The first thing most people notice about slow lorises is their big, round eyes. Lorises are nocturnal, and their huge eyes give them the ability to see at night. They also make the animal look super adorable. But don’t be fooled: This gentle-looking creature is the world’s only venomous primate. Primates are a group of animals that includes apes, monkeys, and humans.
When a slow loris feels threatened, it will cover its face with its arms. It’s not trying to hide, though. Slow lorises have a small gland on the side of their elbow. The gland produces a clear, strong-smelling toxin. When the loris licks the gland, the toxin mixes with its saliva. Now the loris is prepared to defend itself with a venomous bite.
Slow loris venom can trigger a response similar to an allergic reaction, says Stephanie Poindexter, a biological anthropologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo. This happens when the body’s disease-fighting immune system overreacts to an unknown substance. A person or animal who comes into contact with the venom of a loris can experience rashes, trouble breathing, and a potentially deadly drop in blood pressure. When scientists want to handle a loris, they need to wear thick protective gloves. “Whenever we’re doing research,” says Poindexter, “we’re careful to steer clear of the loris’s mouth.”