A Night Out With Ena

Not being a full time researcher I only go out on observations around once a week unless needed. That one night is like unplugging yourself and leaving any unfinished jobs, questions, deadlines, emails, data entry etc at the door for that next six hours. So over the last three weeks/month of being ill and not going out on observations I’ve really missed that little bit of escapism.

After one failed attempt at getting back in the field this week and returning home after sickness struck again, last night I finally got a full follow, and it turned out to be quite the little treat. We arrived to find Ena wondering along the edge of some bamboo, low down, right by the path so I immediately started filming. We played hide and seek with her for most of the night as Ena would hide between thick branches or behind tree trunks until we found her again for just seconds, before jumping into the next seemingly pre-prepared spot that was totally out of site to us.

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Ena first appearing through the Labu…

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… and walking along the underside of the frame.

However illusive she was, the night was full of great moments and luckily we managed to get a lot of these on video too; Ena popping her head through a Labu frame and walking like Spiderman across roof of the plantation just a few meters away, Ena gouging for gum (something we have been trying to catch clearly on film for a while), being stalked by a leopard cat and discovering that actually, they are pretty scary, and finding Enas newly named baby Endor wide eyed perched on a little branch looking around expectantly for her mum to come home, and watching Ena and Endor settle down to bed together for the night.

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The leopard cat stalking us.

I came back from the shift at 5.30am feeling totally refreshed as the night was the perfect reminder of why all of us come here in the first place, why we put up with being ill for weeks or months at a time, or spend months applying for permits before even arriving (as other blogs have mentioned recently)..; to ensure that lorises like Ena and Endor can continue to choose their favorite tree and go to sleep together at the end of the night.

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Baby Endor waiting for Ena.

  • Laura Beasley, Field Station Coordinator

Once In a While, Life Gets So Good

Hello, everyone! This week was again full of many different and new things! To begin with, our researcher Priscillia (who happens to be one of my best friends!) and I spent last Sunday on a photo shoot in wedding dresses! As random as this sounds, this has actually become a tradition for LFP’s female volunteers and staff, and we were very happy to continue this tradition! We had an amazing time – having our hair and make-up done by award-winning professionals, and having our pictures taken by a professional photographer! While this wasn’t a first for either of us, it was completely amazing and a lot of fun! I was sick this week, and Priscillia left us to do another project in Brunei, so we haven’t had a chance to pick up our professional photos yet, but here is a quick look into how it all went! :)

Traditional wedding dresses from Bali and Yogyakarta!

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– Traditional wedding dresses from Bali and Yogyakarta!

Another amazing thing that happened this week was my visit to Aspinall’s Java Primate Project, where I continued my research on human-animal relationships! I had such an incredible time there, it was a dream come true for me to be able to visit them! Some days I enjoy my work so much that I feel like I will explode from happiness! This happens almost every time I am out observing lorises, but also when I’m around dogs! Or cats! Or pretty much any animal! Animals are really the best part of the world, and wild, pristine nature explains an additional part of the “life is amazing” variance! This week I was again lucky enough to experience both! I finally got to walk in the real jungle – twice! And both times in my jeans – that is just the level of casual that apparently I am now! In the said jungle, I saw a group of wild surilis – and these were my first ever wild monkeys!!!! What an incredible feeling it was to see them jumping around through the canopy!!!! Monkeys!! There are few things that compare to this kind of joy!!

In addition to monkeys and jungle, people working at Aspinall were the final piece of this week’s “I cannot believe how wonderful my life is” puzzle! They are some of the most inspiring people I have met since I’ve been in Indonesia. The way they think about their work and the animals, and the things they say about what their work means to them really resonates with me. In a way, they seem very similar to the people I met at the Cikananga Wildlife Center, who again really reminded me of the zoo keepers I used to work with at the Zagreb Zoo, as well as the ones I met at the Paignton Zoo. And all of them seem so similar to me! What a strange, but wonderful feeling to meet “your people” in a place so far from home! It is amazing how easy it was to talk to them. Different language, culture, and nationality, different gender and age – but somehow the same love for animals, the same feeling of connection to the nature, the same energy! They have been amazing to me, from letting me become a part of their world for a few days, to taking me on a proper field trip on my last day!

