Slow Loris spared euthanasia by UK conservationist group

The slow loris illegally trafficked into the Maldives has been spared euthanasia after Monkey World – a center for abused and neglected primates – offered to re-home the animal at their sanctuary in Dorset, England.

“This has never been done before, to move endangered species overseas from the Maldives. This has been an amazing, unprecedented international effort,” Dr Alison Cronin, Director of Monkey World told the press in Malé today (August 13).

The small primate, which is an Appendix I listed species of CITES – giving it the highest level of protection in international trade of wildlife – was discovered during a police raid in the capital in January.

Shazra Shihab from the Ministry of Environment and Energy explained that the government had been trying to rehome the animal ever since, but had struggled due to issues relating to costs, transportation, and the loris’s unknown country of origin.

“However, with tireless dedication from one party, and cooperation from all relevant government organisations of both countries, as well as dedication from other involved parties on both sides, we have now found a home for the slow loris,” she added.

“I first heard that the Bengal Loris had been confiscated in the Maldives by colleagues who work in Asia rescuing wildlife,” Dr Cronin told Minivan News.

The animal will now be taken back to the UK and paired with another of its species, she explained.

“We believe this to be a male Loris, and we have a home for it in England with a female Loris, so he will have a wife,” Dr Cronin added.

“We’ve been doing this work around the world for more than 25 years and I was impressed, heart-warmed and felt that everybody here deserved support and encouragement for what they’ve done.”

Echoing Dr Cronin’s sentiments, Gabriella Tamási from the International Airline Group IAG Cargo remarked, “this is totally unprecedented, what we have done to transport the slow loris, as currently our travel operations in the Maldives are not approved for live animal transport.”

Illegal slow loris trade

The illegal Loris pet trade boomed after video clips which depict the animals as a cute and docile pets went viral. However, the video craze has obscured the trauma and suffering that the animals endure at the hands of illegal traffickers.

Far from its cuddly depiction, the Loris secretes toxins on its wrists which – when combined with their saliva – deliver a toxic and very harmful bite, Dr Cronin explained.

“Most commonly what happens is they get grabbed and somebody forces their mouth open, and they take large fingernail clippers and simply cut the animals teeth off at the gum line.”

“It’s a very bloody, painful and horrible process, leaving the animal crippled,” revealed Dr Cronin.

According to Dr Cronin, the Bengal slow loris in the Maldives has not been checked over yet, as she prefers to minimise the stress for the animal during the transportation process.

“The last thing it needs is more stress,” she stated, “we’ll wait until we get it back to Monkey World.”

Dr Cronin also revealed plans to check the slow loris’ DNA once back in the UK, to find out the animal’s country of origin, which may then present the possibility to a return to the wild.

“Everybody in the Maldives can feel pleased and proud of both the law enforcement and the government ministry for bothering to stick with this for so long,“ Dr Cronin concluded.


Negotiations to re-home slow loris continue

Negotiations for the re-homing of the slow loris are continuing after another offer for relocating the illegally imported animal appeared to have stalled.

After new inquiries from the UK regarding the possible re-homing of the endangered animal, the Ministry of Environment has revealed that communication with prospective new carers has broken down.

The mission to re-home the slow loris has proven difficult since the illegally trafficked animal – who was discovered in the Maldives during a drugs raid by police in January – has no formal paperwork or certified country of origin.

The Ministry of Environment subsequently considered euthanasia based on a number of factors which made re-homing the animal both difficult and costly.

The media coverage of this decision and an online petition drew further attention to the matter, resulting in various international partners expressing an interest in rehoming the endangered primate.

The Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) had originally offered a home at the Slow Loris Rehabilitation Centre in Jakarta, though recent correspondence obtained by Minivan News has revealed that they are unable to repatriate the creature as it is not native to Indonesia.

More recently, an offer was received from the UK-based Monkey World Ape and Rescue Centre, who suggested that the Jim Cronin Memorial Fund for Primate Welfare & Conservation may be able to cover the costs if a location could be secured.

Correspondence between JAAN and the Maldives government had previously revealed that the country was unprepared to meet any of the costs for sending the animal abroad.

