Rare pop-eyed loris pops up at last

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Kr­is­han Francis

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.

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