Our Village

 

IMG_6989I come from Melbourne, a vibrant and eclectic city in Southern Australia. Melbourne is known for its world standard shopping, glorious cafes and food … oh the food!

Now I am based at what seems like a world away in a little village on the side of Mt. Papandayan, an active volcano in West Java, Little Fireface Project’s home base.

Cipaganti StoreAlthough there are no fancy clothes stores, restaurants or chic cafes, I am pleased to say that this means  there is not a  fast food outlet, 7 Eleven, Tesco or Costco in sight.  I don’t miss any of these conveniences; in fact not having these large and somewhat ugly stores in the village is part of the local charm.

Our shops are all run by local people and you can find one in just about every ‘block’.  At a glance they look small, but they are like Dr. Who’s tardis; they always seem to have exactly what you need tucked away somewhere. Coffee, washing powder, sugar, garlic, environmentally friendly light globes … Tidak Apa-Apa (No Problem)!

Cipaganti Garden NurseryThese are just some of the local stores that we visit on a regular basis. Some are mobile and visit the children’s schools, others stay put. The colourful products hanging from the windows and walls contain everything from coffee, to crisps, to vitamins.

CipagantiCharming aren’t they?

 

Sharon

The Loris in Lore, Literature and Legacy: Conservation play for Asian lorises

MASC (Monkeys Acting in Schools for Conservation) and the Little Fire Face Project are collaborating to create a new piece of educational theatre. We are putting together a piece that will give audiences a chance to get to know lorises, through the eyes of different people over history. From the tribal beliefs about these mysterious night-time primates to the views of collectors for zoos and plantation owners. These vignettes will weave in and out of each other to introduce the audience to these beautiful primates. Using hand-carved Javan puppets for the first time we hope to explain the diverse eractions to lorises over time including fear, respect, tenderness and love. This piece is to compliment the campaign that Litle Fire Face Project is running to try to make people aware of lorises and the illegal pet trade in this endangered species.

Come see the debut of this piece at Oxford Brookes Outburst Festival at the Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Road Oxford on Saturday May 10th from 3-4pm.

PUPPET CARVINGS BY AMANK

Table Top Sales in Bradford Raise Funds for Slow Loris!

Thanks SO much to Vicky Luker and her family and friends who raised enough funds for LFP to support the purchase of vital LFP field equipment.

Car boot and table top sales seem to have become increasingly popular these days in my home city, Bradford.  Recently, my husband and I took the plunge and set up a stall at a table top sale at a local church.  We made £50 for The Little Fireface Project, and decided to run another stall a couple of weeks later, where we made £35.  We also printed off information leaflets about the plight of the lorises, and what people can do to help them.  We gave out almost a hundred leaflets over both events.

Family, friends and neighbours donated bric a brac to sell, and my sister made cakes and scones, as well as donating plants.  She attends a sewing class, and even made shopping bags and cushions for the stall.  Her husband donated some motorcycle boots, which turned out to be worth so much money that we removed them from the stall and have put them on EBay to get a better price for them.  Friends and family have also come along to the events, bought items and made cash donations, and my dad has paid for the hire of the tables.

What we were not prepared for was the level of interest and concern shown by members of the public when we explained about the plight of the lorises.  Let’s face it, Bradford is a long way from Indonesia!  Why would anybody care?  But despite everything else going on in the world, and despite having troubles of their own, my fellow citizens have taken leaflets and engaged in conversations about the lorises.  Many bought items from the stall and told me to “keep the change”.  Generally speaking, most of the people we have met care about animals, no matter how far away they are.

Bradford is not a wealthy city.  It is predominantly working class and used to be the centre of the global wool trade (just ask my dad!).  The city has a proud history of welcoming people from all over the world, from the German wool ‘barons’ of Victorian times, to Europeans fleeing Nazi Germany, to people from Pakistan and India who came to work in the mills after the second world war.  We host the National Media Museum, we are the first UNESCO City of Film, and the Brontes were born here.  Over ninety languages are spoken in Bradford, but one word has been added to the local dictionary – Loris!  These little creatures have a small army of defenders growing in the most unlikely of places, a city often the victim of bad press and prejudice, but which has a heart of gold when someone, or something, needs help. – VL

Below is the text from fliers that Vicky made available at her table

YOU CAN HELP SAVE A SPECIES!

Lorises are shy primates that live in the rainforest.  They are unique because they use a venomous bite to catch their prey, BUT THEY POSE NO THREAT TO HUMANS.  They are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and because they are illegally caught and sold as pets. 

