My Facebook feed, like those of most people I know, is filled with videos of animals being cute in various ways, often without context. I have seen baby chimps feeding baby tigers, the infamous “mama tiger with piglets” photo, and many others. I try not to forward these videos and images, because the lack of context often conceals terrible things. Today I saw another example: the “slow loris being tickled” video, excerpted in the gif at right.
Here is a brief summary of why this apparently-very-cute video should not be forwarded. Basically, the lack of context makes this video appear to show a cuddly pygmy loris engaged in a playful interaction with its owner, and implies that lorises make good pets and enjoy human interaction. This message is incorrect and spreading it can cause trouble for both lorises and humans.
In fact, the arms-raised posture you see in this video is a defensive one used when a loris is frightened. This intimidated loris is feeling uncomfortable and is raising its arms for better access to the brachial glands in its armpits. It can lick these areas to create a “venom” which can damage other lorises and cause a serious reaction in humans.
Lorises do not make good pets. They, like most wild animals, are not designed to live in human habitations and they do not enjoy being handled. The (illegal) pet trade (along with the trade in “traditional medicine“) is decimating the populations of wild lorises. “Pet” lorises often have their teeth forcibly removed to reduce their ability to produce a venomous bite. They often die of stress even before being sold as pets. Reposting the above video without context only reinforces the message that lorises make good pets, encouraging more people to buy them, and fueling the trade.
What can you do to help? Before reposting a cute video of an exotic animal doing something cute, do a simple google search to try to get some context. Do not repost videos or pictures of exotic animals being treated as pets. Instead, point out why they do not reflect reality and/or proper treatment of the animals involved. Don’t just be a link in the reposting chain — break it.
For contrast, here is a video of a domestic kitten genuinely enjoying a playful interaction with a human. As a domesticated animal, this kitten is descended from generations of animals used to coexisting with humans, and makes a great pet. Instead of reposting a video like the loris video, consider posting a video like this one.