Adorable loris videos: maimed, tortured, dying endangered trafficked animals on YouTube

You may be one of the millions of people who've enjoyed videos of slow lorises behaving adorably while being tickled or clutching tiny cocktail umbrellas. However, according to animal rights activists, these endangered lorises have been illegally trafficked, brutally mutilated, and are doomed to die from infection, covered in their own feces and urine.
"The only reason the loris isn't biting the person holding it in the video is because it has had its teeth ripped out with pliers," said Chris Shepherd of Traffic Southeast Asia, which campaigns against the trade in primates.

The teeth are removed because the loris, listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, can deliver a toxic bite. Mr Shepherd said: "The creature is then effectively doomed because of infection. Most don't last very long after that..."

Dr Nekaris said the loris in the umbrella video had suffered a head wound, most likely caused by being transported in a cage. Although the creature may look happy, it submits to being tickled as a passive defence-mechanism to deal with stress.

The loris is a nocturnal animal and is effectively being blinded by the daylight in the videos. Disoriented, it grasps at the umbrella believing it is the bamboo of its natural terrain.

YouTube sensation fuelling trade in an endangered species (via The Awl)

(Image: Slender Loris skeleton, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ellenm1's photostream)


  1. So depressing…
    quick, I need a cute slow loris vid as a chaser.

    Although the whole “feces and urine soaked demise” thing was only if you tried to return the loris to the wild and it had no loris mommy to clean its fur.

  2. I normally find animal-rights activism to be very sensationalist, to the point that I end up angrier at the activist than the alleged villain of the story. This level-headed piece, by contrast, is truly affecting. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Cory.

  3. Dr Nekaris said the loris in the umbrella video had suffered a head wound, most likely caused by being transported in a cage.

    I’m guilty of having enjoyed that video. I don’t like it when bastards get my lulz.

  4. I’m so relieved that Cory took the time to post this. Any exotic animal you are getting as a pet has most likely come from an abusive trade. There is a reason why some animals are not common pets.

  5. If these are in fact exhibitions of animal torture, shouldn’t YouTube be notified so they can remove them and ban the posters? They’re usually pretty quick to respond to this kind of issue.

    1. Good point! I contacted the International Primate Protection League about this and they said they did ask but You Tube was indifferent.

  6. So, uh, where’s the evidence that the umbrella holder has a head wound, or that the ticklee is undergoing a defense mechanism? I’ve seen the exact same reaction from several cats who clearly enjoy it.

  7. Hate to be a self-righteous wanker BUT…

    I did say all of the above when you posted the ‘slow loris with an umbrella clip’.

    Weirdly comments were just shut down on that post.

    Agreed macemoneta, youtube should take it down as should boingboing.

    No amount of traffic is worth the torture and destruction of a species.

    Yours truly,

    Sir S-R Wanker

    1. I recall that. Little censorships rankle. Perhaps the “concern troll” was deployed to shut up those not amused.

  8. Yes, and Facebook is fueling affairs, divorces, prostitution, and sex-trafficing! Quick, ban Facebook! Better yet, ban the Internet, just to be safe.

    The illegal trade in, and market for, the adorable slow loris is fueling the trade in this endangered species. Put the blame squarely where it belongs: on the traffickers and on those who buy from them and on the countries that permit the trade or do little to enforce restrictions. By not taking down such videos, YouTube has equally highlighted the plight of the slow loris.

  9. Aww that ruined the video for me. I am going to go ruin it for all my friends who posted it to FB now too.

  10. This is like discovering you jerked off to porn that was actually video of someone getting raped. So fucked up. These poor creatures are too adorable to survive us.

  11. I’ve seen the exact same reaction from several cats who clearly enjoy it.

    Cats are domestic animals, accustomed to humans, and can walk away if they don’t’ want attention. Wild animals usually don’t want to interact with people (beyond perhaps obtaining food) unless they were raised in captivity. Most slow lorises outside zoos have been caught from the wild, and aren’t habituated. That means that being held like that is very stressful, even if the animal isn’t sick from an infection from broken teeth, starvation, etc.