THE LORISES NEED EVERY FRIEND THEY CAN GET!!  PLEASE DON’T LET YET ANOTHER SPECIES DISAPPEAR…

  • Please visit http://www.nocturama.org to see the work of The Little Fireface Project, based in Oxford.  They are fighting to save the lorises.
  • Please sign their petition / make a donation
  • Please tell your family and friends about the lorises!!

THANK YOU!!

 

Loris venom investigated

Slow lorises are unique amongst primates in being the only group of venomous primates. Though special in this way, much research remains to be done to understand the role of venom in the ecology of the slow loris. Why are they venomous? Prof. Nekaris recently proposed a series of hypotheses as to the venom function of the slow loris:

1. Anti-predator behaviour
2. Defense against eco-parasites (parasites living on the skin/fur)
3. Communication between slow loris individuals
4. To help in catching prey

How do lorises catch insects and what role does their venom play?

These amongst other venom related questions are being answered by new team member and post doc Grace Fuller. Grace has joined the LFP team in January studying the role of loris venom on the captive slow lorises housed at Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre.

Grace is performing experiments in which she presents the lorises with a range of different insects of various sizes and toxicity and records the lorises reaction. She looks at how they catch the insects, how long it takes them to catch the insect, as well as what types of behaviours occur before and after catching an insect. For example does the loris start grooming once it has caught the insect prey?

All of these interesting experiments will help us to understand why lorises are venomous and aid in reintroduction of ex-trade lorises to the wild.

Many slow lorises are found in Asia’s illegal wildlife markets. Their teeth are regularly removed to make them “safe” to keep as pets. Removal of the teeth also removes the ability to use their venom. These individuals can not be returned to the wild, even if saved from the horrible trade markets. They spend the rest of their lives cared for by wonderful staff at Asia’s rescue centres. Those, however, that have fortunately been spared the cruel pulling of their teeth with nail clippers can potentially be reintroduced. The work done by Grace and the LFP team is vital to understand what these lorises need for reintroductions to be successful!

Special Events

Bridging the gap

After the sad death of our beloved loris Tahini, I (Denise Spaan) decided we had to do something to make sure the same would not happen to any other lorises. As the Javan slow loris is Critically Endangered we really can’t afford to lose any! And so the idea came to build loris bridges. Thanks to the kind donations of everyone over the Christmas period and the sale of the adoption packs February saw the first bridge go up. It is one thing having an idea, but seeing it become a reality is something else. I was so proud of the hard work of the LFP team and the result was astouding. A strong bridge that connected two trees in Api’s area. Api lives on a football field and the connectivity between her cozy bamboo sleep site and the other trees in the area is minimal. To make sure she doesn’t have to go to the ground to cross, we connected the two trees. Now all the remains is to see whether she is going to use it!

Last week the team were busy building again and managed to construct another 2 bridges. One of the them is 30m and connects a vital part of Ena’s area! They will go up this week and we will keep you posted.

To the salon!

Anna and I (Sharon Williams) took some time out from the busy loris duties in West Java to go to a salon in nearby Bayongbong for a full ‘wedding make-over’. We headed off on the back of motorbikes and I got to the salon looking like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards. What about Anna? I had better not say! Arif Salon is quite famous due to their superstar husband and wife team Nia & Arif, who between them have won many national and international awards for wedding and special event make-up. I felt the challenge was on for them! I am no spring chicken.

We spent eight hours in the salon being primped and pampered and trying on what felt like 120 of the most stunning traditional Indonesian style dresses and crowns. The salon is a training school, so students watched on as we were transformed. After three layers of false eyelashes were applied and dresses were decided upon, we had a ridiculously fun photoshoot.

Anna was a natural and the camera loved her. I on the other hand was awkward and couldn’t stop giggling, but we managed to get a few good photos.

After seeing the results, I am sure Arif is a magician.

It was such a fun and relaxing day and it was something I will probably only get the chance to do once in a lifetime.

Lady Gaga adds fuels to the slow loris fire

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAladygaga

Lady Gaga wanted to use an adorable slow loris in a scene for her new music video, but once the animal had ‘sunk its teeth into her’ – according to contactmusic.com – she banished it from set. This is the second bout of celebrity interaction with the Slow loris in the last 6 months and it is only going to bring more trouble for the endangered animal.

