Welcome back to a new year of the life sciences podcast! In this episode we learn about the world’s only venomous primate with Prof Anna Nekaris, a Professor in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University. We also speak to George Madani, a Wildlife Ecologist, who regales us with his first hand experience of the lethal slow loris venom! Finally we catch up with Stephanie Landymore, a guest on the previous podcast. We discuss her journey graduating from Manchester to her current position as parliamentary campaigns officer for RSPB. We speak about engaging with conservation in the UK through campaigning and advocating science policies, and get some pretty good career tips for any young budding conservationists.
The slow loris (Nycticebus spp.) is a remarkably cute-looking nocturnal primate found throughout South and Southeast Asia, but has a devilish dark evolutionary adaptation. It is in fact one of only a handful of venomous mammals and the world’s only venomous primate known to date. The lethal loris is therefore incredibly unique amongst the animal kingdom. Hence, we wanted to learn more about these fascinating animals. Prof Anna Nekaris reveals what we currently know about the chemical composition of the slow loris venom, what the slow loris may be using this venom for, and why it has evolved. We find out the effects of the slow loris venom on humans from our Wildlife Ecologist, George Madani, who fell victim to the slow loris bite whilst deep in the Borneo jungle! Although a humorous story to tell, George reminds us of the dangers when encountering wild animals.
If you would like to read more about the biochemistry, ecology and evolution of the slow loris venom, click here to view Prof Anna Nekaris’ paper on the subject!
Many people may have heard of or seen slow lorises due to their numerous appearances on youtube videos. Even celebrities can be found posting pictures on the Internet with these primates. Yet, these videos are helping both the photo-prop and the pet trade, two of the major threats to slow loris populations. We speak to Anna about the issues surrounding slow loris conservation and the work she does, including running the little fire face project, in order to help protect these magnificient primates.
Finally we speak to Stephanie Landymore about her journey into conservation. We hear her story from working at the Durrel Wildlife Conservation Trust in her placement year to finally getting a position as Parliamentary Campaigns Officer for RSPB. We learn what inspired her to want to influence policy makers and prevent decisions that could have vastly negative consequences on a great variety of species and habitats, rather than focusing on the individual species or habitat. We then discuss how she followed this aspiration, gaining work experience in various different roles, from volunteering for Feed the 5000 to working on a climate change campaign, 10:10. Stephanie gives us great advice for people graduating and interested in pursuing a career in conservation.
Another interesting fact about the slow loris is it is also a monogamous primate, relating to our first podcast on the evolution of monogamy in primates!
Here is a video of Anna helping rescue a slow loris!