Paignton Zoo vets have solved a medical mystery to help a tiny Far Eastern mammal.
Ghislaine Sayers, head of Veterinary Services at Paignton Zoo, said: “One of our pygmy slow lorises started to lose weight. The keepers were having to feed him twice the normal amount to maintain his weight. The vet team started to do some research and we tested for various things. We found he was deficient in pancreatic enzymes.”
The male, named Josh, was born in February 2006 at Paignton Zoo. Paignton Zoo is currently home to five pygmy slow loris – four males and one female.
“We started to supplement his diet with these enzymes and he is now gaining weight and seems to be doing really well. Put simply, pancreatic enzymes help animals digest food. The deficiency meant that he wasn’t absorbing nutrients. It can be a common problem in some dogs and we were able to use an off-the-shelf medication
“We don’t know of a published case of this nature, so we hope to write a paper in due course. With more research we may find out why it happens and possibly develop a better diagnostic test.”
The pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, which means that it is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
It comes from the forests of South East Asia, where it lives on a diet of insects, fruit, slugs and snails. This small nocturnal primate has a comical appearance – the name loris may come from an old Dutch word for clown.
The loris spends the daytime curled up in a tree hole or dense vegetation. The hands and feet are strong with well developed pads which means it can hold tightly to branches. When it is asleep it curls up into a tight ball but remains clinging to the branch. A typical pygmy slow loris weighs less than 500g.
The Vietnam War nearly wiped out this species of loris as forests were burned or defoliated. While military action has stopped, the destruction of forests continues due to agriculture and development.
(from a press release)