Back in September, Rihanna took a ‘selfie’ with a loris that had been the subject of the illegal pet trade and was being kept in a cage on the streets of Thailand. This prompted an influx of people declaring that they ‘wanted one’ as a pet – and an increase in views of viral videos on YouTube! The slow loris, of which eight species are currently recognised, is a wild animal that is in great danger of becoming extinct and this culture of keeping exotic animals as companions is primarily the reason. Celebrity endorsement of these creatures being cute is not going to help save them! The best thing celebrities could do to help would be to visit rescue centres such as the one in Cikananga and see the result of the pet trade on these poor individuals and support the charities working to protect them.

This incident involving Lady Gaga is even more bizarre though! According to Gigwise “sources reported that a baby kangaroo and exotic goat were also brought to set, but a Californian State Parks Department vetoed their use”. If this is the case, then why was the Loris allowed to be considered for use in the scene? The only saving grace for the species in this instance is that Lady Gaga was (apparently) bitten by the loris – proving that they are not an animal suitable for use as a ‘prop’ or to be kept as a pet.

Contactmusic.com reports that it was an animal trainer that bought all three animals to the shoot for consideration, but how did this person come to own a highly threatened animal such as the slow loris – potentially through the illegal wildlife trade – and why are they still in possession of it? If it is captive bred, US zoos are in dire need of these animals for their currently ‘red lit’ breeding programmes, meaning very few animals breed in captivity.

According to contactmusic.com “Gaga donated $250,000 to the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation after completing the shoot to thank them for letting her use it”. Will she see the error of her ways and donate to conservation projects affecting the animals she hoped to use in the shoot too? (Or follow in the footsteps of Rihanna, who in fact promoted the photo prop trade). Celebrity endorsement of the charities that support and help protect these endangered animals is needed if we are ever going to ensure their survival – and to have someone as famous across the globe as Lady Gaga backing slow loris conservation via the Little Fireface Project would be amazing and would definitely help bring the plight of the slow loris to the masses. To even stand a chance she needs to know that we exist! With the help of Animals1st and wildeducation on twitter we hope to raise awareness and support for our work, so please get involved – follow LFP and Anna for more updates.

 

This wonderful simulator has been created by Mike Joffe to show just how unsuited to ‘pet life’ Lorises are – read more here. Also, you can sign the petition to remove viral videos from YouTube of pet/captive Lorises here.

Cipganti Pride Days and Cipaganti’s Got Talent!

The start of January also saw the start of the Cipganti Pride Days. The two day event held on the 11th and 12th of January was a huge success! We were invited to host parts of the events at the office of the village chief, which was a great honour! The first day included a range of activities from a coffee tasting, children’s book corner to introduce the new library, a photo exhibition and photo booth. Read more from Michael and Josie about their experiences with the latter two below!

In the afternoon we had a games afternoon on the football field for the children. It was wonderful! When the children had won their prizes for the sack races we decided to have a final race between the LFP team members. It was met with fits of laughter from the kids as tracker Aconk sabotaged the race by throwing all the sacs away, volunteer Sharon running with her sac in her hand and Denise tackling her when she saw that she would finish last. Other games included limbo dancing, egg and spoon races, and some local games. The games that the trackers had prepared were met with even more laughing! In one, they have large woven bowls (normally used to cool rice) and filled it with flour. They then mixed in some coins and the children had to sit, with their hands tied behind their backs and fish out the coins with their mouths. They all loved it! It was a great afternoon for all the team and the children of Cipganti!

Volunteer Micheal and the photo exhibition

 

Photographing ‘village life’ when I’m a wildlife photographer?  Well, as the day loomed, I thought to myself “How am I going to do this with no experience photographing this media?”  “Just think of the subject (people) as really large animals – like a Kangaroos!”  My fears were soon forgotten as the people of the small village of Cipaganti in West Java, Indonesia came out in force to put on a show that made my assignment not only easy, but incredibly enjoyable.  I never thought that I could be moved photographing people, until I met a beautiful older woman in the back lanes of the village.  When I showed her the photograph I had taken of her on my cameras screen, she was brought to tears and began to cry uncontrollably.  It was then that I realised that some of these people had never had their photograph taken and all of their childhood and adult memories were exactly that – memories!

The photographic exhibition that came out from this experience was received extremely well, as the villagers old and young, giggled and laughed together as they wandered through the display; seeing images of each other for the first time.  Such was the interest of the exhibition, the Kebala Desa (equivalent of town mayor) requested the exhibition be held indefinitely in his office hall. The entire process was one that I will never forget and the unique characters of Cipaganti will always remain with me.

