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.
Until recently, the Horton Plains slender loris was believed possibly extinct. In 2009, after two hundred 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 up to 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.
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 currently being drafted. The group recently launched a small reforestation project supported by the BBC Wildlife Fund in the Nuwara Eliya area. Dr. Turner added, “We are currently finalising a national species conservation strategy for the red slender loris, with our partners and the Forest Department, Department of Wildlife and Conservation and the Ministry of Environment. This will be published later this year.” Appreciating their conservation work, British High Commissioner John Rankin, commented, “I am glad to see the UK and Sri Lanka’s collaboration in protecting this endangered species. The work being done is highly commendable; it can and should be supported by many parties.” Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation overseas.
ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme ranks species according to their evolutionary distinctiveness and how globally endangered they are. Species that are both highly distinct and highly threatened are immediate priorities for conservation attention. There are currently EDGE lists for amphibians, mammals and corals. Research is underway to expand the approach to additional taxa.
The EDGE of Existence programme aims to increase awareness of forgotten EDGE species, build conservation capacity in countries in which they occur through awarding Fellowships to future conservation leaders, and initiate targeted conservation action for priority EDGE species that are being overlooked by other conservation initiatives.