    The loris in that umbrella video is clearly unwell — slow/disorientated movements, and the clutching at the umbrella was instinctive behavior to try to mimic natural motion (clinging to tree branches instead of being forcefully held upright without support). “Freezing” when touched is also a common defense mechanism. People are too quick to anthropomorphize and see “cute and happy” instead of “distressed”.

    I’m not familiar enough with the species to tell you if the animal has an actual injury other than the teeth being removed, but I can see it’s in considerable distress. If you watch videos of slow lorises moving naturally and undisturbed, you’ll see how different it is from the behavior in the “umbrella” video.

    It’s good to see BoingBoing show the other side of something that was originally presented as “entertainment”. Those Youtube videos are documentation of abuse, not fun.

  12. Phrasing matters, and this article uses extremely sensationalist language and offers no evidence to support its claims. You could describe ‘adorable kitten’ videos using the same language: after all, most kittens are ripped from their parents(sometimes for FREE! their tormentors must enjoy it!), some kittens have their claws ripped out with steel tools, and some kittens are just heartlessly tossed into the gutters to fend for themselves.

    Clearly the above anecdote means that no kittens anywhere are ever treated with care and kindness, so people should stop supporting the rampant exploitation and trafficking of felis catus.

    If you really want to stop loris trafficking, or at least stop adorable loris videos from being posted online, back up the hyperbole with verifiable facts.

    1. I’m sorry, but the concept of comparing this to a cat is completely false. Cats are animals that, over 1,000’s of years, have become domesticated and adapted to living with humans. They have genetically changed in order to live with people. I’m not saying that all cats are treated well, nor do I agree with the concept of declawing, even though it is done humanely under anesthesia, as there is still a significant amount of pain during the healing process.

      These loris, however, are nocturnal creatures that are wild animals. I highly doubt that these poachers and traffickers are using sanitary conditions and anesthetics to remove the teeth of these animals, let alone providing them with antibiotics. There is nowhere near enough scientific data to even determine how this animal should be treated with antibiotics. Imagine getting your wisdom teeth removed without anesthesia and no pain killers or antibiotics after the fact. The slow loris is a nocturnal creature, the fact is seen in the physiology of the animal itself. Those eyes are not meant for bright, indoor lights. It blinds and disorients the creature. You are belittling a very destructive situation by comparing a domesticated, properly studied animal adapted to human life to a wild animal torn from its habitat for little more than the amusement of people.

      1. I guess I should have applied more sarcasm to my post, I wasn’t seriously comparing kittens to wild lorises(lorisii?). My issue is with the sensationalist language, exaggerated claims, and lack of facts included in the article. In my opinion, the author was mostly interested in making people feel guilty for having watched and enjoyed adorable loris videos online.

        As Ipo pointed out, five minutes of reading wikipedia pointed to this article as the source of most of the claims, as well as this unpleasant photo(SFW but you may need a chaser). The IPPL report isn’t pleasant reading, but at least it’s focused on the loris, not a youtube guilt-trip.

        1. Let it sink in. Not cute. To paraphrase the other commenter – it’s like watching porn and learning that the performers did it at gun point.

    2. Most of these claims are easily verifiable on the wikipedia page on slow lorises. It doesn’t mention the head wound on this one.

  13. Rather than searching desperately for flaws in the claims of these animal rights activists, why not look for other sources of evidence? Several species of loris are classified as endangered on the IUCN red list. The specie’s profiles also have plenty of credible evidence on the problems that animal trade poses to their survival.

  14. Their inherent cuteness has doomed them. The evolutionary trait of large eyes has collided with the evolutionary trait that makes us think large eyes are cute.

  15. I knew when I saw the description it was terrible, but geez after the first sentence of this article where is our unicorn chaser? So much worse then I ever ever could think. Humans are horrible sometimes.

  16. “That’s a very…. profoundly personal commentary on your perception. If I were you I’d flee.”

