Rare pop-eyed loris pops up at last
GALLE, Sri Lanka — A nocturnal, forestdwelling primate with orb-like eyes and short limbs that had been feared extinct was photographed in central Sri Lanka late last year, researchers said Monday.
A Horton Plains slender loris was caught on camera after lengthy surveys of the forest by researchers from the Zoological Society of London, the University of Colombo and the Open University of Sri Lanka.
Team leader Saman Gamage said the mammal had been seen only once or twice from 1937 to 2002, when a researcher reported spotting its eyes during a search. Then, despite repeated attempts to find it, there were no sightings from 2002 to 2009.
“We are thrilled to have captured the firstever photographs and prove its continued existence,” said Craig Turner, a conservation biologist with the Zoological Society.
The primate’s population is thought to have begun dwindling in the mountain forest habitat after British colonial rulers cleared large tracts of forest for coffee and tea plantations in the 19th century, Gamage said.
Logging, agriculture and development made it hard for the lorises to find food, escape threats or meet mates.
“People, including ourselves, had begun to think: ‘Yeah, maybe it has disappeared,’ ” Turner said.
Given its size and nocturnal habits, the eightinch beastie was tough to find. But the giveaway The googly eyed Horton Plains slender loris has reappeared after being feared extinct. was its eerily large, night-vision eyes. Scientists combed the forest canopy with red-filtered flashlights.
“You get a very distinct red eyeshine reflecting from the loris,” Turner said.
Turner said scientists were then able to briefly capture the primate, taking measurements and genetic material before releasing it.
He said the critter’s orb-like peepers and gangly limbs tend to charm the general population. “It’s a very appealing species,” he said. Gamage said more of the lorises are thought to live in small patches of forest in Sri Lanka’s hill country.