“We do not have loris at Monkey World, nor do we have empty facilities that could taken long-term,” wrote an official from Monkey World. “However we would be very happy to assist and I have already contacted colleagues in the zoo world to find out if there is a good home for this individual.”

“I am also happy to organise the paperwork on this end (if UK CITES authorities will give us an import licence) and we could possibly even do the quarantine period (4 months) here at the park if there is a permanent home in another location thereafter.”

Despite these initial positive emails exchanged, the Ministry of Environment has confirmed with Minivan News today that no further correspondence has since been received from Monkey World.

Meanwhile, the Maldives National Defence Force has denied reports that new parties have shown an interest in relocating the corocodile – or ‘Kinboo’ – currently under its care in Malé.

A protest took place last week outside the enclosure – in the children’s park – where the Kinboo has been kept since its discovery on the coast of a local island in 1998.

“Some groups have shown interest in the crocodile since the day it was caught, but it quickly faded away,” said MNDF Deputy Spokesman Captain Ali Ihusaan. “We have not received any new interest recently.”

The crocodile has attracted a number of protests, including one led by the Billabong International school in 2010, which drew attention to the small cage and bad conditions the animal has been kept in.

Speaking with Minivan News today, an official from the Ministry of Environment said that promises to rehome the Kinboo had repeatedly run into problems.

“In the past years there have been many unsuccessful attempts to send it abroad,” the source stated.

“One of the reason being that it needs to be air lifted by a specialised air craft which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another reason again is that it is of unknown origin.”


Authorities pass responsibility for decision to destroy confiscated animals

Confusion surrounds the decision to destroy over 120 animals confiscated by authorities last weekend, with both police and the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) denying responsibility for the move.

With initial media reports today suggesting that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) had “executed” the animals, an official spokesman revealed that custody of the animals had been handed to the MNDF on Sunday, just hours after their seizure.

MNDF Captain Ali Ihusaan subsequently confirmed that all of the animals had been put down on the request of the MPS.

“The animals that were being handed over to the Ministry of Defence and National Security were being handed over in order to get rid of them, and we have established procedures and processes that we go through in order to take care of them and we have gone through that process on the day they were handed over to MNDF,” said Ihusaan.

These claims were promptly rejected by the police, however, who denied having asked the MNDF to terminate the animals.

“The information you have received is not right, we didn’t actually request from the MNDF to put them down,” said a police spokesperson who said he had been unable to contact his MNDF counterpart to clarify the conflicting account.

The spokesman went on to suggest that the responsibility for the transfer of the animals lay with the customs department, stating that the legal rationale for the decision could be explained by customs authorities.

“What we did was was request customs to take over those confiscated animals, to take the animals under their custody. So they requested us to hand over those animals to the MNDF,” said the MPS spokesman.

“Under customs regulations it is not allowed to bring those animals to Maldives. We requested them to take over the case, to take these animals to their custody”.

“I think it is because customs is run under Ministry of Defence, which might explain that decision”.

Minivan News was unable to contact customs officials at the time of press.

EPA deeply concerned

Meanwhile, news of the animals’ termination has prompted an outcry, with groups reportedly gathering outside of the Environment Ministry.

A group of protesters have assembled outside the children’s park in Malé – home to a captive crocodile – in opposition to the move, with one placard reading:  “Stop killing animals against the law and regulations”.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has taken to Twitter to denounce the decision.

“People’s beloved pets should not be killed just like that. Necessary regulations could be made,” tweeted Nasheed.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whom the police have previously said were being consulted on the animal’s care, have expressed concern.

“As an organisation responsible for the protection and well being of all these creatures, we are not happy with killing or doing anything lethal to any of the animals. That is something that we are deeply concerned about,” said Director General of the EPA Ibrahim Naeem.

Naeem denied having been consulted over the care and maintenance of the confiscated animals.

The animals – including 11 iguanas, a snake, a sugar glider (possum), an owl, a squirrel, and 105 rats – were taken by police in an operation to tackle the number of illegal pets last weekend.

The scale of the problem has become apparent as the police have embarked on a campaign to tackle the nation’s endemic narcotics problems, with a series of exotic creatures increasingly featuring in the lists of items seized during raids.