    -Hunter S. Thompson

  17. In the 1980s, I once helped a vet at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle give a slow loris its shots. I was given extremely thick leather gloves to wear while holding the slow loris. The otherwise-slow moving animal bit the gloves fast and furiously while I was holding it.

  18. Isn’t an alternative solution to study slow lorises, raise a bunch of them in captivity, and try to breed a domesticated version? Why can’t that ever be the solution? “A lot of people think Foo are incredibly cute and want to have one as a pet. Let’s make that happen.” It’ll stop being endangered when we commodify it.

    And now, I feel sort of dirty in addition to feeling bad about watching/enjoying that video.

  19. I’m not particularly interested in the ridiculous “that’s animal abuse” comments directed at the owners themselves. I’ve seen that video, and it’s clear the owners are in no way attempting to hurt the loris and simply find its behavior amusing.

    That doesn’t mean, that the behavior of the loris isn’t a reaction to stress, nor does it mean that it is okay to traffic in endangered animals.

    The more sane explanation is that these owners didn’t understand that they were trafficked, endangered or that the loris’ behavior is not an indicator of enjoyment.

    I have to agree with the comments here that are calling animal rights activists generally sensationalist. I am (and I imagine most others) are perfectly reasonable and care about the treatment of animals. A calm, rational explanation of what is happening is far more effective than the PETA tactic of screaming hysterically until everyone listening to you turns away in disgust.

    That said, thanks for the informative article Cory. I’ll be sure to spread the word.

    1. So if I found it amusing to poke the torso of a disorientated, semi-blind human that recently had it’s teeth pulled out it would be fine, and in no way abuse?

      Hmmm, right.

  20. I live in Borneo and we get slow loris here and they are anything but cute.

    They are foul-tempered little primates with poisonous elbows that they lick to give themselves toxic fangs and they have a serious bite. When a good-sized dog and a slow loris meet on the forest floor, the loris gives the dog a sound thrashing and then waltzes back up a tree.

    No local here would keep one as a pet. They do consider their bones to be magical and will sometimes hunt them for medicine, however habitat loss is their biggest threat. They really don’t make good pets and should be left to their nocturnal hunts in some nice deep jungle.

  21. Thank you for the post. Humans. I don’t know. We fuck everything up eventually. Now the loris. Heartbreakingly sad. Will we ever, as a species, get the principle behind the fact instead of rediscovering everything bit by bit, at the expense of everything we touch?

  22. Some (perhaps most) animals are not able to be domesticated. It is genetically linked, though they are unsure how exactly. For example, horses can be domesticated, but not zebras.

    Coincidentally, National Geographic has an article on it in this months magazine. Some people in Siberia domesticated foxes in less than 50 years. They are using genetics to try to ID what is different and why. Clearly from the work so far, there are certain genes common to all the domesticated animals.

  23. I did a little of my own looking on this matter – it turns out the “tortured” slow loris being tickled actually belongs, quite legally I might add, to a gentleman and his wife in Russia, where they purchased her from a pet shop as a hand-raised baby. That is why she is docile and allows herself to be tickled (that, and as he claims, she actually loves it).

    Further looking into his other videos shows that he cares about the nocturnal nature of his beloved Sonya, as she is named, where her large enclosure holds a specially made “dark box”, where she can retreat to during the brighter daylight hours. I was even able to look into her open mouth as she delicately grabbed delicious grubs and fruit from her owner’s hands. All her teeth are intact, white, and clean. People have pointed out in other “cute slow loris” videos where they are having difficulty eating because of allegedly removed teeth, but I saw the same “difficulty” with Sonya, who has all her teeth. They just have a case of the dropsies, it seems.

    I appreciate the fact that most of your users are horrified (and rightly so) to hear about the animal abuse described by this Dr. Nekaris and Chris Shepherd, but I think, at least in the case of Sonya, their ire is misplaced.

    1. You are talking about the ‘tickling loris’ video, not the ‘loris with umbrella’ video.

      Sonya does at least look to be well looked after, the loris with the umbrella does not.

      Either way it is still not right that these ‘pets’ are funding the illegal trade in the animals, causing many others to die and suffer.

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