Volunteer Josie’s Experience as Bunga at the Photo Booth

“Bunga” and Momma, “Tereh” feature in LFP’s book for children, “Tereh and Bunga: Forest Protectors” which details nocturnal life in the forest for the pair. However, in the last year both characters have been made into giant mascot costumes to feature in village events organised by LFP. Last year, Tereh took centre stage in our Slow Loris Pride days and – played brilliantly by tracker Adin – stole the hearts of the audience with her hilarious dance moves and naughty stage antics. Once again, Adin suited up as Tereh and took to entertaining the masses of children at our “Welcome Event” held in the Kepala Desa’s office (Head of the Village).

However, Tereh was not alone in her antics last weekend, our brand new Bunga suit debuted at “Cipaganti Mencari Bakat” – Cipaganti’s Got Talent. Bunga – played by myself – was available for “Aku cinta Kukang” (I love Slow Loris) photos at the Forest Protector Photo booth. Bunga also spent several hours working the crowd giving out hugs and posing for photos with visitors. Tereh and Bunga also played several hilarious games where the children had to try sneaking up on the lorises while they huddled in their sleeping balls at the centre of a big circle.

The several hours I spent dressed as Bunga were the hottest of my life! I must have got through half a gallon of drinking water just to stay upright. But the experience was brilliant! The children were so excited to play with their new loris friends. Many of them spent several minutes staring up in disbelief before deciding they just HAD to get involved in the festivities.

By the end of the afternoon, Bunga and Tereh had a whole posy following them everywhere. Everyone wanted to get a few snaps with the giant “kukang” and the photos are full of laughter. It was totally worth enduring the five thousand degree temperatures inside the mascot head just to see how much it made everyone at the event smile.

I’m back in the forest this week, but I think I should start wearing the suit out on second shift. It would definitely keep me warm when the 3am chill creeps in!

Read about Cipganti’s Got Talent in our next blog!

New comers, tragedy, and a little loris lovin’

forest

These past two weeks have been busy busy busy in loris land! We started the week by welcoming short term visitor, veterinarian Luis Martinez to the field site. He helped Josie and Denise with the sleep site study, went on rounds and an observation shift from 17-23:30, all after a two day trip (and 4 flights) from Mexico! He also arranged a very interesting autopsy of a dead loris (see below). Now that is commitment to the loris cause!

One of the most shocking events came one afternoon. Tracker Pak Dendi rang the house and told us that there was a dead loris in the river by his house. When we arrived at his house indeed there was a dead loris lying beside the gutter. It seems that the poor thing must have drowned. We suspect that the heavy winds from a few days before blew him off a branch and into the river. So sad to see these wonderful creatures succumb to accidents, especially now that they have been up-listed to Critically Endangered on the IUCN red list.

Loris Liaisons!

Javan Slow Loris

 

As you might have read in our last segment (Bamboo Bed Hopping) the lorises have been getting at it these past two weeks. And the fun is not yet over! We recently saw Shirley adn her baby Utari together (above). Monday night Denise and Aconk found slow loris Lucu in the same tree as another loris. They were seen very close together, when not obscured by leaves and branches, and spent a good while feeding together in the same gum tree! What was especially memorable was that when there was some distance between them they were calling to each other using very high pitched squeaks. Tracker Dendi how has been tracking lorises for over a year now said that it was the first time he had heard the lorises make such noises.

Cipaganti is experiencing the start of the rainy season which means lots of rain and more worryingly- lots of fog! As there are wild pigs roaming in the forest during heavy fog we have to stop the observations as it gets too dangerous. You can’t see a thing! The other night, was particularly scary as we could hear an animal approach but not see that it was a house cat lost in the forest until the very last moment.

This week in Loris Land: Bamboo Bed Hopping

Our lorises have been very busy this week. It seems, there is something in the air which has spurred on a bout of frolicking. Lorises all over the land have been spotted doing the deed. On Saturday night Josie was subjected to three hours of loris liaisons of the sexy sort. She was out with tracker Aconk, observing golden guy Mo, it was a particularly cold second shift and she got more than an eyeful!

When the duo arrived to begin their observations of Mo he was lounging about and then put some serious effort into grooming. Little did Josie and Aconk know, he was actually getting himself ready for a big date!! After a while Aconk spotted the eyeshine of another loris edging towards Mo from a hiding place in the Kaliandra mereh. Initially the pair wondered if they were about to witness a standoff as the un-collared loris confidently wandered towards Mo. However, quite the opposite happened and the un-collared loris sidled up and began grooming Mr. Mo. After some social grooming and canoodling between the pair things began heating up and the lorises got down to business.

