Thursday, September 24, 2009

Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus)

Have a close look at the Loris picture. What expression does he have? Surprise? Curiosity? Suspicion? Or maybe it is worried. With only around 1,500 Slender Loris’s left in Sri Lanka, it certainly has a reason to be a bit scared.

The Slender Loris can only be found in Sri Lanka's forests. They are nocturnal – sleeping in branches or hollow trees in the day and becoming active at night. They climb quietly through the forest looking for food, using branches and vines to help them travel. Their large eyes give them excellent night vision, and along with a keen sense of smell they find insects to eat, or as an especially delicious meal, lizards and geckos. They are named after their long, slender arms and legs, and have soft, thick grey or reddish fur.

Lorises are an endangered species. Loss of forest cover has greatly limited the habitat in which they can live. Unlike other species, they cannot adapt to living in different places such as home gardens. Lorises can also be the victim of road kill and are sometimes hunted for the pet trade. Sri Lanka does have national parks that protect the Lorises, and it is here you can still see some.

What can you do?

1. Plant a forest!
By supporting projects to restore forest cover you are creating new habitat for the Slender Loris to live in.

2. Drive carefully
If you are on a car journey at night, ask the driver to go slowly and carefully in forest areas so you don’t accidentally hit a Loris, or other animal that might have strayed onto the road.

3. Support our National Parks
By supporting the national parks in Sri Lanka that protect Loris populations, through visits or conservation works (what about organising a forest clean up?), you can help to protect Lorises habitat.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ceylon Rose Butterfly (Atrophaneura jophon jophon)

If the Ceylon Rose butterfly could speak, it would be telling us to tread carefully through the jungle. It’s an important message, because this butterfly only makes its home in Sri Lanka’s undisturbed rainforests. If we can find it, we know the forest around is unspoiled and rich with natural treasures. But the Ceylon Rose is very sensitive. If the forest is disturbed it cannot live there – so it is really important we protect the last few patches of primary rainforest. An animal like this is called an ‘indicator species’ – its presence indicates the forest is in pristine condition, and its absence is a warning that bad environmental changes are afoot.

The Ceylon Rose is very rare because there are not many areas of undisturbed rainforest where it can live. Sinharaja is one place you can still catch a glimpse, in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky. Look carefully in clearings, by footpaths and roads, where they flit between flowers looking for nectar. They have beautiful wings shaped like a swallowtail, about the size of a saucer when fully open. Look carefully and you can see the wings are tipped with red splashes.

What can you do to help?
The Ceylon Rose’s main threat is habitat loss. Living in Sinharaja Forest Reserve gives it some protection from the government and the international network of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. But there are still things you can do to help.

1. Find out what other indicator species live in Sinharaja, visit the forest, and see if you can spot them.

2. If you do see one in the wild, don’t catch it. It’s illegal and will reduce numbers of this rare animal even further.

3. Research other endangered butterflies in Sri Lanka and make a butterfly map for your classroom

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana