'Extinct,' Wide-Eyed Loris Photographed for First Time

Credit: Zoological Society of London/C Mahanayakage.

Behold, the Horton Plains slender loris, photographed for the first time by the Zoological Society of London's EDGE project. There have only been four documented sightings of the small, reclusive primate since 1937. This shot was taken in Sri Lanka.
Conservationists thought the little mammal was extinct, considering that it basically disappeared from 1939 to 2002, CNN reports.

The loris has thin arms and legs, huge round eyes. The one pictured here, a male, is about 8 inches long.

Why so rare? The loris is native to the rainforests of Sri Lanka and southern India, but its forest habitat has been destroyed by logging, agriculture and development, CNN notes. How many times have you heard the same reasons for the impending extinction of other species, like the wild tiger? Funny how loris sounds a lot like Lorax.

The Zoological Society of London calls the slender loris "one of the rarest and most threatened primates in the world."

Researchers from the ZSL have been studying the mammal for 18 months with colleagues from the University of Columbo and the Open University of Sri Lanka, working in 120 different forest areas. In other words, this one is a hard bugger to find. The study results are in the latest edition of the journal Primate Conservation.

The loris is classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Zoological folks says the loris they photographed appears shorter and sturdier than normal, meaning the creature has adapted to live in cool, mountainous forest areas.

What now? "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," says ZSL Conservation biologist Dr. Craig Turner.

"Currently this accounts for less than 1% of the land area of Sri Lanka."

The EDGE project is taking donations.

Tags: Animals | Endangered Species | London