05/04/2012 17:37 BST | Updated 05/06/2012 06:12 BST

Help to Save the World's Only Poisonous Primate

Just a few years ago the slow loris was an obscure creature which only experts in primatology knew about.

When YouTube footage of this wild animal being tickled in a Russian flat appeared, however, the slow loris became an instant celebrity, with tens of millions of online views. As someone who has dedicated her time to studying this species, you might think that I'd be delighted that the slow loris had become so well known, so quickly.

However, overnight fame has created significant problems as more and more people want to keep the species as a pet. A large number of the people who watched the infamous YouTube clip commented to say that the slow loris is "so cute", and declared "I want one".

The slow loris might look like a harmless, big-eyed baby Ewok from Star Wars, but it is actually the only poisonous primate in the world.

It can cause death in humans through anaphylactic shock and unknowing humans should stay clear of its toxin, which is released from near its elbows. When threatened, the loris takes the toxin into its mouth and mixes it with saliva.

It is illegal to trade slow lorises as pets, and those that are, often have their teeth cruelly ripped out by traders, using either nail clippers, wire cutters or pliers. Although many scientists, organisations and individuals are trying to educate people about the cruelty of keeping the creature as a pet, it remains an uphill battle.

I have been studying Asian lorises since 1994, drawn to the enigmatic nature of these very peculiar primates with extra vertebrae, two tongues and movements that mimic a snake.

Last year I started the Little Fireface Project. Our aim is to protect the little firefaces (as lorises are known in parts of Java) through awareness, empowerment and education of people in loris range countries, and gaining a fuller understanding of their ecology and conservation status through field studies.

I am also committed to raising awareness of lorises in Western countries too. Earlier this year, the BBC aired my documentary film the >Jungle Gremlins of Java which highlighted all these issues.

Incredibly, within weeks, the most notorious of YouTube's loris videos was removed by its uploaders. YouTube itself still allows the upload of these illegal videos so it is all down to education to get the uploaders themselves to remove them.

In addition to this victory for the slow loris, I was overwhelmed by the public's response to the documentary's harrowing scenes of suffering in the animal markets. In only a few weeks I have collected more than 700 signed postcards and 500 additional comments calling for illegal pet trading of the slow loris to stop.

I recently presented a letter and examples of the public's emotional response to a representative from the Indonesian Embassy as part of my on-going campaign. This is being supported by International Animal Rescue, the Born Free Foundation and Activate and we are calling for Indonesian law to be actively enforced and protect animals from being traded illegally in markets.

The US channel Animal Planet will be showing my documentary film Anna and the Gremlins soon which I hope will help to further raise awareness of the perilous plight of lorises. However, it is vitally important that we keep raising awareness of the plight of the slow loris for what is becoming an increasingly endangered creature.

I urge you to help us to increase our understanding of this fascinating but under-threat creature. You can find out more and donate via the dedicated fundraising pages on the Oxford Brookes University website or via my Little Fireface Project website.

There is still so much we can learn that will help with our understanding and aid primate conservation for the fascinating but under-threat slow loris.