Slow Loris Shoved In Tiny Cage Can't Believe She's Free Again
"There's no better satisfaction than to see animals returned to the wild."
The rescuers found the slow loris cowering inside a tiny bamboo cage. When they peered inside, the slow loris covered her face with her paws and growled like an angry cat.
Villagers had captured the slow loris 1 kilometer from Gunung Leuser National Park near Bukit Lawang, Indonesia. They shoved her into the bamboo cage, and planned to sell her as an exotic pet at the wildlife markets in Medan. If no one took her as a pet, she'd be sold and killed for use as Chinese medicine. Slow loris flesh is believed to cure leprosy, even though there's no scientific basis for this belief. Even more disturbing, slow loris heads are often used in magic ceremonies to supposedly bring good luck and prosperity to people.
This animal, however, was one of the lucky ones. Someone informed members of Ecoproject, a nonprofit group working to protect wildlife, about the slow loris, who was being kept underneath a villager's house. Bobi Handoko, the cofounder of Ecoproject, arrived at the house with a community elder, and confronted the person keeping the slow loris. "I had to talk to them for hours to try and make them understand why it's important for these animals to be left in the wild," Handoko tells The Dodo. "I was very afraid they'd ask me to go away and sell the slow loris anyway."
Handoko didn't give up. He offered the villager 150,000 IDR (about $11) for the slow loris, and the man finally agreed to surrender her.
Not wanting to stress the slow loris anymore, Handoko kept the animal inside the bamboo cage while he examined her. "I could tell she was OK," he says. "Her eyes were clear, which meant she was healthy, and her teeth hadn't been removed." The slow loris has a venomous bite, so people who want to use them for entertainment remove their teeth to make them powerless.
Handoko and a group of Ecoproject volunteers covered the bamboo cage with a blanket, and transported the slow loris to an undisclosed location in the Gunung Leuser National Park. "We had to make sure the slow loris would be in a safe area, away from people, and wouldn't be recaptured," says Handoko.
Once they found a suitable place, they removed a few bamboo slats from the cage. At first, the slow loris wrapped her limbs around the bamboo, looking a bit stunned. Then she must have realized she was free - in a few swift seconds, the slow loris scurried out of the cage, jumped into some vegetation and climbed up a Garcinia tree. She paused to look back at her rescuers before disappearing into the jungle.
"We were amazed by how fast she moved," says Handoko. "I was so happy to see her free. There's no better satisfaction than to see animals returned to the wild."
Handoko started Ecoproject with his wife, Katharina Wenger, to protect the biodiversity of the Gunung Leuser National Park, one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. In addition to saving animals like slow lorises, Ecoproject runs education programs, plants trees and takes tourists out on eco-treks.