communities to get them to join the conservation movement.
ASAP Species That We Work On
- Javan Slow Loris Nycticebus javanicus
Threats to the Javan Slow Loris
Hunting and the illegal wildlife trade
The greatest threat to slow lorises illegal wildlife trade for pets, photo props, and traditional medicines. Javan slow lorises are sold widely in animal markets as pets, and as they are venomous, their teeth are often removed using nail clippers or pliers to reduce their ability to bite potential owners. The illegal pet trade has been fuelled by the continued posting of online imagery featuring pet slow lorises. Such imagery also contributes to the illegal photo prop trade, where willing tourists get their “own” photo with a rare and illegally caught animal. Traditional medicine practices are equally cruel, with caught individuals killed, dried and sold. The slow loris is known as the animal that can cure “100 diseases”. Combined, these multiple uses of trade increase the challenge of conserving all eight slow loris species.
Habitat loss and destruction
The Javan slow loris is threatened by continued habitat loss and destruction due human population growth, the intensification of agriculture and the conversion of forest to plantations. The loss of forest connectivity restricts the slow loris’ ability to travel, and forces them to the ground, which exposes them to predation. The loss of forest also leaves them more exposed to capture by humans and reduces their availability of suitable sleeping sites.
What We Do
The Little Fireface team continues to conduct active research on Javan slow lorises in Indonesia, and also collaborates with other organisation across Asia studying other slow and slender loris species. The team takes an interdisciplinary approach to research looking not only at biological aspects of the slow loris, but also incorporates an ethnoprimatological approach to understand how the slow loris is perceived within native cultures. The research on wild Javan slow lorises aims to understand better various aspects of their ecology so that we can understand what the species requires to survive in the future. Recent research has focused on: ongoing behavioural data collection, home range size and infant dispersal, dietary components including nutritional content, and venom composition and function. The team also carry out regular market surveys at the larger towns in West Java to monitor the illegal wildlife trade in slow lorises and other species.
Education programme and community outreach
Education and outreach conducted by the Little Fireface Project focuses on fostering local people’s knowledge and empowering children to cherish their local wildlife. When LFP began in Cipaganti, many people did not know what a slow loris was, today the project hosts bi-annual Slow Loris Pride Days in which hundreds of villagers participate. Key aspects of LFP’s education programme include;
- Designed and printed a children’s book ‘Slow Loris Forest Protector’, with accompanying teacher’s and children’s activity pack. Each child received a book to be kept and cherished.
- ‘Nature Club’ is an opportunity for children to come to learn and engage with nature. The children are taught weekly about all the wildlife around them from slow lorises to butterflies to trees. They have also incorporated a sapling nursery into a purpose-built school so the children are able to nurture this passion for nature. This school also provides an education to children from low income families.
- ‘Slow Loris Pride Days’ are an opportunity for local communities to learn about the project and their local wildlife, and have lots of fun doing it. The main message of the Pride Days is the importance of the slow loris as a pollinator and as pest control, in an area where agriculture is vital to the economy. Football tournaments and games are incorporated into ‘Slow Loris Pride Days’.
- The team also works closely with local authorities, zoos and rescue centres to share results in an open discussion forum. They carry out workshops for various agencies to help tackle the illegal wildlife trade. They also hold workshops with zoos and rescue centres to share the results of research to help improve captive welfare for lorises. All attendees are provided with materials to keep as reference guides.
Slow Loris Outreach Week (S.L.O.W.) and Media
As an outreach and education program, the SLOW campaign aims to raise awareness of the plight of the slow loris worldwide through the use of social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, and a series of events. The campaign, which will be entering its fourth year, takes place in mid-September annually. This event also provides an opportunity to educate people about the reality of the “cute” pet loris YouTube videos, which are in fact incredibly cruel and see slow lorises in terrible conditions. LFP also promotes loris conservation through other media outlets such as television and radio globally. In 2015, LFP trackers featuring on the Indonesian Trans 7 television network and Professor Nekaris discussing the plight of the slow loris on BBC2.
Where We Work
Our current main field project is on the Indonesian island of Java, where we have initiated the first-ever long-term study of a lorisiform primate in the wild – the Javan slow loris. At the same time, during country-wide surveys in forests and wildlife markets we also make observations of other obscure nocturnal animals, including colugos, pangolins, civets, small cats, mustelids and owls.
Web & Social Media
Featured image: Little Fireface Project