In a joint operation with multiple branches of the government, the police revealed that animals were to be confiscated “so that the legality of their presence in the country can be assessed,” read a police statement.

Customs regulations list dogs and dangerous animals as prohibited from import, while other live animals entering the country are required to have valid sanitary certificates.

The regulation on importing live animals specifies that the procedure for handling animals considered wild or dangerous includes consultation with the Fisheries Ministry and the MNDF, as well as the production of a report, before repatriation or extermination.

When asked if the police had allowed relevant time for owners to produce the necessary certificates before the animals were destroyed, Minivan News was again referred to the customs department.

The EPA’s Ibrahim also condemned those who bring such animals into the country, saying that they should share some of the blame for the animals’ fate.

“We don’t expect these animals in the Maldives. I condemn those who import those who import them to Maldives, they should actually take the responsibility.”

Authorities have confirmed that the endangered slow loris – confiscated during an earlier police operation – was not amongst the destroyed animals. The EPA is currently discussing the potential repatriation of the animal with interested parties.


Reports of exotic animals set loose as police crack down on illegal pets

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has described as “alarming” reports that exotic pets are being set loose in response to a police crackdown on illegal animals.

“We have heard from the police that some people are releasing those things into the wild, and that is a big concern to us,” Director General of the EPA Ibrahim Naeem told Minivan News.

Reports of animals being released came as authorities yesterday revealed details of a joint operation to tackle the rise of illegal pets in the country.

The scale of the problem has become apparent as the police have embarked on a campaign to tackle the nation’s endemic narcotics problems, with a series of exotic creatures increasingly featuring in the lists of items seized during raids.

When urging customs to tighten security last month, Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed complained that his forces were devoting as much time to dealing with illegal pets as they were to illegal drugs.

Representatives of the police, the customs service,  and the environment and fisheries ministries held a joint press conference during which they declared that action needed to be taken.

“As this is something that could likely result in a dangerous and tragic incident, the operation has been commenced to take necessary measures before such an incident occurs, locate the animals and bring them under our custody,” said Superintendent of Police Ahmed Azhan.

State Minister for Environment and Energy Hassan Shah warned of dangerous consequences of the import of “alien species” to the Maldives as the country lacked the medicine to treat snake or spider bites.

Shah stated that there was an increase in dangerous and endangered animals but a lack of medicine or rescue centers available locally.

A source within the police today revealed that the animals have been taken to Dhoonidhoo police custodial centre, where the EPA is being consulted regarding their upkeep.

Police have revealed that the operation has so far resulted in the confiscation of 11 iguanas, a snake, a sugar glider (possum), an owl, a squirrel, and 105 rats.

Also being kept at Dhoonidhoo is a slow loris, also confiscated during anti-drug raids. The Ministry of Environment and Energy revealed last week that it had little option but to destroy the endangered primate, though conservation groups have since shown interest in the animal’s plight.

At least three snakes have been discovered on the streets of Malé in recent weeks, with Shah yesterday suggesting that these alien species could pose a threat to both the public and to the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

As well as releasing exotic pets into the streets, Minivan News has also received reports that some animals are being destroyed rather than allowing their owners to be incriminated. One reported incident saw a pet snake killed and cut up into small pieces in order to prevent its discovery by authorities.

The territory of the Maldives – made up of over 1000 small islands – is made of of 99 percent water, with bats, birds, and small reptiles being the only significant indigenous species to be found on land.

The EPA today also revealed that it had been made aware reports that two kangaroos had been brought to the Maldives from Dubai Zoo as part of the attractions at the soon-to-be-opened Amilla Fushi resort in Baa atoll.

“That is not verifiable – we are still looking into it,” said Naeem.

He did, however, note that the EPA had not been informed of any such imports – including the arrival of four emus earlier this year, reported on social media by the same developers for a separate project.

“Normally, if you were trying to importing something that is alien to the Maldives you have to inform the EPA before importing them.”

Minivan News was unable to contact Amilla Fushi on their publicly listed number at the time of press.

Similarly, the Maldives Customs Service explained today that the import of these animals did not appear on their records.

