Dedicated keepers at Paignton Zoo in England are caring for a rare baby that weighed little more than a CD at birth.
The Pygmy Slow Loris – which weighed just 22 grams when it was born - was one of twins born to a first-time mother. One twin did not survive, and keepers stepped in to save the other when its mother abandoned it.
For the first night Head Mammal Keeper Craig Gilchrist slept in an office at the zoo, feeding the tiny youngster every couple of hours. It was given a milk replacer using a 1 milliliter syringe and a small rubber teat.
Seven mammal keepers now take turns feeding the tiny baby day and night. One takes the incubator home each evening. The baby needs more frequent feeds overnight as Slow Lorises are nocturnal and eat more at night.
Now, at around a month old, it has gone from 22 grams - less than a single AA battery - to over 30 grams – the weight of a dessert spoon.
Keeper Lewis Rowden said, “You have to take care not to squirt the milk into the lungs – you have to let the baby suckle at its own rate. We are just moving on to feeding some solids now – small amounts of mashed boiled sweet potato.”
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The baby sleeps in an incubator cuddling a furry toy from the Paignton Zoo shop. Most Pygmy Slow Loris births occur in February or March; twins are normal, singletons are born occasionally. A typical adult Pygmy Slow Loris weighs less than 500g.
The Pygmy Slow Loris is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, which means that it is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. The species comes from the forests of South East Asia, where it lives on a diet of insects, fruit, slugs and snails. This small nocturnal primate has a comical appearance – the name loris may come from an old Dutch word for clown.
The Vietnam War nearly wiped out this species of loris as forests were burned or defoliated. The destruction of forests continues today due to agriculture and development. The pet trade is another serious threat.