Cu Li Tuesday: Houdini Cu Li!!

by Stephanie Poindexter

 

A brave effort from tree climbing guide Nhat!

A brave effort from tree climbing guide Nhat!

As I mentioned in my last Cu Li Tuesday update here in at the EPRC in Viet Nam, we regularly follow three individuals. Due to the wonderful canopy cover and the unforgiving terrain it is normal for us not to see a loris some nights, despite having a strong signal. This week, however, after receiving a stagnant signal and not finding our third loris, Cu Li Ba, we decided to mount a search and recover mission.

The first night we spent 3 hours combing through a patch of trees with our head torches looking for those two floating red fireflies, as I sometimes call the loris eyes, but had no luck getting a visual. It was the next night when Cu Li Ba’s signal was in exactly the same spot that I became a little concerned. After spending another 3 hours staring into the same tree-patch, I decided it was time to get a better look. It took a little convincing, but after repeating a few times that “this is very important”, one of the trackers, Nhat agreed to shimmy up the tree where the signal was strongest and check around for Cu Li Ba.

I pretended not to notice, but the other keepers were definitely teasing him because he was the guinea pig being sent to climb the tree! But it was for the good of the loris and he was ultimately happy to do it. As the trees in this area were seldom climbed, this adventure garnered a small audience as they circled the tree in case he fell but whether it really was for his safety or just for their entertainment I still don’t know. After a gruelling 20-minute ascent, he reached the top and searched in vain for our dear Cu Li. Once he finally descended, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to hide, as he hopped out of the tree and bent over to pick up a tiny little black radio collar.

If I could turn red, I would have been as bright as an apple. It was pretty embarrassing for a few minutes, but soon I was just impressed and relieved the Cu Li Ba had managed to slip her collar off and was hopefully doing well.

Though we can no longer regularly follow Cu Li Ba, I check for her every night and you will be happy to know that I saw her just yesterday enjoying a huge insect. From now on whenever we mention Cu Li Ba, we call her Houdini Cu Li.

Cu Li Tuesday: Why study lorises and why with LFP?

The first time I learned about lorises and Dr. Anna Nekaris, was during my 2nd year at Washington University in St. Louis. I was a newly declared Anthropology major, taking my first pure primate-related course called “Primate Biology”.  My professor Professor Tab Rasmssen systematically went through each primate genus, presenting power point slides containing only photos. It was an impressive sight seeing how vast his primate knowledge was as he seamlessly moved from one species to the next.  I still remember that it is was week four when we reached Nycticebus and Loris. Right after the introductory slide showing theses little fire faces, he showed the class a picture of Dr. Anna Nekaris, wearing a red head torch while sitting in a dark forest.

Professor Rasmussen had such amazing things to say about this dedicated primatologist and conservationist who braved the long nights looking for these elusive primates. From that point on I was rather intrigued by the quirkiness I saw in lorises. I finished my last two years at university taking few non-primate based classes, allowing me to learn about the current primate species from Central America to Japan.  Given my French minor and my interest in primate cognition, I slowly got away from these curious little nocturnal primates, instead focusing on apes and other West African primates.

It was not until Dr. Nekaris emailed me upon my acceptance to the MSc in Primate Conservation programme at Oxford Brookes University that I rekindled my genuine fascination with nocturnal primates. As soon as I realized I would be moving to Oxford, I combed through my old power points and you would be impressed to know that I still had the notes from my Primate Biology course! Three years later I was able to find that one slide where Professor Rasmussen first introduced me to the person I would later call my supervisor and friend.

So, why lorises and why study them with LFP?

The best way for me to answer this is to ask another question.

Have you ever seen something that completely strikes you in an unexplainable way?

Well, that is how I feel whenever I meet eyes with a loris. Some would say that this is easily explained, because of how cute they are, but it is not just their infantile face that draws me in; it is all of the questions that surround their enigmatic existences. Why such a cute face for a nocturnal animal? Why such a long life history for such a small animal? Why have they evolved such an agility but are unable to jump? And how did they evolve to produce venom???