Kawa Putih (“the white crater”) – one of the amazing places the Aspinall keepers took me!

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– Kawa Putih (“the white crater”) – one of the amazing places the Aspinall keepers took me!

All of this really got me thinking about all the differences between people who work with animals in different environments. I have already started planning my next project, which will focus on different professionals working with animals in captivity and in the wild, in sanctuaries and zoos, in habitat countries and in the western world (steal my idea and die 😉 ). I really want to get to the bottom of some things that have been itching my curiosity for a while now!!! I will start working on this as soon as my daily loris-loving life allows!

As exciting and incredible as this week was, I am very happy to be home in Cipaganti! Stevie the cat peacefully sleeps next to me, as I am finishing this post in my bed! Have a wonderful week, and appreciate the animals in your life! :)

  • Elena Racevska, Research Coordinator

Working in Locally Owned Forest

One of the more time consuming tasks of doing fieldwork of any kind, is getting permission for your research. Taking months to acquire my research permit and visa to stay in Indonesia for this year, I needed the approval of various authorities, both internationally and locally. I applied for my Visa and research permit in the United Kingdom, collected my visa from the USA, collected my research permit in Jakarta, followed by Tasik immigration to collect my KITAS and finally, get all this approved by the Kepala Desa (village chief) of Cipaganti, Indonesia. Collectively, this took maybe a total of 7 months – an exhausting process, but all the more rewarding to finally have everything in hand. And last but certainly not least, there is the permission required from local land owners, where you want to conduct research.

More and more every year, primate species are overlapping with human populated areas. This varies from cities to rural area and in our case, agricultural land. When you are doing research in a park you apply for that as a part of your visa, but when you want to work on local owned land, you need to get permission from each property owner that your study group ranges across. Fortunately, our conservation education and outreach programmes here have aided in this tremendously. Arriving to a village that has already learned to love both the Javan slow lorises and our project, permission had been given by farmers upon establishing our field site from the start, and we can freely follow lorises each night, wherever they decide to meander.

- Our outreach programmes have made farmers very welcoming to us and our work!

– Our outreach programmes have made farmers very welcoming to us and our work!

The more difficult aspect of this has been getting permission for my ecology research. A large portion of the trees here have been planted by the farmers themselves. A common method used for long-term vegetation plots is to mark individual trees, so you can monitor any changes over time. Some methods include using small tin nails and tree tags, but often, farmers do not like this. They believe it will hurt their trees and so, we needed to find a compromise. Brain storming with the entire team – this is quite possibly my favourite thing about field research – new or modified methods, where creativity makes a guest appearance in science! As nerdy as this may sound, it’s ridiculously exciting to find solutions to these kind of obstacles, and more so if they are methods that can help someone else in similar scenarios. Discussing different methods we researched, the trackers thought up a modification using wooden stakes to mark the outer perimeter of each vegetation plot, using rain-proof paint and then biodegradable flagging tape that we would replace whenever necessary. Using randomly selected plots, this took time to find out who owned what land, but once we talked with each land owner, they were more than happy to allow us to use this alternative method. This took a total of 4 months to solidify, but would be worth it in the long-haul. On top of now being able to monitor the habitat and vegetation over the coming years, every time we hike up during the day for this, the farmers greet us with smiles and the friendliest of ‘hallos!’. It’s important to work and speak with people in your area about what you are studying, because at the end of the day it’s their support you need more than anything to protect any species. It’s not just lorises we are studying, but the coexistence of lorises and humans in the same habitat, how they cope, and how they can survive.

Farmland like this on the edge of the forest are the perfect example of why humans and wildlife are having to learn to coexist more and more

– Farmland like this on the edge of the forest are the perfect example of why humans and wildlife are having to learn to coexist more and more.

  • Kathleen Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

First Impressions and An Insight Into the Mind of Toyib…

Being newly arrived here, it has taken me some time to hit my own stride within the graceful arms of LFP. Ha! I say newly arrived, yet a check to the calendar indicates I have been steadily employed here for one day short of a full month! The time has flown by in a swirling brawl of new experiences, new studies, and a new schedule for life, work, and sleep.

