There are some shrews and shrew-like animals, and the male duck-billed platypus has a spur on his hind leg that can deliver a ᴘᴀɪɴfully ᴛᴏxɪᴄ punch. But the primate order has a few species, too, that produce and use ɴᴏxɪᴏᴜs chemicals.
By some definitions, a “ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ” is a kind of ᴛᴏxɪn delivered by injection, with the ᴘᴏɪsᴏɴ-producing gland attached to the delivery mechanism.
Slow lorises (as many as five species are now recognized, all native to South and Southeast Asia) are said to be ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍous. According to the Loris Conservation Database, “Loris bites are ᴘᴀɪɴful and often heal slowly because of bacterial flora on the teeth; severe disease and ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ of humans due to the effect of a ᴘᴏɪsᴏɴ produced in loris… skin glands have been reported.”
Lorises produce a secretion from brachial glands on the insides of their arms. The animals lick this secretion and spread it over their boᴅɪᴇs. Their saliva apparently causes inhibitors in the secretion to break down, resulting in a ᴛᴏxɪᴄ compound. Lorises are then able to inject this substance into their victim when they bite. It’s been said that these small, slow-moving, nocturnal primates use this method for defense against predators.
Strangely, even though lorises can deliver a potentially ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀous bite, these little animals are popular in the pet trade, especially in Southeast Asia. Cute and cuddly looking, they are bought as a kind of “living toy.” Traders ʙʀᴜᴛᴀʟly remove or cut off the animals’ sharp teeth to prevent them from delivering a nasty bite to their customers. Lorises who are rescued from this miserable trade often ᴅɪᴇ because of dental ɪɴғᴇᴄᴛions.
In fact, lorises are captured so frequently that many conservationists are becoming alarmed about their declining numbers in the wild. To combat this trend, Little Fireface Project are working to promote loris conservation through ecological research and public education.
Dr. Anna Nekaris and her team regularly go into the field armed with GPS units and special red lights for tracking the nocturnal animals. With the support of IPPL, Indonesian students are also being trained to carry out observations of the animals in their native habitat. The team members of the Little Fireface Project are also working on market surveys and law enforcement training initiatives. It would be a shame to lose these unique “ᴘᴏɪsᴏɴous primates” before we even have a chance to unravel their mysterious ways.