Dr. Nekaris and the Little Fireface project share my feeling of complete awe. For most of my life LFP has been committed to understanding lorises, conserving their populations and sharing what they have learned with the world. I am truly honored to call myself a member of such an amazing team. Every day we continue to fight the good fight for not only lorises, but also other little known nocturnal animals in collaboration with numerous conservation efforts throughout South and Southeast Asia.

Even if I tried, I cannot think of a better project to call home or a better supervisor to guide me through the ups and downs on my quest to becoming Dr. Stephanie Poindexter. Honestly, there is little to complain about when the work you love brings you to beautiful places like Vietnam and allows you to make a difference for these wonderful animals.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you back here for the next Culi ‘Tuesday’ update.

Please like the Little FireFace Project page on Facebook, if you have not done so already.

With lots of loris love,

Stephanie

I’ve Arrived!

Hello everyone!  I arrived in Indonesia on the evening of Tuesday 28th April, by the time I’d reached base camp at LFP on the Wednesday afternoon I’d taken over a 100 photos!  This is my first time in Indonesia; it has so much going on; beautiful green countryside, extraordinarily friendly people and crazy roads!

Rice-field_Melissa-AndertonSo far I’ve said goodbye to Lewis – a volunteer here at LFP as well as a friend from home, in fact, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here, and Jess – the longest serving volunteer here and someone so full of knowledge I’m feeling a little lost without her!  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sharon (project co-ordinator), Michael (Media officer) and the four trackers – Dendi, Aconk, Adin and Yiyi.  They have all been so wonderfully positive and I’ve really enjoyed spending time with them, they’ve made me feel so welcome!

Lewis-Leaves-LFP_Melissa-AndertonThe way of life is shockingly different from the U. K. and I think this makes it a little easier to become a part of it – I cannot compare it at all!  I went on my first shift with Dendi on Thursday evening to find and record the position of each of the collared lorises – it was so cool to finally see them!  I think at the moment Rasi is my favourite – I managed to get a really good shot of him chilling out on a banana leaf!  He looked absolutely beautiful.  It really was an experience I’ll never forget.

Nature-Club-01.05On Friday I joined Sharon and Jess at Nature Club – this is a class that is organised and run at the local school by Sharon from LFP and Dendi (one of the four trackers and also the builder and owner of the school) to help educate the local children about the wildlife in the area and the world of nature in general!  The children were all there voluntarily and it was great to see their enthusiasm towards learning about nature.  During the walk to and from the school I was surprised to see so many people smiling, waving and saying hello to us.  The people here are so friendly!

Rasi_Melissa-AndertonFriday night was my first observation shift.  Jess, Aconk and I set out at 11 pm in the hopes of finding Pak-B before moving on to observe Toyib…unfortunately it had been raining for 6 hours non stop – and pretty heavy, by the time we left it had stopped, but then at about 12.30 after hiking around rice fields and forest areas, it started raining again…we took shelter in a farmers shack to wait it out expecting it to cease, 5 am came and went and we were still stuck in the hut!  Eventually we had to brave the ran, after 4 and a half hours…I was so gutted that we didn’t get to see any Lorises.

My first weekend here I had the opportunity to visit a hot springs (pretty much a warm swimming pool outside) – it has some amazing views of the mountains surrounding the town.  This week has been pretty hectic with Jess leaving us; Sharon and I took a trip to survey an animal market in an Indonesian town, while at the same time seeing Jess off.  It was so hard for me to see wild animals with so much beauty, in cages; birds, reptiles, mammals the lot were caged or leashed…babies separated from their mothers, some so frightened they were rocking back and forth, others scrambling over each other in cramped cages.

