3 new species of venomous primate identified in Indonesia
A University of Missouri doctoral student and her colleagues have recently identified three new species of slow loris (Nycticebus sp.).
The primates had originally been grouped with another species. Dividing the species into four distinct classes means the risk of extinction is greater than previously believed for the animals but could help efforts to protect the unusual primate.
"Four separate species are harder to protect than one, since each species needs to maintain its population numbers and have sufficient forest habitat," said lead author Rachel Munds, MU doctoral student in anthropology in the College of Arts and Science.
"Unfortunately, in addition to habitat loss to deforestation, there is a booming black market demand for the animals. They are sold as pets, used as props for tourist photos or dismembered for use in traditional Asian medicines," she stated.
The newly identified species hail from the Indonesian island of Borneo. Munds and her colleagues observed that the original single species contained animals with significantly different body sizes, fur thickness, habitats and facial markings.
Museum specimens, photographs and live animals helped primatologists parse out four species from the original one. Now instead of one animal listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, there may be four endangered or threatened species.
This potential change in conservation status may serve to draw attention the plight of the primates and increase legal protections.
The finding was published in the American Journal of Primatology.