“We currently don’t have any information regarding that. Our records don’t show that kind of animal has been imported earlier,” a media official said today.


Indonesian NGO offers to rescue slow loris from euthanasia

The plight of an illegally trafficked slow loris has attracted international attention with the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) offering to re-home the animal and a petition being launched to rescue it from euthanasia.

“We are much willing to repatriate this endangered primate back to Indonesia,” stated Femke Den Haas, founder of the Slow Loris Rehabilitation Centre has told the Ministry of Environment.

“We oppose the plan to euthanise. The loris should provided specialised veterinary care and high animal welfare standards.”

However, the reply from the government – also obtained by Minivan News – outlined a number of difficulties that needed to be overcome before they could proceed.

“If you could find a flight or any other mode of legal transportation, could bear the expenses and if Indonesia will allow the slow lori [sic] to be imported into the country in spite of it not fitting OIE standard, we will be able to move forward,” an official from the ministry told Femke.

The slow loris – which is currently being held at Dhoonidhoo police custodial centre – was discovered by police during a drugs raid in the capital Malé, along with more than MVR300,000 in cash.

Following the discovery, the Ministry of Environment has faced a number of hurdles in finding a sanctuary for the primate, leaving it facing the decision to destroy the endangered animal.

“After running out of other options, the ministry sees euthanasia as the only option available,” said Assistant Director for the Environment Department Ilham Atho Mohamed last week.

“This decision does not affect the wild population or the conservation potential of the species. It will also help prevent further illegal trade of such species and  prevent the specimen from re-entering illegal trade,” she contended.

An offer of sanctuary

Associates of the Slow Loris Rehabillitation Centre contacted the government after reading last week’s article in Minivan News (April 10).

In an email sent to the Ministry of Environment on April 11, Femke offered JAAN’s services, and expressed a firm interest in taking care of the animal.

“We are much willing to repatriate this endangered primate back to Indonesia. For this, we would need one letter of request for repatriation from your environment ministry,” she wrote.

Despite the offer, the government’s reply listed a number of reasons that were currently obstructing the animal’s rescue.

“When they request for a repatriate letter, the slow lori found in Maldives is a Bengal Slow Lori whose origin is in a wide range of countries but not in Indonesia,” Assistant Director for the Environment Department Ilham Atho Mohamed told Minivan News today.

“Therefore, such a letter cannot be issued to be transferred to Indonesia,” although Ilham expressed hope such issues could soon be resolved.

One of the other difficulties cited was the lack of knowledge of the animal’s history and the absence of medical records.

“The animal does not fit OIE standards,” said a ministry official. “We do not know the age or country of origin of the Slow Lori as it was confiscated during a police operation, and the accused illegal traders chose their right to stay silent on this issue.”

In addition, the expense of transporting the slow loris was a major factor in deciding to contemplate euthanasia.

“Maldives cannot bear any expense of transporting it,” read the email sent to Femke.

In spite of the protests from the government, Femke insists that there are ways to overcome the difficulties outlined by the government.

“I have repatriated many confiscated animals back to Indonesia and always the costs we made were shared. The airlines normally allow the transport to happen for free. It’s good for their publicity,” she stated.

“If the Maldives is a member of CITES it should follow its regulations. If they can’t care for the loris the loris should at least be handed over to a specialised rescue – rehab center , the closest nearby.”

Some Maldivians and members of the international community have expressed their support to rehabilitate the animal in a petition on Avaaz.

The petition – started Maldivian resident called Nora on April 12 – has reached over 300 signatures in just one day.


Week in review: April 6 – 12

In a varied week of news, protests, primates, and possessed plants all featured in the headlines.

The top story of the week, however, involved the tragic death of two port workers in Malé, killed by faulty equipment in an accident the union suggested could have been avoided.

Beloved public health figure Dr Ahmed Razee also passed away this week after more than three decades of public service.

Meanwhile, tests run following the death of a Malé resident the week before revealed high levels of opium and benzodiazepine in the blood of the youth – released from rehab just 24 hours earlier.

Statistics from the Drug Court this week revealed that 101 individuals have completed the mandatory rehab programmes that had been prescribed since the court’s introduction in August 2012.

