Strange endangered primates you may have never heard of

Slow Loris (Nycticebus javanicus) Slow lorises look "cute" and innocent, but their bite is venomous

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The illegal pet trade's demand for cute-looking primates is devastating Indonesia's population of slow lorises. But they are not the only endangered primates you may never have heard of that are already under threat of extinction.

Some are so rare and live in such isolated areas, small changes to their habitat or populations can have a big impact.

Slow lorises (Nycticebus spp)

Slow lorises are filmed being sold illegally in terrible conditions

"Lorises look like cute babies - they are shaped like a baby, have big round eyes, little hands - almost human-like hands," says Anna Nekaris, a loris specialist based at the UK's Oxford Brookes University.

"People from Westernised countries are really attracted to animals that look like babies - it's that 'cute' instinct."

But their "cuteness" is costing these venomous primates dearly. Demand for slow lorises as pets has skyrocketed as Youtube clips of lorises have surfaced.

Find out more:

Natural World: Jungle Gremlins of Java is on BBC Two at 20:00 GMT on Wednesday 25 January.

Dr Anna Nekaris' Little Fire Face Project

BBC Wildlife finder: Slow loris

BBC Wildlife finder: Kipunji

BBC Wildlife finder: Snub-nosed monkey

ZSL's Edge of Existence: Rondo dwarf galago

BBC Wildlife finder: Tarsiers

Slow lorises' are found across Southeast Asia. Nocturnal and carnivorous, they have extra vertebrae and hands missing a "finger", in order to help them catch their prey and move around unnoticed.

They secrete venom from their elbows, which they mix with saliva when they bite. But this means they are "treated very cruelly to make them into pets, by having their lower incisors and canines removed," says Professor Colin Groves, of the Australian National University.

"The dealer usually takes a pair of pliers and snaps them off. This is presumably very painful, and means that they can't feed themselves, so usually they die shortly after being purchased as pets," Prof Groves says.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has ruled there should be no commercial trade of these animals, but Anna Nekaris found crates of them being treated inhumanely and sold on the streets of Jakarta, with one animal fetching about $US25. She says they are sold to rich people in Indonesia, Russia, China and Japan.

"Java is a biodiversity hot-spot, and lots of wealthy people can afford and want lorises as exotic pets.

"Of the five slow loris species found already, the Javan slow loris in the most endangered, and we have a proposal in to the IUCN to raise it to critically endangered because it has the most limited geographic range," says Anna Nekaris.

"The other lorises are also threatened by the pet trade - it has a huge geographic range, and there's probably a lot of undescribed species that still remain."

Of the two species of the slow loris's cousin, the slender loris, the red slender loris is also endangered.

Rondo dwarf galago (Galago rondoensis)

Rondo dwarf galago Rondo dwarf galagos weigh less than 100g

"When people think of primates they often think of chimps and gorillas, and forget these types like galagos," says Anna Nekaris.

"But this nocturnal species from Tanzania has lived its life on the fast lane - diverging from lorises 40m years ago," she says.

These nocturnal creatures are tiny, weighing less than 100g, and, she says, "have a beautiful call".

"They can also jump, which a loris cannot do," says Anna.

But while they are not being hunted, they are critically endangered as their population lives in a forest area less than 100 sq km, and they are suffering from habitat loss.

The logging of remaining forests in the area is causing numbers to dwindle and they are now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Tarsiers (Tarsius spp)

Wild Western/Sunda tarsier (Tarsius bancanus) Tarsiers are some of the world's smallest primates

These tiny nocturnal creatures are some of the smallest primates on Earth, but of the 10 known species, one is particularly threatened with extinction - the Siau Island tarsier, which is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Tarsius tumpara lives on Siau Island, part of the Sangihe Islands chain in Indonesia, in a very small area, and is mainly threatened by habitat loss, says Myron Shekelle, the primatologist who described and named the species.

"Both tarsiers and lorises have a role in slowing and then reversing habitat loss in this region.

