El Paso Zoo is celebrating the first Pygmy Slow Lorises ever to be born at the zoo— healthy twins! The babies, born to zoo residents Steven Tyler and Kym Ly on April 26th, have not yet been named, but they have been identified as one female and one male. At birth, the male weighed in at twenty-five grams and the female weighed in at twenty-seven grams. For reference, twenty-five grams is equivalent to about 2 tablespoons of white sugar! The newborns were dwarfed by the stethescope as the zoo's vet listened to their hearts during their checkup.
Zoo staff worked with the mother, Kym Ly, using positive reinforcement training so that they could monitor her through the pregnancy. This kind of training uses cues and rewards to encourage the loris to engage in behaviors that make it easier for staff to care for her. Kym Ly learned many commands including how to hold steady for radiographs and exams and how to present her abdomen and mammary glands for checkups. This makes checkups easier and less stressful for the new mother. Staff are already helping the babies to learn how to climb on a branch to be weighed so that staff doesn’t have to touch them.
Learn more after the fold!
The mother and her babies are now on exhibit for visitors to see. However, visitors may have a hard time seeing them in their exhibit because they are nocturnal animals and they may be sleeping in clinging to mom, in their hammock, deep baskets or nest boxes. Slow Lorises typically sleep curled up throughout the day with their heads tucked between their thighs.
Found in tropical forests of southeast Asia, these tiny primates are known for their very slow, deliberate movement as they move from branch to branch. However, they are capable of moving very quickly when escaping predators or grabbing small insects and lizards to eat. Omnivores, they also eat fruits, leaves, sap and bird eggs. These cute little guys with their enormous eyes are not to be messed with, as they secrete a toxin from glands on their inner elbows. They may lick these glands for a sharp, poisonous bite, or spread the toxin across their fur to defend against predators.
Pygmy Slow Lorises are currently listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Loss of habitat and the exotic pet trade are main threats to wild lorises. El Paso Zoo's births are part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) to aid in the species’ conservation.