Black magic puts city's slender loris in the red

Primate in peril

Once a common sight, the city’s population of slender lorises, nocturnal tree-dwelling primates, are becoming rare, thanks to reckless development and black magic rituals.

The declining number of sightings are largely proportional with the loss of habitat, researchers said, adding that on a micro level, lorises, which are endemic to South India, may be among the million species of animals and plants which a United Nations report predicts will go extinct in a few decades.

Speaking to DH, several wildlife researchers said that two primary factors have been responsible for the reduced sighting of the primate in the city – tree-felling and the trapping of the animals for use as living voodoo dolls in black magic rituals. Black magic practitioners believe that whatever brutal torture inflicted on the loris’s body will, in turn, affect the enemy as well. 

“Even as recent as 20 years ago, we had people reporting sightings of slender lorises in their backyards, in trees along streets, at schools and even the city’s railway stations. That is no longer the case,” said Varsha Bhaskar of the Urban Slender Loris Project (USLP), which has worked to identify clusters of loris habitation.

She clarified that large-scale human alteration of the city’s environment has not only reduced the loris habitat but also other forms of urban wildlife, including bats, squirrels, and species of birds.

Sudhira H S of Gubbi Labs, a think tank devoted to environment and sustainability research, said the fragmentation of Bengaluru’s green spaces had marooned many lorises on “islands of trees”. 

The effects of this marooning have been stark, Sudhira said, explaining that at the Indian Institute of Science, a troop of 18-20 individuals have been cut off from the main population because they no longer have access to the tree cover beyond the institute’s campus. “This is resulting in inbreeding which will eventually wipe out the troop,” he said.

Bindumadhav had a note of caution on the assumption that the city’s slender loris faced extinction because no census has ever been carried out. He did, however, agree that the animal was a threatened species because they were increasingly being used as living sacrifices or replacing parakeets as “soothsayers” by roadside or travelling astrologers.

Tree corridors 
Sudhira H S said one way to rejuvenate the loris population is to restore the tree corridors, which once allowed the creatures to roam freely across the city. M K Cholarajappa, Tree Officer for the BBMP, said the civic body was waiting for the approval of a tender, which would see 75,000 tree saplings planted across the city. When asked if the saplings would be planted in a manner to create tree corridors, Cholarajappa retorted: “We know how to plant.”

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