“At first I was absolutely amazed! I was to witness slow loris mating, it was really exciting. I thought this for about ten minutes, and then it went on and on and on. It actually got a bit embarrassing because they were at it for so long! Especially when Aconk said “Oh they changed position”, I really couldn’t hold back my giggles. In retrospect it was a really cool thing to see, since Javan slow lorises are now critically endangered, I actually witnessed something really special” says Josie.

The pair was inseparable for the rest of the night and for several hours afterwards they groomed one another and curled up on a branch– in a way to only be described as cuddling. They fell asleep early at around 4am, no doubt totally exhausted from their earlier antics.

Alas! That wasn’t the only fornication to take place in loris land this week. Playboy Azka has been up to his old tricks again, this time with cutie loris One Eye! The pair has been spending a great deal of time together of late and on several occasions have been recording sharing their sleeping site. Azka has put a lot of effort into developing a relationship with sweetie One Eye and the pair was observed foraging together last week. In addition, adorably the other night One Eye was seen grooming a baby loris! After a while of bonding between the two, Azka appeared and joined the mother and baby. He even had a turn at grooming the little one! At the end of the night Azka carried the little one on his belly as the trio ventured into the bamboo to sleep.  It was an adorable scene of happy families, although currently we’re unsure who the father of One Eyes baby is. All we can say is that the baby definitely takes after its father because it has two eyes!

Observations on Azka the other night found the trio together again in their bamboo home, grooming the little one for some time. After a while Azka and One eye ventured off together into the bamboo and the evening went in a particularly steamy direction. Again Josie and tracker Aconk – poor souls have witnessed a little too much ‘loris loving’ this week – observed the pair alternate between vigorous mating and foraging for insects for five hours! Our lorises are certainly using up lots of energy during their mating routine and require pauses to refuel!

“Love is in the air!” Aconk joked throughout the shift. At the changeover of shifts, Josie and Aconk explained Azka’s evening’s activities to Pak Dendi and Charlotte. The following morning Charlotte confirmed that the ‘loris loving’ had continued throughout the night and the pair merrily returned to their sleeping spot together.

Loris land has been more like a soap opera than a field site this week! It seems like there’s been a lot of ‘bamboo bed hopping’! We’ll have to keep you updated on our lorises antic’s in the following weeks. Who knows? We might witness another baby boom in a few months, so watch this space – things are heating up.

 

Wildlife Trade at the Frontline Part 2

This past week three of the LFP staff in Java went out to help at Cikananga Wildlife Centre. It seems that the storm has passed and the worst is over. No animals died whilst we were there and instead we had babies being born. After hearing the sad stories that volunteers Charlotte and Josie returned with it was wonderful to come in and see a one day old loris- what a cute ball of fluff!

Cikananga is a beautiful centre with large enclosures for their animals, but taking on 78 new animals stretches any centre’s available space. There were animals sleeping in transport boxes out of dire need. It was therefore paramount that we help in building new enclosures to move some of these lorises into more suitable and spacious homes. Our tracker and wonderful carpenter Adin got to boss us around all weekend whilst we helped build new enclosures.

Keeper Yoko is new to caring for lorises and our tracker Aconk was wonderful at explaining things we have learnt from the wild. For example, we have recently discovered that our lorises love sleeping in thick bamboo/foliage and therefore we refurbished the enclosures to include lots of bamboo arranged close together so the lorises can ball up in it!

Aconk also suggested that on cold nights or nights with full moons to place more foliage in the enclosures so that the lorises can hide in it. This is something we have observed in the wild as well. A very interesting idea he came up with was to put the water for drinking in flowers instead of drinking cups. Lorises drink water from flowers normally and it is defiantly worth trying to see if it will help these cuties drink more, especially as they are given their vitamins dissolved in water. It was wonderful that he was using his knowledge of wild loris behaviour and thinking of ways in which it could be applied to captive lorises.

Seeing lorises up close like we did at the centre is a far cry from the 20m distance we normally adhere when performing observations. For all of us it was a very good learning experience seeing the lorises up close and personal. Additionally, we all helped with the animal husbandry. For the trackers it was the first time to prepare food, feed animals and clean enclosures. For Aconk the highlight of the stay at Cikananga was feeding the lorises.

Helping rescue centres like Cikananga is paramount in the attempt to combat the illegal wildlife trade. Without a place to house the confiscated animals, many authorities will not perform confiscations. However, caring for so many new animals with injuries and infants is no easy task. It requires many hours of dedication, money and lots of sweat and tears. Thankfully, the lorises are healing of their wounds and many are ready to be moved from the clinic to the quarantine. Let’s hope that good news continues to come from Cikananga and please continue to support them to help care for all these nocturnal cuties.