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.

Method sleeping site 1

– 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.

sleeping site

– 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

Torpor Tuesday: Primates as Pollinators

Alongside measuring energetics of the Javan slow loris, a big part of my research is also investigating their potential role as pollinators—it is this research that lead to my interest in all pollinators of a specific flora species in Cipaganti.

About one-third of the slow loris diet is consumed from floral nectars. Here in Cipaganti, one of the most frequent feeding behaviours we see is lorises feeding on an inflorescence commonly known as “fairy dusters” [Calliandra calothrysus] and locally known in Bahasa Indonesian as “kaliandra merah”. This species is a legume, and also a nitrogen-fixate, as you may have read in a previous blog by our research coordinator Robert O’Hagan.

- a Calliandra calothrysus inflorescence in bloom

– a Calliandra calothrysus inflorescence in bloom

Pollination studies can be quite tricky, as there are so many influential factors to consider: insects, wind speed and direction, sun direction, precipitation, variation between day and night, etc. One of the biggest obstacles I have come across with this study, has been control experiments. There are two different ways I am doing this – by secluding potential pollinators and also, artificial pollination.

- a pollination box, to prevent bats and birds from pollinating

– a pollination box, to prevent bats and birds from pollinating

Just a few of the methods I am using include pollen bags, bat and bird-proof pollination boxes, trees that lorises can not access, and last but not least, tree follows! A tree-follow literally means we sit outside a single tree for hours, noting what species interact with it, because interaction frequency can functionally link species to pollination. Starting in May, we will also start net-sampling of invertebrates to determine invertebrate—flower interactions. Combining this with our bimonthly monitoring on the fruiting and flowering stages of trees, we can look for evidence of pollen transport and see how different species respond to changing floral patterns. This can also help us to identify species and their abundance in the region.

- a pollen-proof bag

– a pollen-proof bag

Setting up the pollination boxes has proved to be most time consuming for us. For a few weeks now, Adin and I have been building these boxes, while Aconk has been getting the permission of farmers and land owners to set them up, and now we have finally finished building them and set them up in the forest. This involved us carrying all of the boxes and lumber up the mountain, and nailing a stand in place at ~6 meters in height – where most kaliandra flowers hang. It was an exhausting day, but it was so rewarding to see them all set up!

Farmers have planted kaliandra throughout the area, because they are known to improve soil richness. So, if we find that lorises indeed are pollinators, it would mean a mutualistic relationship between lorises, kaliandra and farmer’s crop yields. There is so much to be said about Calliandra and all its benefits. Sharing these findings throughout loris ranging areas, we could increase awareness of slow lorises and the benefits they have to both farmers and their ecosystems.

- a pollination box, set up in the forest

– a pollination box, set up in the forest

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Student

Torpor Tuesday: Extreme Creatures

For those of you who do not know me already, I’m Katie—one of Professor Anna Nekaris’  DPhil students. Unable to stay away long, I’m back for a second stint (after my MSc research) to the Little Fireface Project field site here in Cipaganti, West Java. I started working with LFP in 2013, while studying Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University. When I discussed my research interests in climate change and conservation with Professor Nekaris, it took little effort for us to realise the field site here in Java was an ideal location for the study, and that the Javan slow loris was in dire need of this research.

- Sharing the adventures of Safari Mickey with our neighbours

– Sharing the adventures of Safari Mickey with some of our students

The main focus of my DPhil is looking at energetics of the Javan slow loris in the contexts of climate change and evolution. In terms of energetics, I am mainly interested in torpor use. Torpor is a physiological process of slowing down metabolism, and is often used to cope with extreme conditions such as limited food resources and extreme climates. It’s a relatively dangerous state to enter, from an energetics perspective. If you thought lorises were extreme for being the only venomous primate, that is only the start of their fascinating adaptations.

Here in Cipaganti, the lorises are coping with little-to-no forest with low temperatures. Their home range is located at about 1,350—1,650 meters above sea level, is next to a volcano and overlaps with an agroforest and village. The agroforest habitat is a mosaic of crops with interspersed bamboo patches and strips of trees that have been planted by farmers, so you can image how difficult it must be for these non-jumping primates!

To measure energetics, I am using a mixture of methods. I am doing full-night loris observations from the time they wake up until they go to sleep (5pm until 5 am) where I focus on their activity, inactivity and feeding/foraging behaviours. I am also attaching extremely light-weight temperature loggers to their collars. This is a non-invasive method that gives measurements of their skin temperature, and can later be used as an indicator for body temperature. To understand the habitat structure and floral development (as lorises eat a lot of nectar and gum) I also do vegetation and floral development monitoring every other week in each loris’ home range. I have also set up climate station loggers in trees (with help from our amazing pro tree-climbing trackers) to measure temperatures in each area.

The temperature in Java can drop to freezing in the forest at night!

– The temperature in in the forest can drop to freezing at night!

