The Search for Slow Lorises

by AMNH on

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Surveying for rare animals in foreign forests is challenging. Doing it at night is a whole other level of difficult, as Museum postdoctoral researcher Mary Blair is discovering in Vietnam. Blair, who works in the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, is searching for pygmy and Bengal slow lorises, small nocturnal primates found in South and Southeast Asia.

Bengal slow loris
A Bengal slow loris, photographed in 2010 at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam 
Nolan Bett

Blair is writing about her experiences for The New York Times’ Scientist at Work: Notes from the Field blog.

“I suppose as a New Yorker I am a bit nocturnal,” Blair says in her first post. “But walking around in a forest in Vietnam at night is going to be very different from walking around the Lower East Side.”

Little is known about the status or ecology of slow lorises in Vietnam, but researchers do know that the animals’ numbers are on the decline. They often show up in local, regional, and international trade as pets and for traditional medicine.

Blair is part of an expedition jointly organized by the Museum and the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at Vietnam National University, Hanoi, that aims to gather essential population data for slow lorises. The researchers will keep track of how often they encounter the animals while walking on trails or transects at night. The ultimate goal is to help conservation managers more effectively protect these species from further decline.