Animals

Lorises and Pottos

by Marcia Malory

Lorises and pottos are lorisids, primates that belong to the family Lorisidae.  Along with lemurs, bushbabies and galagos, they make up the suborder of primates known as Strepsirrhini, or wet-nosed primates.  The Strepsirrhini have noses that look like dogs' noses.

Humans, other apes, monkey and tarsiers belong to the group or primates known as Haplorhini, the dry-nosed primates.

Lorises and pottos are arboreal and live in forests in Africa and Asia.

They are small, weighing between about 3 ounces and 3 ½ pounds (85 grams and 1 ½ kilograms), with thick woolly fur.  Fur comes in different colors and patterns, and is darker on the back than on the belly. Their tails are either short or non-existent.

The huge, forward-facing eyes of a loris or potto are probably its most noticeable feature.

Slow LorisLorisids have claws on all of their fingers and toes. The claw on the second toe is especially long; a lorisid uses this claw for grooming.

They are nocturnal animals, and are usually solitary. They communicate by scent marking and by vocalization.

Their diet consists of fruit, tree gum, insects, lizards and eggs.

They move slowly through trees and avoid predators by remaining completely still so they cannot be seen.

Unlike lemurs, pottos and lorises do not jump. They move by walking on all four limbs.

Lorisids are polygamous. Females tend to give birth to one offspring at a time. Young stay with their mothers for about a year.

Because lorisids sleep in trees during the day, hiding with their bodies curled up so that it is hard to see them, they are often burned to death when forests are burned to make room for agriculture.

There are four living genera of Lorisids: The slow lorises (Nycticebus), the slender lorises (Loris), the pottos (Perodictus), and the golden potto or angwantibo (Arctocebus).

Slow Loris

Slow lorises live in Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia.  They have dark circles around their huge eyes and white stripes running down their middle of their faces.

Many people think slow lorises are poisonous. The slow loris produces a smelly chemical from a gland inside its elbow.  Slow lorises might use this chemical for olfactory communication.   People think it is highly toxic, and that when the slow loris licks its elbow, it transfers the toxin to its bite, making the slow loris the world's only venomous mammal. In fact, there have been reports of severe allergic reactions to slow loris bites.

Slow lorises are endangered because of habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Their giant eyes and teddy bear looks, combined with tiny human-like hands make them extremely desirable as pets. Unfortunately, because of fears that slow lorises are venomous, pet traders often rip out the teeth of these animals so they can't bite anyone.

Slender Loris

The slender loris lives in southern India and Sri Lanka. Like the slow loris, the slender loris has dark rings around its eyes and a white stripe around the middle of its face. Slender lorises are endangered because of habitat destruction and because of use in traditional medicine.

Pottos and Golden Pottos

Pottos live in central and western Africa. Their diet consists mostly of fruit. The potto is sometimes known as the "softly-softly" because it moves very slowly and quietly.

The golden potto, or angwantibo, lives in western Africa. It mostly eats insects.

Although pottos and golden pottos are not considered endangered, they are both affected by habitat loss.