My opening week was dedicated to the task of learning the intricacies and intimacies of slow loris behavior, as well as the detailed methodology of recording their minute subtleties in the dark, a complex compendium of codes and catalogs . All this mixed with juggling a new batch of alien equipment and observation aids on a borrowed hour of sleep and several all-night watches – as I found myself descending the mountain slope at daybreak. This, an awesome spectacle with powers to aright the pains of a taxed mind. Daylight hours have been spent digesting the copious literature on agroforestry and coming into step with a fledgling project already begun. I will be taking over the duties of caring for our infant flora from Marion, whose passion for the project left me with but a light load to bear. In addition to these large scale visions of conservation in Indonesia, I have also had my fingers in, to at least sample, many other Fireface pies. These include collecting data from the motion sensitive camera traps, mapping the agriculture of the mountain, and a part time study in the differences this dialect of Sundanese has from other regions previously travelled.

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– An example of one local farm with some trees, and part of the mapping project area.

I would like to applaud this small company for their ability to execute in the present while keeping a mind on the future. Myself having been involved in the founding of a company back in the United States I know how easy it can be to get bogged down in minutia, financial worries, personal quibbles, and a fixation on the task at hand. The good people at LFP seem wonderful at remaining organized while successfully converting visions into goals, and goals into action steps, and action steps into tangible results despite a constant change in the characters playing the roles.

In the field I find it difficult to remain dispassionate regarding our subject matter, the slow loris. It is hard not to humanize the expressions on their face and assign complex emotional states to their activities. Case in point was a loris named Toyib whom we observed late in the night at a high altitude on the mountain slopes in a dense patch of tangled bamboo. He seemed perplexed by the predicament of being watched. He cast his eyes from us the observers, to the ground, and then around his wooded apartment, and back again to slowly repeat the process in a deeply thoughtful state of devising his next move. The portraiture of his face seemed to always say “If I move I will give myself away to these human meddlers, but if I stay I am surely a sitting duck, what to do, oh… what to do?” Like a tiny Hamlet in his mountain kingdom stronghold, he wrestled with first one side of the question, and then the other in a constant and costly battle of indecision. Consulting his court of moth and mouse, he seemed to settle on the insecure compromise of both holding still and seeking entertainment elsewhere. This resulted in terrifically animated slow motion, perhaps only a centimeter per minute of time. It was like watching a perfectly sculpted ballet set to the slowest possible tempo of unheard music from the stars. This first act concluded with a nap-ful intermission and the sound of applause from the rain striking the canopy high above. It truly gave confirmation to the name “slow” loris and it is a moment that has captured my imagination as striking experience here in West Java.

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– Toyib, checking out his observers!

I take pains in parrying those who criticize this anthropomorphized view of the wild kingdom. Are we too not animals, with the same deep origins to our minds somewhere in history. If we share these long sinews of common days past, can we not also share, in some sense, hope and fear, drama and disgrace, enthusiasm and quiet entertainment on a night’s mountainside?

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– The view from our research area at sunset.

The steps carefully taken here by LFP can truly put one instep with the natural world quickly. It is a peace that is seldom realized, or can be quickly overlooked. I look forward to further immersion, further peace, and further work here in Indonesia. As the agroforestry project unfolds we shall have new tales to share of proud tree trunks and beautiful flowers filling the Earth and air with treasured resources.

  • John Thompson, Volunteer

Blog article

Marion: It’s time to leave.

When I first arrived, every aspect of the project was new to me: Indonesian culture, slow loris, the technological equipment, and of course the scientific English language. But I’m not going to complain, because those are reasons I came. It’s good once in a while to be surprised with a cultural shock! So I transformed myself into a chameleon and tried my best to learn in the quickest way possible. I came here firstly because I wanted to be involved in a conservation project related to wild primates and secondly to satisfy my desire to know more about agroforestry in this part of the world (agroforestry has been widely practiced by Indonesian community for centuries).

As Rob was leaving I had to take as much information as I could from him, he was like a living encyclopaedia for me.  He built this project, every single step to follow is carefully written and classified here in this computer. As soon as he left I had to turn myself into “Mister Rob O’Hagan” (obviously, in terms of the agroforestry project). At the beginning I felt ill-prepared but happily the team was here to bring me up.

