It's hard not to chuckle about the guys arrested at the airport in Delhi after a customs officer noticed unnatural bulges in their pants. Turns out they had hidden small primates known as lorises in pockets sewn into their clothes.
These failed smugglers are just a small part of a worldwide illegal trade in lorises and many other exotic animals and animal parts. And the suffering these beautiful creatures are subjected to – not to mention the threat of extinction that trafficking often poses – is nothing to laugh about.
Cruelty goes viral
Lorises live in India, Sri Lanka and south-east Asia, and are cute and cuddly creatures with huge brown eyes. They can fit in the palm of your hand. YouTube videos that show lorises clutching tiny umbrellas or being tickled have gone big-time viral. But like a lot of wildlife in their region, they're threatened by habitat destruction, hunting and the use of various body parts in native medicine.
That popularity has helped fuel an exploding demand for the animals as exotic pets, and smuggling the creatures is a growing business. Thousands are cruelly captured and kept in small, cramped cages. To prevent them from biting, their sharp teeth are cut or pulled out – a process which can lead to nasty infections and painful death.
Blood ivory and lions' bones
The illicit trade in lorises is just a small part of a growing problem: the increasing market pressure for rhino horns, shark fins, and many other wildlife products. In a particularly appalling development, elephants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being slaughtered for their tusks, with the money from selling the ivory going to insurgent militias such as the Lord's Resistance Army and Darfur's janjaweed.
The Avaaz community has repeatedly rallied to save our planet's most precious and endangered wildlife, on land and sea. This summer more than 700,000 members – outraged that lions are being killed and ground into bogus sex potions – joined together to battle the illicit trade in lions' bones. With the cruel trade in exotic animals on the rise, strong global action is needed now more than ever.
Sources: BBC, YouTube, Telegraph, Avaaz, New York Times