The case of a Russian woman accused of smuggling drugs into the country was sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office, while the passport of the doctor who signed the form allowing a convicted drug dealer to leave the country was held by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The ACC were also occupied with investigating alleged wrongdoing in the Ramazan night market contract, with the commission telling the new city council that the deal had been terminated last year – to the bemusement of Go Media, the company currently organising this year’s event.

Police were also kept busy with the recent rush of child abuse cases, with commentators unsure as to whether the recent spate of incidents represented a rise in offending or a greater willingness to report such crimes.

One crime not reported to police this week was the apparent offence committed by a Jinn tree upon the residents of Haa Alif Thakandhoo, who took matters into their own hands, breaking into the school compound to hack down the accused.

Campaigners in neighbouring Haa Dhaalu atoll continued to gain support for their calls to bring resort development to the atoll, with the government assuring that the tourism industry’s ever-growing spoils would be equally distributed.

Teachers campaigning against pay discrepancies wore black to work this week, while civil servants seeking equal pay discussed a potential strike later in the month.

The Bar Association suggested that the government had failed to adequately consult the legal profession regarding new regulations to practice, as well as calling for the suspension of Chief Justice Ali Hameed after his alleged involvement in a sex-tape scandal.

The government’s plans to raise revenue continued this week, with MIRA expecting to receive an additional MVR110 million per year through the taxation of telecoms – revenue that will be essential should the soon-to-be concluded GMR arbitration case go against the state.

The Home Ministry was chastised for its failure to adhere to the schedule of the recently-implemented Anti-Torture Act, while the Environment Ministry revealed that euthanasia may be the only option left for the slow loris confiscated by police earlier this year.

The alcohol possession trial of departing MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor was postponed when the former was unable to attend after suffering health problems while in jail.

Legal challenges to March’s elections results continued to rise, casting doubt on the identities of a number of future MPs, scheduled to be sworn in on May 28.


Slow loris to be euthanised as Environment Ministry runs out of options

The Ministry of Environment has decided that an illegally trafficked slow loris – a species recognised as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN red list – will be euthanised.

“After running out of other options, the ministry sees euthanasia as the only option available,” stated Assistant Director for the Environment Department Ilham Atho Mohamed.

“This decision does not affect the wild population or the conservation potential of the species. It will also help prevent further illegal trade of such species and  prevent the specimen from re-entering illegal trade,” she contended.

The slow loris was discovered by police in a January drugs raid in the capital Malé, along with more than MVR300,000 in cash.

“In the capacity of the Management Authority of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Maldives, we have already explored all options and have come to a decision from the Ministry’s side,” Ilham told Minivan News today.

According to Ilham, there were three possible options when dealing with the animal – keeping it in captivity, returning it to the wild, or having the animal put down.

She explained that these are the three options given in accordance with the CITES resolution on ‘Disposal of confiscated live specimens of species’ which she noted was in line with international best practice.

The first option of captivity was not available in the Maldives, she noted, with no rescue centres, humane societies, or relevant university facilities.

As the CITES resolution details a number of other obstacles to keeping the creature in captivity in the Maldives, Ilham explained that the ministry had attempted to find a home for the slow loris elsewhere.

“Through the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums an announcement was made and two parties showed interest.  One from the Czech Republic and other from Brazil,” though Ilham explained that the interested parties in Brazil had not responded after initial enquiries.

Issues soon arose with the transfer to the Czech Republic, however, as the import of the animal could not be approved as it is not in accordance with World Organisation for Animal Health.

Furthermore, flights landing in Maldives are neither willing to take the animal, nor do  they meet with the IATA Live Animal Regulations. Alternatively, sea transport proved prohibitively expensive.

The second option of returning the animal to the wild was not available in the Maldives, stated Ilham, as the Maldives does not have the wild habitat of the slow loris.

“For countries that do not have the above two options this [euthanasia] is the only option and the least expensive one.”

“The resolution mentioned above also states ‘it cannot be overstressed that euthanasia may frequently be the  simplest and most humane option available’ and gives several clear advantages,” she explained.

