British Airways has flown a vulnerable primate more than 5,000 miles from the Maldives to start a new life in the UK.
The Bengal Slow Loris, a small species of monkey no larger than a bag of sugar, had been living in the capital Male after police officers confiscated it during a drugs raid. Officers housed the nocturnal creature in a birdcage on Dhoonidhoo, also known as ‘prison island’, for eight months, feeding it baby food and bananas, while they scoured the globe for a suitable new home. Officers named the Loris, which is believed to be male, Kalo, which translates as ‘buddy’.
After hearing of its plight, Dr Alison Cronin, who runs the Ape Rescue Centre at Monkey World in Dorset, put all her years of experience of rescuing animals into practice, embarking upon a complex mission to re-house the primate in the South-West of England.
With other countries unable to help transport the animal, which is one of only a few thousand in existence, Dr Cronin brought the case to the attention of the British authorities and requested permission for it to be brought to the UK.
She described the mission as vital conservation work: “It would have been a huge loss if a healthy, vulnerable animal had to be destroyed, but it was also really important for us to support the Maldivian authorities, and to send a message to other countries around the world that vulnerable creatures don’t need to be put down – organisations like ours will provide support and assistance to ensure that endangered species aren’t allowed to die off.
“I asked British Airways for its help in flying the VIP (very important primate) to the UK, and the airline responded immediately, because it has a history of supporting conservation projects.”
Captain Will Rennie flew the small primate from Male to Gatwick Airport. He said: “Travelling at more than 500mph with us, our special little guest was for once not such a Slow Loris! The news that we had a VIP on board certainly created a buzz among customers in the cabin. 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 cosy as possible.”
Gabriella Tamasi, Global Product Manager responsible for the live animal transportation, from the airline’s cargo operation, IAG Cargo, arranged for the Slow Loris to fly to the UK. Gabriella said: “This was an unprecedented operation from Male Airport. The welfare of the animals we transport is our top priority, so we always adhere to IATA live animal regulations. Every detail had to be right – from the size of the container that the Loris was travelling in, to the way it was secured, and the temperature in the hold. We felt very strongly that with so few of these creatures in existence, this was something we had to help with.”
The small monkey will spend the next four months in quarantine at Monkey World. It is then expected to begin a new life at the Shaldon Wildlife Trust in Devon, with a new friend, a Slow Loris called Doris, who has been without a companion since she arrived in the UK fifteen years ago.