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Do popular viral videos actually depict animal abuse?

Screenshot from "Slow Loris Loves Being Tickled" on YouTube.

Maybe you've seen these videos. In one of them, which goes under the name "Slow Loris Loves Being Tickled," the animal (which is actually a pygmy loris) has its arms stretched up high as it lies on its back and a human tickles it. In the other video, a loris tries to get and hold on to a cocktail umbrella while a chuckling human takes the umbrella away. The animal has big eyes, seems fluffy, and it all seems adorable.

Dr. Anna Nekaris of Oxford Brookes University is a leading expert on lorises and she says what's going on here is far from cute. The animal in the first video, she says, is obese, is losing its hair, and is generally in very poor health. She thinks that might have something to do with being played with under a bright light when the loris is naturally nocturnal. She says the prone position the animal is in is one of defenselessness against a predator. In other words, it's begging for its life.

The second loris, the one with the umbrella, is in a desperate situation as well, according to Dr. Nekaris. She says, "It's showing every possible sign of stress. It curls up into a ball, ears are folded, mouth turned down at the corners, and its eyes are shut due to bright lights. As it grabs for umbrella, what it's doing is that lorises in the wild always want to hold onto a branch for safety. The umbrella is taken away over and over."

Dr. Nekaris says that although the loris is endangered, people have been smuggling them out of Southeast Asia for years. The animal will sleep as a defense mechanism so they're easy to stuff in a suitcase or even in cargo pants. Before they are smuggled out, their teeth are taken out, generally with pliers and without the benefit of anesthesia. The lorises in these videos appear to have no teeth. This is done because the loris is the only venomous primate. A bite from a loris can kill a child and send an adult into anaphylactic shock.

We contacted YouTube to ask them about the videos and whether they would be taken down for depicting animal abuse. A spokesperson for the company gave us a statement:

"All videos uploaded to YouTube must comply with our Community Guidelines. Those guidelines prohibit, among other things, shocking or graphic content, or content intended to encourage dangerous, illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death. We also have policies against animal abuse. We review all videos flagged by our users quickly, and remove those that we find violate our policies."

At last report, the videos were still live on YouTube.

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About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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