With only about 50 Pygmy Lorises in captivity in North America, the staff is particularly excited, since this is the first birth to occur at Moody Gardens since 2011.
"We are very excited about the birth of twin lorises here at Moody Gardens. As an AZA zoological facility we are proud to be a part of many global conservation programs. Pygmy Slow Lorises are facing many threats to their population in their native range, and our mission at Moody Gardens is to help conserve species around the world," said Assistant Curator, Paula Kolvig.
Moody Gardens is a part of the Species Survival Plan, assisting animals that are endangered or threatened in the wild by breeding them in captivity. In addition to the endangered status, what makes this birth more significant is that Cai, the mother of the twins is a Moody Gardens twin herself. She is one of the first pair of Pygmy Slow Loris babies born at Moody Gardens in 2011. The father of the twins joined the Moody Gardens' family in September 2015 as per an SSP recommendation from the Duke Primate Center in North Carolina as a mate for both Cai and another female named Blackwell.
Pygmy Slow Lorises are small, nocturnal prosimians native to Southeast Asia, more specifically Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. They have a vice-like grip, move slowly, and have a venomous bite which is unique for a mammal. In addition to habitat loss, their main threats are traditional medicine and the illegal wildlife trade. They are captured and their various body parts are used in different traditional medicine or practices because some cultures believe the animal can be used for healing. This combined with the issue that they are perceived to make good pets has led to the capture of many lorises and their numbers in the wild are dwindling.
In light of the holiday season, Moody Gardens has partnered with the "Little Fireface Project," the world's longest running project that aims to protect lorises from extinction through research, education and conservation. From now until January 8, visitors can purchase a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Moody Brews, which serves Starbucks drinks at the Moody Gardens Hotel; a portion of the proceeds will be donated to help protect the Pygmy Slow Loris in the wild.
The twins will join the other Pygmy Slow Lorises on exhibit in the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid in the New Year. The Rainforest Pyramid showcases the various rainforest habitats from around the world. The tropical environment is home to free roaming monkeys and birds, as well as fish, Komodo Dragons and more.