Unnatural habitat

Following the discovery of the a number of exotic and illegal animals by police this year, the government has moved to step up customs security, in an effort to stem the flow of illegal animals being trafficked into the Maldives.

“We have instructed cargo checks and consider giving more attention to these, and will report any findings,” said Senior Superintendant of Customs Ahmed Niyaz, adding that customs were working closely with the police.

Any dangerous animals that are confiscated are handed over to the police, he said, adding that “if an animal is protected under convention they will inform the Ministry of Environment. They will then check with international bodies.”

In the majority of cases the dangerous animals will then be sent to other countries, due to insufficient space or expertise in Malé, he explained.

Aside from those trafficked, non-native species such as crocodiles have also found themselves in the Maldives, resulting in dilemmas regarding the appropriate way to handle these unusual arrivals.

In 1998, a small crocodile – or kimboo in Dhivehi – was found off the coast of a local island. The animal was brought back to the Malé and placed in a small cage as a central park attraction, where it remains to this day.

Kimboo occasionally makes it into local media and even has his own Facebook page calling for his release from his now-cramped quarters, which the World Society for the Protection of Animals has called “entirely inadequate”

Similar to the slow loris, attempts to have the crocodile relocated to have yet to produce results, with financial and legal obstacles barring kimboo’s path out of the country.

The discovery of two more crocodiles in early 2011 raised serious concerns around the containment and treatment of animals in the Maldives.


Eight arrested in drug bust with more than 300k in cash

Police arrested eight Maldivians with illegal narcotics and more than MVR140,000 (US$9,000) and US$11,000 in cash from a residence in Malé yesterday.

In addition to the drugs and cash seized after searching Maafanu Zillion with a court warrant, police discovered a caged slow loris. The importation and sale of the endangered primate species is illegal in the country.

The house was searched based on information of a “wide drug network” obtained by police drug intelligence.

Yesterday’s raid followed a similar operation earlier in the month, in which a 23-year-old suspected of supplying illegal drugs was arrested – also in Maafanu ward. Official statistics reveal drug-related offences reported to police had risen by 84 percent between 2012 and 2013.

The suspects taken into custody yesterday included three men aged 20, 24 and 53 as well as three women aged 19, 35 and 47.

The Criminal Court today extended the remand detention of the 20-year-old man and 35-year-old woman to 15 days and granted a three-day extension for the remaining four suspects.

Police also found a liquor bottle and a handcuff from the adjoining residence, Maafanu Zefiah, and took two men aged 21 and 28 into custody.

According to the police Drug Enforcement Department (DED), the street value of the drugs seized from Maafanu Zillion was more than MVR200,000 (US$12,970).

The drugs were found in five small film canisters and a large rubber packet.

Among other items confiscated from M. Zillion – located near the Maafanu police station – included four sex toys, empty bottles of alcohol, walkie talkies of the Kenwood brand used at construction sites, 39 cans of beer and equipment used for packing drugs.

The search operation conducted jointly by the DED, drug intelligence department and the Specialist Operations (SO) command concluded at 5:30pm on Monday.

The case is currently investigation by the DED and the Criminal Investigation Department.

Police further revealed that the 47-year-old woman had previously been convicted for drug trafficking and sentenced to 25 years in prison. She was however transferred to house arrest on December 6, 2008 due to poor health.

Local daily Haveeru reported today that the woman was convicted in late 2007 for assisting her son – who was in grade nine at the time – to buy and sell drugs.

The conviction was upheld by the High Court in 2012 following an appeal on the grounds that the woman suffered from a mental illness.

During an interview with Minivan News this month, Home Minister Umar Naseer said that the main target of his ministry for the next five years would be to curb drug-related crimes.

Naseer said that he intended to give high priority to enhancing the customs services in order to stop illegal drugs and other contraband from being smuggled in to the country. He also said that the police intelligence department was being expanded.

Speaking about reducing drug-related crimes, Naseer said that he would focus more on major drug dealers, rather than those further down the criminal hierarchy.

The home minister also pledged to find ways to enforce Maldivian law on drug lords living overseas who were allegedly involved in the drug trafficking in the Maldives.