So, why is this relevant for climate change research and conservation? With the rate of agricultural expansion, many animals are being pushed to higher altitudes and montane regions in order to find remaining forest area or a suitable home range. By observing the slow loris and its coping mechanisms in this extreme environment, I hope to produce a testable model to predict behavioural responses to future climate change that will be relevant for the conservation of slow lorises and other species in similar dilemmas.

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

Here Comes Darwin!

valentinelorisnhkIn the Summer of 2015 the LFP team worked alongside and NHK film crew to show the wonderful behavioural ecology of slow lorises to a Japanese audience. This was particularly important for us since Japan is a major illegal importer of slow loris pets. Indeed, a number of YouTube channels devoted to these wild animals, illegally smuggled and sold under the cover of ‘pet shops’, herald from Japan, and 100s of lorises are confiscated at Japan’s borders.

Today, this film aired on the Japanese series “Here Comes Darwin“. Not only did the film rank number one in Japan in terms of viewing, but the term ‘SlowLoris’ rose to the 1943rd most popular tweet. The film will air again on February 18 Thursday 16:20-16:50. Biologists of Japan’s Wildlife Conservation Society will use publicity generated by the film as well as recent work published by the Little Fireface Project to help improve CITES import procedures and prosecutions in Japan.

We are very proud to have been part of this production, which has had huge impact on slow loris conservation!

Press Release: Bringing awareness towards Japan’s role in cruel and illegal trade in threatened slow lorises

Oxford, United Kingdom

Slow lorises are cute but venomous nocturnal primates found from India to the Philippines; the nine currently recognised species are all threatened with extinction largely due to illegal trade. This week, researchers from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom and the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society, Tokyo, Japan, have published two major studies documenting Japan’s role in the illegal pet trade of slow lorises, and also provide a strong scientific basis that the typical way in which these pets are kept violates international standards of animal welfare, constituting animal cruelty. The studies will appear online in the wake of a new major documentary regarding slow loris ecology and conservation to be aired on Japan’s NHK this month.

Slow lorises as pets first came to the general public’s attention in 2009 when a video of a slow loris being tickled went viral. More than 100 videos of pet slow lorises are now available on social networking sites at any one time. Arguably the most popular slow loris individual is Kinako, a Hiller’s slow loris from Sumatra. The ‘Slow Loris Channel’ featuring this animal gained popularity in September 2012 when the video ‘slow loris eating a riceball’ went viral. As of 21st January 2016, the channel had 44,547 subscribers and 18,454,348 views. All slow lorises are protected by national laws in their range countries, making catching and selling them illegal, and all slow lorises are listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). So where do the slow lorises in these videos come from? And are these videos really showing cute animals enjoying their lives as pets? The research reveals that the answer to these questions presents a real threat to slow loris conservation.

The first of the two studies, entitled Crossing international borders: the trade of slow lorises Nycticebus spp. as pets in Japan was published in Asian Primates Journal, a journal of the IUCN Primates Specialist Group. During the two month investigation, the authors found 114 slow lorises in 93 Japanese online videos, and discovered 74 slow lorises for sale in 20 Japanese pet shops, both in store and on-line. Six threatened species, including the Critically Endangered Javan slow loris, were for sale for between USD 3,290 and USD 8,650, some of which were displayed with falsified CITES permits. Analysis of CITES trade data revealed Japan to be the most significant importer of slow lorises; a total of 633 individuals were imported for commercial purposes between 1985 and 2013 with the last of these imports in 1999. In terms of the magnitude of illegal trade, confiscation data from Japan’s Ministry of Finance (Customs) revealed that 400 slow lorises were confiscated entering Japan between 2000 and 2013. Current penalties imposed on wildlife smugglers in Japan are low in comparison to the lucrative market, and the country’s national legislation and CITES regulation needs to be better enforced. As breeding of slow lorises in captivity is extremely difficult, it is highly probable that most animals arriving in private homes are wild born.

Kirie Suzuki, Secretary General of the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society, and co-author of the study stated that “The international community is working in cooperation to curtail illegal trade of wildlife; Japan should fulfil its responsibilities”

The second study entitled Is tickling torture? Assessing welfare towards slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) within Web 2.0 videos appears open access in the international journal Folia Primatologica. Nekaris and colleagues examined 100 online videos, nearly 1/3 of which were uploaded from Japan, to investigate whether or not the ‘five freedoms’ of animal welfare were violated in the videos. These freedoms are used by animal welfare societies worldwide to assess if animals are kept in appropriate captive conditions and include freedom: 1) from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition, 2) from disease and injury, 3) from physical forms of discomfort due to inadequate thermal, resting or other environmental conditions 4) from fear, distress, and negative psychological states, and 5) to carry out normal behaviours. The authors showed that every video violated at least one freedom, with all five negative conditions being present in nearly 1/3rd of the analysed videos. This included the famous ‘riceball’ video, where the slow loris was fed a poor diet, showed signs of ill health indicated by obesity, was kept in bright light, showed signs of stress, and was kept in extremely unnatural conditions. Furthermore, the public was more likely to give ‘thumbs up’ to videos that showed stressed lorises kept in bright light. The pervasiveness of this imagery may cause an unknowing public to perceive that such conditions are natural for these animals, as evidenced by the many positive comments about the cuteness of the video, as well as the refusal of online social networking sites to remove the videos despite them being flagged as animal cruelty.

