Episode 134 – Slow Loris: A Precious Little Primate

“…Thank you to Casy Michelle for creating our theme song. Hear more of Casy’s music by searching Casy Michelle on Youtube. Today we’re talking about a sluggish forest clown! But more on that later.”

If you’re slow in the animal kingdom, you’d better have a plan when trouble comes a-knockin’. Some animals freeze, some hide, some attack, and even others just have a lot of babies knowing that most will be eaten. The slow loris does all of the above except for the babies thing. But if you’re also a slow attacker, you need some punch in your bite–or bite in your punch. But giving potential predators the business is how this little loris survives here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

Slow Loris Taxonomy 

The suborder Strepsirrhini is the branch of primates that diverges from apes and monkeys. Instead, it’s made up of lemurs, bushbabies, and pottos.

They differ from simians because of their carnivor-esque faces, wet noses, powerful sense of smells, and their vomeronasal organ, which helps them detect pheromones. 

They’re also not as big brained as simians and rely less on high problem solving levels of intelligence. 

Description of the Slow Loris

The slow loris is a small furry forest baby with big anime eyes, teddy bear ears, and hairy little people hands.

Their fur comes in light brown to dark red, with a dark stripe along their spine. They also have white stripes on their noses and dark circles around their eyes. Their fur is thick and almost wooly.

They technically have a tail but it’s tiny and vestigial like a bear’s. 

Measure Up 

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new measure up intro today.

  1. Burst horned baboon tarantula
  2. Hissing cockroach
  3. Canadian goose
  4. Gopher snake


  • 27 and 38 centimetres (11 and 15 in)
  • 15 inches
  • How many of Malaysian’s special commemorative edition 600 ringgit banknotes go into the length of a slow loris. 
  • Hint: The special ringgit was printed to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Federation of Malaya Independence Act in 2017, which was when Malaysia became a sovereign nation and a member of the commonwealth of nations. The note is for RM600 or $143USD, but it’s actually worth much more than that due to their rarity. 
  • 1 note. The special RM600 was 22cm by 37cm (about 9 inches by 15 inches). It’s the largest official banknote in the world. 


  • 599 and 685 grams (21.1 and 24.2 oz)
  • 24 ounces (680 grams)
  • How many Lorises go into the weight of the two trains that Velu Rathakrishnan (Veh-loo Rath-a-krish-nan) pulled with his teeth in 2003? 
  • Hint: The feat got Rathakrishnan a world record and the nickname “King Tooth.” He trained for the event through meditation, jaw-strengthening exercises, and lifting 250 kilos.
  • 383,529 lorises. The trains weighed a combined 260.8 metric tonnes (574,965.58 pounds)

Fast Facts About the Slow Loris

The slow loris is from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. They’re arboreal animals, so densely forested areas are ideal.

Loris locomotion is considered unique. Moving in any direction is slow, methodical, and it looks like climbing. They often move noiselessly, even when moving from branch to branch. They’re also said to move in a snake-like fashion, due to they’re extra vertebrae.

A video featuring a loris with it’s arms raised as it’s being tickled popularized the animal as a pet. Apparently, the arms raised stance, while adorable, is a sign of distress. And lorises make terrible pets. 

They’re nocturnal and brightly lit rooms can actually cause significant discomfort for the animal, whose giant eyes are designed to take in as much light as possible. Even though they’re called slow, they travel large distances at night in the wild. Small cages don’t allow them to express a natural range of motion.

The loris is in danger of extinction due to habitat loss and the pet trade. It’s illegal in many countries and it’s even illegal to export them. 

Major Fact: A Loris with Toxic Teeth

These wide-eyed and adorable tree rabbits have a dark secret: they’re slow…

They move at mach sloth in order to avoid disturbing the tree they’re climbing and not attract attention. 

If they are disturbed, they immediately freeze and will even sometimes put their hands over their face in a clear demonstration of their inability to grasp object permanence.

So since they can’t hope to outrun an ambitious ivy vine, they need a solution if they’re cornered.

That’s where their second dark secret comes in: they’re venomous – kinda. Venomous mammals aren’t unheard of, but they’re also not common. 

Notable examples are some shrews, moles, bats, and even the noble platypus. The slow loris, however, is the only venomous primate in the world. 

How Does Slow Loris Venom Work?

Most venomous animals secrete the venom in a gland inject it either through hollow needle-fangs (snakes, spiders, conches, insects, fish, etc) or they have special stinging cells that release little harpoons of poison (jellyfish, manowar).

Importantly, the venom is usually created and introduced at the point of contact. But the slow loris has an extra step if it wants to bring the pain.

Its venom is actually more like poison, since it’s produced in a gland called the brachial gland, which is located on the inside of its elbow.

When threatened, the gland secretes the toxin like a toad does. 

The difference is, the loris will lick the toxin off its own elbow to coat its mouth and teeth in the “poison” before injecting it through its bite, making it effectively venom.

I also don’t want to gloss over the secondary major fact that it can lick its own elbow.

Can Slow Loris Venom Kill People?

If you’re handling a slow loris, fear not, unless you have a serious cat allergy. The toxin is actually similar to cat dander.

It usually uses its venom to attack predators like hawks, eagles, sun bears, clouded leopards, and even our very own taxonomy titans: orangutans and binturongs.

It can even coat the top of its head with the toxin and curl up into a ball to ward off attack. The stuff apparently smells really bad (like horned lizard blood) so predators are more likely to back off.

It will also often bite other lorises when fighting over territory or mates. It’s actually the number one cause of death in captivity. So they’re clearly not immune to their own venom.

They will bit humans, but it usually results in swelling. One person did die of an anaphylactic shock though.

The prevailing theory is that it gets its toxins from the insects it eats, so lorises in captivity are likely less venomous than in the wild.

Ending: So slow down, take life in stride, and don’t forget to use your venom if you have some to spare like the slow loris here in LDT.


Hey everyone, Carlos here. Thanks so much for listening to our show. We know you have limited time during the day, so we’re just happy you decided to spend some of it with us. We truly appreciate you and we’d love to hear your feedback. If you have an animal you’d like to hear about or you have any comments about our show, you can email us or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter at ldtaxonomy. Again, thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week!