"What is very difficult for many people to understand, however, is just how difficult this is... it is not simply a matter of making laws and designating conservation areas.

"There are great volumes of studies and legions of experts on conservation in the region, but no successful broad-scale strategy or blueprint for success, and the few success stories are typically of very small scale. The forces of destruction are winning," he says.

The island is also home to an active volcano, and an eruption could spell disaster for the species.

But they also face another problem - local hunters.

"They (tarsiers) are roasted on a spit and served with a very spicy chilli sauce, forming a snack that locals call tola-tola," says Myron Shekelle.

"To my knowledge, the practice has not been studied professionally... but from what I understand, there is a certain machismo attached to tola-tola when it is wild animal, i.e. bushmeat.

The tiny spectral tarsier hunting at night

"The geology of these small, isolated, volcanic islands, combined with the practice of regularly eating bushmeat, appears to be rapidly turning this island chain into 'empty islands', where locals have literally eaten their natural heritage to extinction."

But he says attitudes are changing.

"On my more recent trips to the island, it seemed to me that people were proud of their tarsier, and furthermore, they exhibited an uneasy emotion at reports that people on the island were eating tarsiers," he says.

Trade of tarsiers is permitted by CITES - but what for? The animal trade organisation Traffic says significantly, figures show 520 tarsiers were imported into Germany from Indonesia for scientific purposes in 2010.

Burmese snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri)

A digital reconstruction of the Burmese snub-nosed monkey (c) Dr Thomas Geissmann A digital reconstruction of the Burmese snub-nosed monkey by Dr Thomas Geissmann

It was only when scientists found local hunters with monkey skins and skulls in north eastern Myanmar, that they were able to identify this species of snub-nosed monkey.

The monkeys have white ear tufts and chin beards, prominent lips and unusually wide, upturned nostrils.

"The people who described this species thought there were a couple of hundred at most - had it not been found and described in 2010, in five years it could have been extinct.

"A few hundred years ago there could have been thousands in the northern-most part of Burma," says Vincent Nijman, a primate expert from Oxford Brookes University.

The other species of snub-nosed monkey in the genus are all native to China or Vietnam - putting them at risk, says Vincent.

"If you're a primate in Vietnam, Laos or the southern-most parts of China, things don't look very good for you right now - it's only a matter of time and you're gone," he says.

"If you look at another area like Madagascar, it's a race against the clock as to who gets there first - scientists, poachers or hunters."

Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji)

The kipunji is special and unusual for many reasons, says Dr Tim Davenport, the Tanzania country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

"The kipunji has the dubious honour of being the rarest monkey species in Africa and is classified as Critically Endangered. Fewer than 1200 exist in the wild," he says.

Kipunji Kipunjis have a loud 'honk bark' unlike any other monkey

It was the first wholly new genus of monkey discovered in Africa for over 80 years.

Dr Davenport says despite their arboreal nature they are actually most closely-related to the baboons, but unlike the baboons who adapted to living on the savanna, kipunji adapted to living in the trees.

To live in the forest at high altitudes, they evolved thick long coats, long whiskers and a tall crest on their head.

He says their white tail tips are probably used for communicating in the tree-tops, yet they also retain some baboon-like behavioural traits.

They have a distinctive and loud "honk bark", unlike that of any other monkey.

They live in two forested areas separated by 350km, which Dr Davenport says shows that these habitats were once connected by forest. But their home is threatened by habitat loss (logging, agriculture and charcoal manufacture), as well as hunting.

They, like so many other small primates, are at risk of disappearing before we even really get to know them.

Anna Nekaris says: "Once you get one of these primates in a very small place, where they always were rare, it's more horrifying the devastation that people can do."

Mr Nijman believes scientists will keep discovering new species, but says they will be hoping to find more primates in a new genus.

"If you think of where we find primates now, there must have been so many more species, and they must have been disappearing before people began describing them," he says.

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