BANGALORE: Widely known as the State animal of Karnataka (though unofficially), Slender Loris is today facing a threat to its existence with reports of this ‘slender creature of the dark’ on the hit list of poachers. Till date, there has been absolutely no field or census studies on this rare, endangered species of tiny primates which is found only in India and Sri Lanka.
Speaking to Express, B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said, “The deteriorating habitat and man’s greed to hunt these animals have added to their problems. There is a healthy population of Slender Loris in the State, however, any decision to conduct census has to be taken up by the Wildlife Institute of India, Government of India, as we have no authority to do this survey.”
Singh added, “There was a proposal to declare the Slender Loris as Karnataka’s State Animal. But it was rejected by the Wildlife Board.”
Number of Slender Lorises
Wildlife conservation groups in the State place its population anywhere between 350 and 400. Tumkur district leads in the State having more than 130 animals. “Huliyaldurga, Kunigal and Devarayanadurga have a healthy number of animals clearly indicating that there is not a big threat from poachers while Chamarajanagar, comprising more than 100 animals, has been afflicted by poaching,” B V Gundappa, a wildlife activist, said.
Some areas of Bangalore Rural, are estimated to comprise 100 animals while in other areas like Mysore, Maddur, Ramanagaram and Kolar their number ranges between 80 and 100.
‘Exclusive Reserves Not Possible’
Regarding carving out exclusive reserves for these primates, Singh said,”It was not possible as Lorises can live in perfect harmony with several other animals. But, of late, poaching of small and big mammals like elephants has become an issue of serious concern.”
There are a lot of misplaced superstitious beliefs regarding Lorises as it is reported that people use it for black magic rituals and relish its meat and eyes for its curative properties. Loris’ skin too is prized as it is used in making handbags and purses that are expensive.
“A network of poachers operating between Karnataka and Goa is involved in the trafficking of these primates which are sold for `10,000 each,” said an activist.
Three species are found in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and the North East while in Sri Lanka, only two species have been identified.
If Slender Loris, comprising the Malabar and Mysore species is found in the south, Slow Loris is found in the north-east which is a smaller version with variations in its colour.
Even the rare Malabar species found in the Western Ghats has not been studied and therefore, there are no proper estimates of its existence.