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 V.23 No.19 | May 8 - 14, 2014 

Summer Guide 2014

The Pygmy Slow Loris

Show your kids the best animal on Earth

Padma, the pygmy slow loris
photo by Angela Harrell/ABQ Biopark
Padma, the pygmy slow loris

At what point did you decide parenting was more fun than actual fun? You know exactly what I'm talking about. Parents get in a room and talk about parenting. It approximates fun for them.

“I'm taking my kids bowling.” Well, great. Bowling is fun, and kids should try it. Why do they keep staring at the pinball machines?

“My kids are taking swimming lessons.” Great. They need to keep their legs straighter.

All that stuff is important, and you're doing a great job. But when you went up the tram as a kid, the only thing you remember was that 99 cent miniature hunting knife by the cash register your parents said you couldn't get.

Adults forget what's fun. But adults who write for newspapers actually have to pretend they remember what's fun ... in about 500 words, and way past deadline. My credentials? I have two awesome full-grown kids, and I watched sometimes while my wife was doing it. You can buy my book on hedidntwriteabook.com, and I hereby proudly declare, “I'm taking my kids to the BioPark to see the pygmy slow loris.”

The pygmy loris is a small, nocturnal primate native to Southeast Asia. It's about the size of a breakfast burrito, and apparently I'm lucky to have seen it on every visit; they're good at hiding.

Let me start by saying I'm uncomfortable with the term “BioPark.” As an adult, I'm unsure if it refers to the zoo, the aquarium, the botanical gardens or all of them collectively. As a kid, I would have assumed I was being taken to a lumber yard. Let's just call it the zoo.

Albuquerque has an amazing zoo with too much to appreciate in just one visit. Naturally, you have to see the boilerplates: gorillas, tigers, elephants and giraffes. That's easy. But let me now direct your attention to the true crown jewel of the Albuquerque Zoo: the pygmy slow loris.

You'll find the pygmy slow loris (hereafter the pygmy loris) in the “Nightwatch” exhibit—somewhat kitty-corner to the Australian creatures in an unassuming rock hallway. There is no blinking sign to indicate the proximity of greatness. In life, there rarely is.

The pygmy loris is a small, nocturnal primate native to Southeast Asia. It's about the size of a breakfast burrito, and apparently I'm lucky to have seen it on every visit; they're good at hiding. In the wild they subsist mainly on insects, so zoo officials do their best to accommodate that cuisine, but also supplement it with fruit, vegetables and primate chow.

As with monkeys, it's illegal to own a pygmy loris as a pet in New Mexico—though you can reportedly have one shipped over the internet from rough, lawless smugglers who delight in ceaseless email solicitations. The pygmy loris makes a terrible pet, though. It delivers a venomous bite, which it makes potent by licking the poisonous secretions of glands in its elbows.

Like me, the pygmy loris mates only once every 12 to 18 months. Surprising, then, that the Albuquerque Zoo is the top pygmy loris breeder in the United States, having welcomed nine of their babies into the world since 2005—we've actually been asked to stop, lest we inundate the captive gene pool with our stock. I don't know how we stop them. Put them on salary and raise the rent, I suppose. Our zoo currently has five. They all have names. I'm not interested in their names.

Why my fixation on the pygmy loris, you ask? Because of the way it moves. If life imitates art, the pygmy loris is the closest embodiment of a Ray Harryhausen creature I've ever seen. It neither rushes nor dawdles, but makes its way from branch A to branch B with a gait that has more to do with claymation than anything biological. Obviously, the creature affected me in a profound way and I feel compelled to share my experience.

So, if the pygmy loris is hiding (or if your kids are somehow unimpressed), go straight to the crocodile. I won't tell you how big the crocodile is because I don't want to spoil the surprise. But definitely make sure your kids know who Ray Harryhausen is, and ... okay, the crocodile is like the size of a school bus.

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