I had 3 mains objectives:

1)      Finish the polypropagator.

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Before Rob left, he left us this curious wooden box to understand. This is a greenhouse filled with stones, gravel and water. The aim is to clone and propagate trees. To explain roughly, the gravel and the stones transform the water into humidity: “It’s a sauna for plants”, as we say around here.  We worked hard in the garden to install it properly. It’s horrible to admit that without the help of men’s muscles I could not achieve this result. Thanks to them again. The next step is to do some teak cuttings and begin to experiment, to find out what works better.

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2)      Starting to plant seeds and grow seedlings in the tree nursery.

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We have started the seedlings in Afrika, Suren and Jiengjen that we found in the farming area. In other news, some kayu putih seeds have been soaked for 2 weeks, which currently seems successful; we can see baby seedlings. In 2 weeks they will be transplanted in polybags. And as we say, great news never comes alone, we just welcomed a new volunteer, John, who is really interested to be involved in gardening and planting trees. He is going to be that much needed bridge between myself (and Rob) and the future volunteers.

3)      Complete 100 agroforestry surveys to: analyse the farmer’s wishes, understand their concern about trees and to learn more about the environmental issues faced here.

We already had the first official meeting with the local farmers while Rob were here. We presented some agroforestry examples in Indonesia and proposed some ideas that we could apply here. The feedback is positive, with a few willing to start something with us; a fruitful response in our eyes. The next step is to send Aconk on a training agroforestry trip, to increase confidence, awareness, and the project’s credibility about the project – in hope to form a ‘farmer committee’ who can agree to work and thrive with us.

For me to remember when I will get old and embittered, here are some of my best moments:

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  • Spending time with locals: both farmers and kids are generally keen to pose for a photograph, and they are really photogenic too; what a perfect match!
  • Coming back from observation at 5 a.m: the body feeling all relaxed and tired, the mosque is singing, people slowly waking up, all with the perfect sunrise in the background!
  • Having a bubur (traditional Indonesian breakfast) with everyone in the early morning on the new social sofa.
  • Seeing these wild lorises playing and having cheerful moments with their children.
  • Doing the kitchen duty while Katie and Dan twist, sing and dance.
  • The harmonious landscape on the way down to the nearby town, Buyongbong, never ceased to amaze me.
  • Discovering the strong relationship that trackers keep between each other.
  • Visiting different schools around and discovering their different ‘war scream’.
  • Understanding everyone’s projects and wishes.
  • Watching the bright moon and the stars during a clear, crisp night.
  • Seeing the agroforestry project move forward.
  • And last but definitely not least: being part of this incredible well made project.

I truly had such a good time, I met really nice people here and it saddens me to leave. I learnt a lot from this experience and I believe that the Little Fireface Agroforestry Project will be successful, every ingredient is here; the farming land, the tropical weather, the hard-working people, the strong team spirit – all we need now is a patience and tolerance.

  • Marion Jourdain, Intern

(By the way, this agroforestry folder is so full of interesting literature from all around the world that it should be an open source for everyone who wants to start this kind of project).

Thermal Camera Sightings

Some updates on the project, we managed to spot 30 different individuals for a total number of 46 sighting. This number doesn’t include all the lorises already collared at the field site as our occupancy area is not in the same place. We have half of our spotting on our occupancy points and half on the trails between each point. This is a really good number and we still have two weeks to found out more. 

Most of the time when a loris is spotted with the thermal camera we manage to see the loris or at least the eye of loris. But a few times such as this week we had the perfect spot when we manage to see the loris with the camera but no visual at all. The bamboo patch was totally covering and the loris was higher on the canopy. It is in situations like these that the camera is really useful as it allows us to spot animals we would have never seen otherwise. You can see this on the picture of the same spot taken with a night vision camera to show you what we normally see at night, and the view from the thermal camera. It is so amazing as there is no way to spot an animal visually when he is on top of the vegetation. We could perfectly identify the loris by the way it is moving in the tree. At the beginning it was hard to distinguish between all the different animals. But now with some practice it is easy to see the difference between a loris, a rat, a bat and birds.

View from the thermal camera vs our normal view with red light headtorch.

