Science

After Maiden Dugong Reserve, Tamil Nadu Has Notified India’s First Slender Loris Sanctuary

Karan Kamble

Oct 16, 2022, 02:36 PM | Updated 02:36 PM IST

Slender loris (Photo: S Natarajan via Supriya Sahu IAS/Twitter)
Slender loris (Photo: S Natarajan via Supriya Sahu IAS/Twitter)
  • Tamil Nadu keeps going with its wildlife conservation initiatives.
  • The latest is a slender loris sanctuary, coming on the heels of a dugong conservation reserve announced just about three weeks ago.
  • Tamil Nadu notified a sanctuary — India’s first — for the slender loris last week.

    The slender loris is a forest-dwelling, tree-inhabiting (“arboreal”) nocturnal mammal. It resides for the most part in southern and eastern India—covering the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu—as well as across most of Sri Lanka.

    The grey slender loris, with its presence in India and Sri Lanka, is to be distinguished from the red slender loris, which resides only in south-west Sri Lanka.

    The population of the slender loris is suspected to be in decline. The small primate was adjudged “near threatened” in the most recent assessment, in October 2020, for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2022). This was a change from the earlier estimation that the animal was in the “least concern” category.

    “IUCN” is short for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity and serves as a guide for conservation efforts by government agencies, wildlife departments, and conservation-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs), among others.

    “Government of Tamil Nadu is committed to conserve the endangered Slender Loris species,” a statement said.

    About 11,800 hectares of area in Karur and Dindigul districts have been identified for the mammal’s conservation under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The dedicated space will be called the Kadavur Slender Loris Sanctuary.

    Scrub forests and adjoining croplands are the preferred habitat for slender lorises in the forests of Dindigul. In Karnataka, they are said to be found outside protected areas, such as on trees by the roadside. However, they hardly come into conflict with human beings.

    The slender loris is primarily insectivorous, with dietary additions of plant material, fruits, and seeds. Its presence is associated with agricultural pest abundance.

    According to the IUCN assessment, the species is facing threats from “deforestation and/or hunting across its range.” The downward population trend may be attributed to the tree cover loss in India of 2.07 Mha from 2001 to 2021, equivalent to a 5.3 per cent decrease in tree cover since the turn of the century.

    Lorises also face the danger of road kills, electrocution on uninsulated power lines, capture for pet trade and use in traditional medicine, and, sadly, killing due to superstition and black magic.

    That they are slow movers makes them especially susceptible to poaching. (They are slow, but are not to be confused with the slow loris, which is different.)

    Therefore, a sanctuary for the slender loris would help in enabling the species to live and grow in numbers.

    “Truly a great moment for our team who worked hard for this. Glad that I played a small role in this,” Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Prabhushankar T Gunalan said in a tweet after the announcement.

    Such a sanctuary was in Gunalan's “personal wish list” since mid-2021, when he undertook a trek deep into the Kadavur Hills Reserve Forest up to Valerumbu falls. This area hosts slender lorises in abundance.

    “We will work hard to make the Kadavur Slender loris sanctuary a landmark in conservation arena,” Supriya Sahu, the Additional Chief Secretary to the Tamil Nadu government in the Environment, Climate Change, and Forests Department, tweeted.

    “Wohooooo for us loris researchers,” nocturnal primatologist Smith Daniel said in a tweet.

    This is “yet another milestone TN’s conservation efforts,” the Office of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu tweeted.

    “Yet another,” because only about three weeks ago, the state government notified a dugong conservation reserve in Palk Bay, covering the coastal waters of Thanjavur and Pudukkottai districts.

    Popularly known as sea cows, dugongs are said to have been the inspiration for ancient mermaid legends.

    Dugong or "sea cow"
    Dugong or "sea cow"

    Dugongs are the largest herbivorous marine mammals in the world. They live within 10-metre depth not far from the shore.

    They thrive primarily on seagrass beds. The sea grass, Cymodocea, is their primary diet. The notified reserve area is covered by around 12,250 hectares of seagrass beds.

    There are about 240 dugongs estimated to be present in India, and a majority of the individuals are swimming in Palk Bay.

    Their population is said to be in decline due to uncontrolled fishing and a reduction of their grazing area.

    “When we protect them, we protect seagrass & its associated fauna,” Indian Forest Service officer Ankit Kumar said in a tweet

    Thankfully, coastal communities along Palk Bay are cooperating with the Tamil Nadu forest department in the conservation efforts. This will be the focus going forward as well, with the notification of the dugong reserve.

    “Notification of a Conservation Reserve will not cause any new restrictions or regulations to the communities, rather it focuses on their participation and cooperation for the conservation efforts,” a statement said.

    Other conservation efforts taken by the Tamil Nadu government within a span of just 15 months include the notification of the Kazhuveli Bird Sanctuary in Villupuram, Agasthiarmalai Elephants Reserve, and Nanjarayan Tank Birds Sanctuary in Tirupur, as well as the inclusion of 13 wetlands into the Ramsar List.

    Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.


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