In February, Hong Kong student Cheng Ho-fun walked into a shopping centre in Bogor, Indonesia. He was approached by a man who wanted to show him something 'special'. The 29-year-old, who is studying film and television at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (APA), followed the man to a back street. The man, who's an illegal trader, opened a plastic box and took out a trembling bundle of fur. A cute little lemur - a slow loris - was for sale. The trader named his price, 2 million rupiah [HK$1,706]. Shocked, Cheng walked away saying that he had no money.
It wasn't the price that had bothered him. It was a disheartening experience for Cheng and four other Hong Kong students. They had gone to Indonesia on a trip sponsored by Ocean Park Conservation Fund to learn about the trade in the Javan slow lorises and find out about their rescue and rehabilitation.
Lorises belong to the lemur family. These nocturnal primates like to eat insects, but can also eat fruit and leaves. They are endangered and are found mostly in South and Southeast Asia. They are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss because of deforestation.
People believe this adorable little creature can ward off evil spirits or cure wounds, so there is a strong demand for them in Chinese medicine.
Despite laws forbidding the sale of slow lorises and their products, they are sold openly in animal markets and smuggled to other countries. Yet traders pull out the animals' sharp teeth so lorises often die from blood loss, infection or a poor diet.
'I didn't know anything about slow lorises or their conditions before the trip,' said Zhao Teng-fei, 22, a classmate of Cheng. who is from Hebei province .
Another classmate Xu Ke, 25, from Hunan , was also saddened by what he saw.
'The animals are kept in small cages with no food and exposed to the sun for many hours. They're forced to climb up trees and play tricks whenever a tourist passes by,' he said. 'I felt sad knowing I couldn't do anything to stop it.'
To spread the word, the three APA students made a documentary about their trip. You can see it at:Topics: Prosimians Ecology