View from the thermal camera vs our normal view with red light headtorch.

  • Priscillia Miard, LFP Researcher

All Night Tree Follows

For those of you who follow our Instagram ( @littlefireface ), you may have recently seen a post about undergraduate researcher Dan Geerah and myself conducting something we like to call “all-night tree follows”. This literally consists of us spending an entire night from sundown to sunrise, sitting outside a single tree and recording all species’ interactions with it – everything, from mammals to moths.

Calliandra calothrysus flowers

– Calliandra calothrysus flowers

Despite out excitement to trial this non-traditional method, I had made the rookie mistake of getting carried away with day work, not allotting time to nap during the day. Completing the full-night follow would mean 48 hours without sleep (sorry if you’re reading this, Ma!).  But we went out regardless, and just made sure to bring the essential equipment: 2 canteens of Yorkshire tea. Then there were the other non-essentials, such as a rain tarp, umbrellas, binoculars, notebooks, vocalization equipment, camera and video cameras, dinner and chocolate…

Our camp set up, for the night

– Our camp set up, for the night

Our tree follows focus on fairy dusters (Calliandra calothrysus). If you haven’t heard me go on about this species before, it is a legume that produces magnificent bright red flowers. These flowers produce a nectar that is a regular food resource for lorises, and based on our literature review, possibly bats as well. While we both study lorises, a large portion of Dan’s research is also recording bat vocalizations and abundance, while I am additionally looking at pollinators in the Cipaganti area. These follows allow us to identify everything which feeds, forages and potentially pollinates the fairy dusters in this area. While Dan does his bat surveys, he can also identify specific bat species that forage on the Calliandra, just by ultrasonic vocalizations.

Sitting in a single space in the forest at night is amazingly peaceful, and you become much more tuned in to the sounds of all the insects and animals.  While the night started off strong, the Zen atmosphere and my lack of sleep quickly joined forces, and I was resorting to our tea supply earlier than intended. It took the patience of Dan to hold conversation and keep me awake with random facts and alternating staring at our focal tree.   Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we saw some exciting things that woke me up. Our immobile camp set-up was causing all sorts of shy animals to overlook our presence. We were located next to a bamboo patch that faced the fairy dusters, and had a close up view of a Common-palm civet, hopping up the bamboo. While I’ve seen civets many times in the forest, it has always been at a distance. From a new perspective, I can assure you, their locomotion is both peculiar and captivating! About 1-hour later, a Leopard cat pounced out at something in the tea plantation just at our feet. It wasn’t until missing its prey that it even noticed us (and then proceeded to stalk Dan, while he tried to get some photographs of the stars).

All in all, our tree follow was a success, and definitely a learning curve! Sometimes it’s nice to just sit still in the forest, observing and listening to everything that is going on around you. But most importantly, you would appreciate it even more if you’ve had some decent sleep!

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

Nature and Nurture

My name is Nadia and I have just completed my first week at Little Fireface Project. Unlike most of the people here, I am not a university student. Anna Nekaris refers to me as a ‘slow loris super fan’, and I am currently in the middle of a year of lorises. A break from my normal job and hopefully the beginning of a new career that includes lorises. The first half of the year was spent at the Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Center, working as a loris keeper, which was amazing. And now I am here to observe wild lorises. Which has been a dream of mine since I found out about the project in 2013.

The view from our room

The view from our room

I have spent the week getting settled in to a new routine and new living quarters. Taking the time to make it home here since we will be here for five months. It took a few days but it’s there now. And this morning was my first trip to Nature Club, a project I have also been long interested in working with. I also met the famous Safari Mickey, which was a pleasure.

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Safari Mickey, LFP education mascot!

Being in the field with wild lorises is beautiful, wonderful and a tad surreal. It is so lovely to see them winding and climbing their way through the trees. Stopping to look for insects (yum, crunchy bugs!) and periodically stopping in a caliandra tree to eat the nectar from the flowers. In between observing, there is some time to enjoy the peaceful night sky and stare at the stars. Then at sunrise you bid the loris a good sleep (selamat tidur in Bahasa Indonesian) and walk down the mountain as dawn arrives.

