'Voodoo doll' primate struggles for survival | india | Hindustan Times
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'Voodoo doll' primate struggles for survival

india Updated: Jun 28, 2006 13:00 IST
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Hunted for centuries for its purported qualities as an aphrodisiac, asthma cure and as a kind of living voodoo doll, the tiny primate known as the Slender Loris has long faced a battle just to survive.

But the biggest threat to the rare nocturnal animal, which has a distinctive a big head, wide brown eyes and is so small it can be held in your hand, is the recent encroachment of human activity on to patches of forest in southern India and Sri Lanka that the primate calls home.

Measuring 6 to 10 inches long and weighing about 350 grams, the Slender Loris is increasingly popping up urban India, where it has traditionally either been killed as an omen of bad luck or captured and traded.

"In south India people either trade in them or use them for black magic," said Sharat Babu, senior manager of People for Animals in Bangalore. "If a person wants to harm their enemy they will tell their black magic practitioner to use a Slender Loris and cause damage to that exact part of the primate's body," he said.

Animal rights groups fear this latest trend signals a bad omen for the animal itself - possible extinction. The primate, with long pencil-thin arms and legs and a brown coat, has joined a list of more than 30 species which are listed as endangered in India by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

According to the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, Slender Loris are 'endangered species' and a person who harbours, trades or kills the primate is liable to penalties that include five years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 25,000.

But many are willing to take the risk as the "market rate" for a Loris is close to Rs 20,000, Babu said.