venomous primate


Slow lorises are the world’s only venomous primate.  The venom is secreted from a gland in the loris’ elbow which the loris licks, mixing the secretion with their saliva.  The loris can then inflict painful, toxic bites, and will also lick the fur of their infants before leaving them, covering their bodies with the toxin to deter predators.  Wildlife biologists have said that the bite of the slow loris is among the most painful in the world, pain which is exacerbated by the fact that the loris will bite down and refuse to let go in an effort to inject as much venom as possible into the wound.  Some victims have found that the only way to make the loris let go is to submerge it in water.  

There is some speculation that, rather than being truly toxic, the venom of the slow loris actually induces a severe allergic reaction in humans.  The only recorded human death due to slow loris bite occurred due to anaphylactic shock.


Mr. Lee, the slow loris.

These animals are sadly becoming more common in the pet trade, where their teeth are often removed to prevent biting. This is because they are venomous primates. They produce toxin from a gland on their arm. When threatened, they lick the gland on their arms and then bite. The toxin is extremely dangerous and can be lethal to humans.

The slow loris is a living cuddle that makes its home throughout Southeast Asia. The name “slow loris” isn’t a misnomer: They clock sloth-like speeds most times. And if we’ve learned anything from turtles, it’s that Cute + Slow = Pet. But lorises are not as entirely chill as you might imagine: The slow loris is the only venomous primate. It secretes a poison from glands located near its armpits, and when it’s time to tango, it rubs it on its sharp little teeth like toxic Binaca. Once treated with pit-poison, these snuggly critters have a bite that is both excruciatingly painful, and can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

A researcher by the name of George Madani found out the hard way that a loris bite is no joke after getting bitten by one in Borneo. According to Madani: “It was a very painful bite and the loris was reluctant to let go … As a wildlife biologist I have inadvertently been bitten by a variety of species, but the loris took the cake when it came to being the most painful.”

The bite sent him almost immediately into anaphylactic shock, which he survived only because he was fortunate enough to be near a medical facility that had shots of adrenaline on hand.

5 Super-Adorable Animals That Can Kill The Hell Out Of You

Contrary to popular belief, the slow loris is not actually a venomous primate. Rather, the animal produces an allergen (Fel d1) from a gland in its armpit, which is transferred to the mouth when licked. When the loris then bites, this chemical doesn’t elicit a response because of toxicity; some individuals just have a strong allergic reaction. Quite astoundingly, this allergen is the same as that produced by the domestic cat. So in effect, if a slow loris is venomous, then so is the common house cat!

On a side note, can you see the small second tongue? It’s called a sublingua, and most likely functions to remove hair and debris from between the teeth - it’s basically a built in tooth pick!

Photo by David Haring (CC)

See: Krane S., (2003) “Venom” of the slow loris: sequence similarity of prosimian skin gland protein and Fel d 1 cat allergen

Post #1 Venomous Primates.

Rightio, post number one!  

I’ll start off with a moderately interesting primate fact that I learnt about a couple of days ago.  I was watching Natural world a couple of days ago and it was all about the Slow Loris.  Many of you might know this creature from this youtube video  

Personally I’d only heard of it a couple of time a few years ago and never bothered to watch that clip when it first hit the web many moons ago.  Now after watching natural world the other day I’m pretty much shocked at this video!  For starters its illegal to have one as a pet, so for these guys to get their hands on one means, the loris in the video would have been bought on the black market and mistreated.  Their front teeth are removed so that they can’t bite etc, it was horrible to watch!  

Other than being illegal as a pet, the interesting thing about these little guys is they are venomous! Now forgive me if I show my ignorance but a venomous primate, thats pretty awesome!  Didn’t even know you could get those!  Which again begs the question, why would you want one for a pet?!  If I remember rightly they release the venom through there skin and then mix it with saliva (correct me if I’m wrong here please!).

The final thing about them that I found interesting is, apparently, their odour is not pleasant.  Again, why on earth would you want one of these as a pet?!?!

Up until the end I really enjoyed learning about these little guys and why they’re venomous in the first place.  The reason I didn’t like the end is because it depressed me!  I’m not the biggest animal sympathiser (my cat Jade drives me nuts sometimes!)  but it really got to me how badly these animals were being treated.  

I’ll end with a link to a clip of the black market trade undercover operation, be warned if you can’t handle animals in distress don’t continue! (If you feel nothing watching this then I’d be very surprised, or maybe I’ve just become a softy with old age…is 22 old?)

This weekend at the Museum, in conjunction with Sunday’s Spotlight Asia: Ring in the Year of the Monkey festival, we’re celebrating Asian primates. In the Museum’s Primate Hall, visitors can explore primate biology, the important cultural role primates have played across the Asian continent, and learn about what needs to be done to ensure their survival.

Above is the Greater slow loris. Slow lorises are small nocturnal primates found in South and Southeast Asia. They are the only venomous primates, excreting a clear histamine-like compound that’s a lot like cat dander. If a loris bites you, you might go into anaphylactic shock. All slow loris species are recognized as endangered with extinction because of habitat loss and severe pressures from hunting for illegal wildlife trade.

The siamang is a gibbon native to Malaysia, Thailand and Sumatra. Siamangs and their relatives are extremely well adapted for brachiating, or swinging, by their arms from branch to branch. The siamang is monogamous, and forms breeding partnerships for life. Male-female pairs to make loud, resonating, territorial duets at the beginning and the end of each day, lasting about 10 minutes. Siamangs and the other gibbons are endangered with extinction due primarily to forest loss and opportunistic collection for pet trade.

Tarsiers are found on the islands of Southeast Asia, and are almost entirely arboreal, meaning it spends almost all of its times in the trees. Tarsiers are nocturnal, and are one of the few animals that have eyes bigger than their brains. Their big eyes help them see better at night. Tarsiers eat 10% of their own body weight every 24 hours!

Tarsiers populations are threatened by forest loss and conversion especially due to expanding oil palm plantations, fires, and logging. Tarsiers are also collected for the illegal pet trade, though this species also does not generally survive well in captivity and typically dies within 3 days of capture.

Learn much more about a variety of Asian primates on Sunday at the Museum during the Spotlight Asia: Ring in the Year of the Monkey festival.