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The classroom at Nature Club

It sounds like a crazy job, I am sure. You climb up a mountain at crazy hours to stare at tiny little primates that you can’t even always see. But for me, it’s perfect. The hours and activities are great, but it’s the lorises that make it perfect.

  • Nadia Muqaddam, Volunteer

 

Sleeping Sites

Hey everyone, this week has been pretty amazing one!!!

 It was loris party in the forest with 7 spottings of different animals, 2 nights in a row. It was like the lorises were everywhere. And we manage to record some amazing video. This is why I love fieldwork so much because everyday is different and bring lots of surprise.

But this week I will talk more about the loris sleeping sites. After not seeing anything last week I decided to try again to look where the loris are staying during the day. Here are some pictures to show you how we record with the camera with limited equipment in the field.

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– The basis of the study is using this thermal camera.

Method sleeping site

– Using the thermal camera in the field.

This time we manage to see 3 of the lorises with the camera and even visual confirmation. We managed to see them only because they were active and thus allowing me to see them moving through the dense foliage. Lorises can sometimes be active during the day but they are sleeping most of the time and staying in the same tree.

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– An example of our lorises sleeping sites under thermal camera.

 For the other ones that we didn’t manage to see the leaves act like a cover for the heat of the animal. Here some picture to show the difference between what we normally see and the view with the thermal camera. It is pretty amazing and so much potential for future studies.  

  • Priscillia Miard, Visiting Researcher

Top Three Loves

There are many things that I love about living in Indonesia, but most of all, it is the job that I have. While a lot of the things I do require sitting behind my computer (which, again, I love – doing anything research-related, from planning to analysing data, is literally the dream!!), going out into the field is simply something different. It is hard to explain the feeling of connecting with the nature, as it is something that surpasses words. However, here are some of my favourite aspects of the field work – my Javan Field Work Top Three:

  1. The nocturnality

I love, love, love the fact that lorises are nocturnal because I am as well! Night is my favourite part of the day and definitely too precious to be spent sleeping! I prefer to work at night and when left in charge of my own schedule, more often than not I will stay up until at least 5 or 6 am (case in point, as I am writing this post, it is 5.28am – oops!). Even when I’m home and have nothing particular to do, I somehow end up staying awake until late. It feels so good to finally be at a place where the outside world is in line with my inner one.

- Another perk of being nocturnal - the amazing sky over Java!

– Another perk of being nocturnal – the amazing sky over Java

2. The local wildlife

I have been here for a month and a half now, and over that time, I have been out in the field on the majority of days (and by “days”, I mostly mean nights), as often as my other coordinator tasks allow. I have to say that I am still completely in love with all the little creatures out there. It is literally almost every time that I am in the field that I see something new. From beetles and spiders to frogs and snakes; from tree shrews and ferrrets to civets and leopard cats. And then there are the lorises. When I look at a loris through my binoculars and a loris looks back at me, I am pretty sure the world stops for at least a few moments! It is one of the most wonderful things I have experienced in my life. Seeing animals in the wild really ruins a person for most of the other kinds of human-animal interactions. Or at least that may be becoming the case with me!

- Just a little bit of colourfulness of our study area!

– Just a little bit of colourfulness of our study area!

3. The rain

I love, love, love the rain! I came to Java excited that my time here will coincide with the rainy season because rain is definitely my kind of weather! Working in the rain sounded like a dream, but I definitely did not account for the amount of mud it produces and the consequential slipperiness of the ground! My first shift in the field instantly taught me some new Bahasa vocabulary – “tanah licin”, or slippery ground, along with “hati-hati” – be careful! Since then, I have mastered sliding down the slipperiest of paths, as well as sort-of running down hill after a tracker – as that seems to prevent most of the falls!

The only downside of the rainy season is the sometimes unavoidable shift-cancelling. When the rain starts to pour heavily and interrupts our shifts, we go to one of the farmer huts (the perks of working in an agro-forest!) and try to wait it out so that we can resume our data collection as soon as possible. Sometimes we are very lucky with the company in which we get to wait the rain out – as shown in the picture below!

- Waiting the rain out in the fluffiest company! :)

– Waiting the rain out in the fluffiest company! :)

  • Elena Racevska, Research Coordinator