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Endangered primate flown by British Airways from Maldives to England sanctuary

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British Airways has flown an endangered Bengal Slow Loris primate from the Maldives to a sanctuary in England. After four months of R&R in quarantine, the prime primate will join Doris the Loris.

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Maldives police officers had confiscated the wee primate -- one of only a few thousand slow lorises in existence -- during a drug raid. The officers had housed the nocturnal animal in a birdcage for eight months on Dhoonidhoo, a.k.a. "prison island" in the capital Male.

They offered it baby food and bananas, while they sought a proper new home for the creature they named Kalo (Buddy).

After hearing of its plight, Alison Cronin, who runs the Ape Rescue Centre at Monkey World in Dorset, southwest England came to the rescue "to ensure that endangered species aren't allowed to die off."

Dr. Cronin asked British Airways (BA) to fly "the VIP (very important primate) to the UK, and the airline responded immediately, because it has a history of supporting conservation projects."

BA Captain Will Rennie flew the small animal more than 5,000 miles from Male to London's Gatwick Airport.

"Travelling at more than 500 MPH with us, our special little guest was, for once, not such a Slow Loris!" the pilot said. "We were very happy to offer a free ride – we knew this would be a different experience for our furry friend, so we made the journey as comfortable and cozy as possible."

Such first class treatment did not involve tickling, but do watch a slow loris love a quick tickle. Whether or not BA's in-flight cuisine included a rice ball, watch a slow loris eat this slow food.

Watch, but do not buy one as a pet, warn Duke University's Lemur Center, and other major wildlife conservation organizations (and common sense).

"The illegal pet trade is one of a number of threats, including habitat loss, that are driving the world's slow lorises to the brink," noted Rachel Kramer, Program Officer of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, allied with the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to the IUCN Red List (an inventory of the global conservation status of many species), all slow lorises have decreasing population trends," Kramer said by email. "Most slow loris species are classified as 'vulnerable', meaning they're likely to become endangered. The Javan Slow Loris is 'critically endangered', meaning it's currently at risk of extinction in the wild." They are not monkeys, the expert noted.

Kalo/Buddy will spend the next four months in quarantine at the ape rescue sanctuary in Dorset. Then, he'll be transferred to Shaldon Wildlife Trust in the neighboring county of Devon, to meet a new buddy, a slow loris named Doris. She has been without a companion since arriving in England 15 years ago.

May they quickly produce more slow lorises.

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