July 19, 2010

First Ever Photos Of Rare Primate Revealed

The first ever pictures of the Horton Plains slender loris, a rare and endangered breed of primate that had long been thought extinct, have been captured by scientists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), according to a Monday press release from the conservation organization.

According to the ZSL, there were only four sightings of this loris subspecies from 1939 through 2002, which led many scientists to believe that they had all died out. However, as part of the ZSL's "Edge of Existence" program, researchers were able to snap the world's first photograph of a Horton Plains slender loris--officially known as Loris tardigradus nycticeboides.

The photographed subject is an adult male, roughly 8 inches long, with short limbs and thick fur.

The pictures come after more than 200 hours of work, as ZSL researchers conducted over 1,000 evening surveys in a Sri Lankan forest area in search of the nocturnal, wide-eyed primate. Furthermore, according to Andrew Hough of the Telegraph, they were able to capture and measure three live subjects, despite the belief that there are only 60-100 such creatures still alive today.

"We are thrilled to have captured the first ever photographs and prove its continued existence--especially after its 65 year disappearing act," Dr. Craig Turner, a conservation biologist with the ZSL, said in the July 19 press release. "This is the first time we have been able to conduct such a close examination of the Horton Plains slender loris."

"The discovery improves our knowledge of this species, but we need to focus our efforts on the conservation and restoration of the remaining montane forest where this species still exists," he continued. "Currently this accounts for less than one per-cent of the land area of Sri Lanka."

"This discovery is a great reward for the ongoing field research we undertake across much of south-western Sri Lanka," added research leader Saman Gamage. "Nearly 1,000 nocturnal surveys have been completed in 120 different forest areas looking for all loris species to assess their status, ecological needs and current threats. We are now conducting further studies to establish whether the Horton Plains slender loris could even be a species in its own right."


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