Snatched from the wild to delight humans

Not a pet: A file picture of a slow loris being sold for RM150 at a roadside stall.

Sure, they’re cute, but they should not be YouTube stars and definitely should not be household pets. 

“AWWW! It’s so cute. I want one.” You tend to hear this phrase a lot when you watch one of the many adorable animal videos out there.

We don’t usually think much of it. Yes, the animal is adorable. But we don’t ask the important questions such as where did it come from, was it abused, and is it an appropriate domestic pet?

Take, for instance, the “Slow loris loves being tickled” video that has been viewed by nearly seven million people. The video shows a slow loris named Sonya with her hands up, being tickled by its owner.

But would you still think it is cute if you knew that before a slow loris is sold, its teeth are removed? Would you still share the video with your friends?

Worldwide animal rescue and rehabilitation organisation International Animal Rescue (IAR) exposed the truth about slow lorises and shared videos of the animal’s teeth being removed without anaesthetic.

Lorises are the only venomous primate and their venom is gathered from a gland on the inside of the elbow. If their teeth are still intact, they mix their venom with saliva to deliver a venomous bite.

Their bite is extremely painful and the venom can bring on anaphylactic shock and cause death in humans. That is why teeth removal is common with captive lorises.

I can’t describe how heart-breaking it is to hear the loris’ soft cries and see it grimace in pain as a person clips its teeth.

It is the sad reality of lorises. They are taken illegally from the wild, they are sometimes drugged, and they are placed in containers and dragged around in bright, loud and polluted areas.

IAR said the loris in the viral video of Sonya being tickled shows a “terrified” animal.

“This slow loris is not putting its arms up to ask for more, it is terrified and trying to defend itself,” it said.

Furthermore, IAR said that Sonya the loris is also severely obese, which can lead to other health problems such as infection, pneumonia, diabetes and malnutrition.

It is sad that while a loris in the wild would travel long distances at night in search for food, those who are kept as pets or tourist attractions are kept in a cage for the amusement of humans.

Not only is it illegal in many countries to keep a loris as a pet, it is also cruel.

Because of these “cute” viral videos, the demand for animals like the slow loris is fuelled. They will be poached from the wild and transported in horrific conditions to be sold to interested buyers.

Lorises aren’t the only animals that are taken from their natural habitats and sold as pets. After the release of Finding Nemo, clownfish sales skyrocketed and clownfish populations in the wild were depleted.

Harry Potter’s pet owl Hedwig also led to an increase in the number of pet owls that were abandoned in Britain.

Non-profit organisation American Tortoise Rescue reported that hundreds of thousands of live turtles were purchased after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

Many of the turtles were later dumped, deliberately killed or flushed down the toilet.

“Unfortunately, children do not realise that real turtles do not fly, perform stunts or do any of the exciting moves fictional movie turtles do.

“Parents, trying to please their children, purchased live turtles which ended up languishing in tanks,” said American Tortoise Rescue co-founders Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson in a 2014 open letter to parents.

These pet trends are the consequences of movies, YouTube videos and social media.

As a result, thousands of animals are taken from their natural habitats and forced to live as pets.

Many animals die from being transported in horrible conditions and some die in captivity.

Several species like the slow lorises have been adversely affected by the pet trade. Species of slow lorises range from being listed as Vulnerable to Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Having an exotic pet not only encourages the trade, but it also pushes these animals closer to extinction.

Wild animals belong in the wild. So the next time you see a cute, exotic animal on YouTube, think twice before sharing the video.

Online reporter Victoria Brown’s Behind The Cage tackles the pressing issues of animal rights and environmental awareness. She can be reached at

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Opinion , Victoria Brown , columnist


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