Lanka, UK bid to protect Loris

SRI LANKA DAILY NEWS

Researchers from Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom have launched ways to save the red slender Loris that is threatened with extinction from habitat loss.

The Horton Plains slender loris was believed possibly extinct until recently. In 2009, after 200 hours of surveying, ZSL EDGE researchers rediscovered this sub-species and took the first ever photographs and measurements of a specimen.

The principal threat facing the slender loris is habitat change, resulting from nearly two centuries of over exploitation for, tea, rubber and cinnamon.

Combined with the fact that the species is unique to central and south-western Sri Lanka, and is typically found in the southern “wet zone” of the island upto the central “intermediate zone”, the picture is bleak. The ZSL EDGE programme is engaged in a collaborative project with the University of Colombo and the Open University of Sri Lanka to bring conservation focus to this species and its remaining habitat. Dr. Craig Turner, EDGE Conservation Biologist from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Sri Lankan zoologist, Saman Gamage, called on the British High Commissioner, John Rankin, recently to brief him about the work being done to protect the red slender loris.

A key part of this has been undertaking an assessment of loris ‘occupancy’ in over 100 different forest patches, with nearly 1,000 surveys completed.

Led by the project’s Sri Lankan field team, this has provided the first spatial data on loris at this scale in Sri Lanka, allowing questions regarding habitat use, forest preferences and distribution to be answered finally. This information is fundamental in informing a conservation action plan which is being drafted. The group recently launched a small reforestation project supported by the BBC Wildlife Fund in the Nuwara Eliya area.

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