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30Mar2012

Films Can Make A Difference - Jungles Gremlins of Java

By Laura Coates, Assistant Producer 

“Last night I saw one of the best wildlife documentaries that I have seen in a very long time. The Natural World on BBC2 gave us an insight into the mysterious world of the slow loris.  It really was an excellent programme and well worth watching on i-player if you missed the broadcast yesterday.”

Daily Mail – Kevin Heath 26th Jan.

When we set out to make a film about slow lorises, the big question was ‘Why on earth is this cuddly-looking primate armed with a lethal, poisonous bite? (Very few mammals are venomous.) But even before we left for Indonesia we knew that lorises were getting hammered by illegal pet traders, and that this was going to be an important part of the story. The reality, when I saw the undercover footage we shot in the street markets, was truly shocking.  What makes it worthwhile, though, is seeing the amazing, positive impact that our film is now having…

Internet Sites Closed Down
Public reaction among UK viewers was immediate. As the film went out on January 25th, hundreds began tweeting, with many people demanding action to stop the trade in slow lorises. Following the broadcast, literally thousands logged on to the  infamous YouTube clip, ‘Tickling Slow Loris’, to post negative comments and ask for the site to be taken down.  (This, and similar videos thought to be encouraging the trade in slow lorises, have had over 12 million hits; and until now they’ve enjoyed overwhelmingly positive reactions.) Within days of broadcast, the number of people petitioning for this clip to be taken off the internet grew by 150%, and I’m happy to say that because of this pressure the original clip has now been removed by its owners. Several other similar YouTube clips have also gone.

While some ‘duplicate’ clips remain, Vimeo at least has now also agreed to remove all offending videos. This can only help to reduce the number of people wanting to own an endangered loris as a pet.

Massive boost for Loris Campaign
Meanwhile, International Animal Rescue (whose loris recue centre features in the film) has had a massive response to its campaign ‘Saving the Slow Loris’.  IAR Chief Exec Alan Knight OBE says:  “Jungle Gremlins of Java is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of the slow loris which is one of the most endangered primates in the world.  I hope it will discourage people from owning them as pets, and encourage them to support our work to save them.  The documentary shows the terrible suffering caused by the illegal trade in wildlife in Indonesia, and the scenes in the animal market should be enough to deter anyone from supporting it in any way.” 

Cuddly Toy Launched
The shampooed, cake-munching slow loris, Cepat, who we filmed being rescued by IAR staff, has become the poster boy for IAR’s campaign – and a bit of a supstar!  He may have had his teeth cruelly cut out by traders, but he ha now been immortalized as a cuddly toy – with all proceeds going towards the care of his fellow ‘rehabs’.  You can buy a Cepat lookalike here 

Awareness raised at Government level
Since Jungle Gremlins of Java went out, our presenter (and now Professor!) Anna Nekaris has been tirelessly campaigning to stop the illegal trade in lorises. Her ‘Little Fireface Project’ has seen her touring the UK to give awareness-raising talks, lobby government officials, and gather support. Using the undercover footage we obtained in Jakarta’s animal markets, she has been able to show that the openly conducted street trade is affecting not just lorises, but also many  other rare and beautiful animals.

Anna has successfully secured high-profile support from some of the biggest names in wildlife conservation. Virginia McKenna OBE (Born Free Foundation Founder and Trustee, and friend of Icon Films) has been moved to write a personal letter to the Indonesian Embassy, urging the Government in Jakarta to stop the illegal street trade in slow lorises.

Anna recently met the Indonesian ambassador who, having watched the film, is keen to get it translated into Indonesian so that it can be used as an educational tool.  Additionally, we have been told that law enforcement workshops are also now being planned, to help police clamp down on the animal markets.

Slow Lorises go global
Though it hasn’t yet broadcast on Animal Planet it seems that the influence of Jungle Gremlins has already spread to America, where the well-respected journal Scientific American has picked up the YouTube issue.

Meanwhile, several conservation groups, including EAZA, have also referenced our film in their campaigns:  (http://www.southeastasiacampaign.org/2012/03/14/jungle-gremlins-of-java)

TRAFFIC, the internationally renowned organization that monitors wildlife trade, has chosen the Slow Loris for this year’s ‘Where’s My Mama?’ campaign

Pet traders busted
More recently, and perhaps most significantly, Anna has been informed that several pet dealers have been arrested in Thailand.  We all wait now in the hope that these and other measures will continue to spread through the rest of South East Asia.

As a member of the production team I can say that it’s meant a great deal to all of us that our film has had such a rapid and beneficial impact.  I hope that in some small way it improves the Slow Loris’s chances of survival in the wild.

The Series Editor, Steve Greenwood, at BBC Natural World agrees: ‘‘I’m very proud to be involved with Jungle Gremlins of Java. Many years ago I worked as a biologist in the jungles of Indonesia and the thought of losing one of the most iconic and unusual primates of that rainforest due to the pet trade is unthinkable. It’s great that Natural World has been able to help make a difference.”

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