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Slender chance of survival

Tom Feilden | 11:34 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

The Horton Plains slender loris © C Mahanayakage

Take a look at this startling - and unique - photograph. The first and only time the elusive Horton Plains slender loris has been caught on camera.

Now go and have a cup of tea.

Why tea? Well, tea is a big part of the reason why this cute, bug-eyed primate has been spotted only four times since 1937.

The clearance of tropical rainforest to make way for tea plantations has decimated and dissected its natural habitat, restricting the Horton Plains slender Loris to a series of isolated pockets covering just 1% of the land area of Sri Lanka.

When the species disappeared completely for 65 years between 1939 and 2002 it was presumed extinct.

A shy, nocturnal primate with short limbs, dense fur and large close-set eyes, the Horton Plains slender loris was never one for the limelight, but it took scientists from the Zoological Society of London more than 200 hours to catch this somewhat startled male on film.

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"We are thrilled to have proved this loris's continuing existence" says ZSL Conservation Biologist Dr Craig Turner.

"The discovery improves our knowledge of the species, but we need to focus our efforts on the conservation and restoration of its habitat, the tropical forest where it still exists".

That may have more to do with the cup of steaming tea in your hand than anything conservationists can achieve on their own.

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