Professor Anna Nekaris, Director of the Little Fireface Project and Professor of Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University, stated that “These videos are a double-edged sword, bringing awareness of the plight of the slow loris to potentially millions of viewers, but at the same time, fuelling an illegal international pet trade.” The challenges of the work were pointed out by Louisa Musing of TRAFFIC International and a co-author of both studies who stated “The demand for pet slow lorises in Japan is persistent and is playing a major part in fuelling their international illegal trade. Wildlife smugglers are taking advantage of the weak law enforcement that is currently in place as well as the lucrative market where individual slow lorises are being sold for thousands of USD.”

The problem of slow loris trade is not restricted to Japan alone, and the studies published this week are only an example of the tremendous and pervasive trade in these rare primates. Dr Mary Blair, a loris researcher at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History who was not involved in the research, said “This important work illustrates for the first time the extensive role that Japanese consumers play in driving the illicit international trade in endangered slow lorises as exotic pets. Unfortunately, this problem is pervasive in many other countries outside of the native loris range and documenting the problem with rigorous data – as these researchers have done in the case of Japan – is quite challenging.”

Standing up for the lorises!

We are inspired and grateful for Nadia’s commitment to help those lorises rescued from the cruel illegal wildlife trade, and to spread the word of the damage just one ‘share’ can do!

Nadia is a good friend of LFP and a huge fan of Amank our amazing carver in Cipaganti. She has volunteered with one of LFP’s project partners, Cikananga Wildlife Centre, and is a great supporter of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, one of LFP’s supporters.

Please take a moment to watch and share Nadia’s video from the ‘because I said I would’ website and Facebook page:

 

WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK NADIA!!!

We love what Nadia is doing, and here are some ways you can help too:

Cu Li Tuesday: all roads lead to slow loris!

by Stephanie Poindexter

A very typical part of fieldwork, I have spent the last week updating my visa. Splitting my time between Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur, I have finally found a bit of time to really explore what Hanoi has to offer. Though I have been away from the lorises for a few days now, I was able to get my loris fix by meeting up with fellow loris researchers and having a few nice chats with people I met throughout the week.

Hanoi is a beautiful city, rich with history, culture, and an electric buzz that will keep you up all night. Lucky for me they offer a number of museums and historical sites showcasing both their history and culture. I visited most of the major sites including, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Women’s Museum, the Thang Long Water Puppet Show, and the National University, but my favorite by far was the Museum of Ethnology. This museum is one of the most visited attractions in Hanoi and it is easy to see why. Not only do they present an immersive experience describing the many distinct ethnic groups in Vietnam and other parts of Asia, but their open-air exhibit has life sized homes and communal structures, constructed by members of the ethnic groups themselves.

One group of particular interest to me was the Muong People, who live in areas overlapping with Cuc Phuong National Park. As I read about their specific agricultural practices and after seeing a few pictures, I realized that this all felt a bit familiar. Then, I remembered something the new translator at the center said on my most recent night of loris observations. During this specific observation we ventured to a new area out of our normal range in search of Cu Li Hai. She told me that the Muong people live in this area and sometimes at night you can see the children searching for grasshoppers with their little flashlights. A vast agricultural area between huge limestone hills, I didn’t expect to see anyone living here, but when I used my binoculars I could see little houses in the distance. I find it funny that no matter where I am in Viet Nam I can always find connections back to my experiences following the lorises.

Vast agricultural area and home to a small Muong populationVast agricultural area and home to a small Muong population

 

 

In addition to seeing the more cultural side of Hanoi, I also visited Ha Long Bay, which was named by UNESCO as a Natural World Heritage Site. As soon as you set out to sea it is quite obvious why this breathtaking site has captivated the UN. Staying on a boat for 3 days I got to know a few new people and naturally the they asked what was doing in Viet Nam, at which point, I took full advantage of the opportunity to introduce them to lorises and spread the word about their plight within the pet trade. I also got to talk a bit about civet coffee, which is heavenly solicited to tourists in Hanoi. I think I may have enlisted some new Little FireFace supporters 😉

UntitledOne of many pictures I took surrounded by limestone islands in Ha Long Bay.

 

 

I definitely enjoyed my visa run, but I am ready to get back to my nocturnal lifestyle and more importantly back to lorises. Stay tuned, as I get ready to visit a national park near Ho Chi Minh City, where I may get the chance to see some southern pygmy lorises!