I had a late shift last night to watch Toyib…man did he move!!  Adin and I were constantly moving through fields and trees (I slipped countless times – which Adin seemed to find hilarious!) to get a view of him.  It was a great chance for me to get acquainted with the fastest mover of the clan…I don’t blame him really, if I had the agility of a loris I’d be constantly on the move too!

That’s all for now, I’ll keep you all updated with the goings on here at LFP from a volunteers point of view next month!

Melissa – Student Volunteer

Cu li Tuesday: The Road to Cuc Phuong

Stephanie Poindexter

Hello Loris Lovers or should I say Xin chào, Những người yêu cu li* My name is Stephanie and I am Anna Nekaris’ most recent PhD student to leave Oxford and head off to the field. As a Chicago native, studying in the UK I am accustomed to living in faraway places and this time my research has brought me back to the lovely country of Vietnam. My first experience of Vietnam was at the 2014 IPS conference in Hanoi and after meeting so many like-minded researchers, conservationists, and primatologists, I was over the moon when I was invited by the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre (EPRC) to aid in the release of a group of pygmy slow lorises.  After months of planning, I finally made the trip to Vietnma’s first National Park and the home of the EPRC, Cuc Phuong. The journey from London to the national park was a perfect example of Murphy’s Law. Upon arriving at the Qatar check-in counter at Heathrow, everything appeared to be smooth sailing until they weighted my carry-on bag, which I cannot deny was filled with books and a bit heavy. Luckily the attendant got passed the shock of the weight then winked and whispered, “it’s fine, they will not check the weight at the gate” Step one: complete J  Even the flight to Doha was seamless and filled with tasty beverages and Downton Abbey. This travel bliss was shattered when I realized that my flight landed 20min late, so I scurried to my next gate, but unfortunately, even such a small delay made me miss my connecting flight from Doha to Hanoi. Usually I don’t mind missed flights or delays, but Tilo Nadler director of the EPRC was waiting for me in Hanoi and the next flight was not for 24 hours. Step two: not complete L  It turned out Murphy was not done with me yet. Tilo was actually running on a tight schedule and needed to be in south Vietnam on the day my new flight arrived, so I would have to stay in Hanoi for a few extra days before heading to Cuc Phuong. Step three: not complete L  Having made a new plan, I was able to return to the easygoing traveller I love being. Qatar arranged for a very comfortable stay in Doha and I was very happy to have 24 hours to watch tv and order room service. Once I arrived in Hanoi, I went back to all of my favorite places from my last visit. I drank my weight in coconut coffee, adjusted to the 6 hours time change, and took a 4-hour Vietnamese pronunciation class.On Saturday morning Tilo picked me up from my hotel, we had some lunch then set out on the road to Cuc Phuong.

Walking towards the mountains to find the cu li as the sun goes down.

Walking towards the mountains to find the cu li as the sun goes down.

After all of the impromptu city layovers, we finally made it to Cuc Phuong five days behind schedule, now I am surrounded by lush greenery, limestone mountains and most importantly lorises. Step four: very complete JJ   I look forward to sharing my Vietnamese Culi experience with you and I am very excited to release these pygmy lorises. I hope you will stay tuned for the next installment of Cu li Tuesday.  *Cu li means loris in Vietnamese  Stephanie

 

Calling all entomologists!

LC-Blog-2-Picture-1Whenever you set foot outside, whether it’s day or night, you are bound to see an insect of some description. Look hard, you might just see something cool, look even harder and you will probably see something spectacular.

When I’m not on shift, you can find me in the forest finding out what’s new. It seems now that every time I do, I find something just as odd, or even more so than I did the last time. With the help of Michael, my partner in crime, we have collectively managed to compile a moderately sized archive of all the weird and wonderful creepy crawlies West Java has to offer. Now there are far too many to fit in just one blog, so here’s a few of my favourite findings:

LC-Blog-2-Picture-3LC-Blog-2-Picture-2Here we have the coconut nettle caterpillar (Setora nitens). Michael and I found these critters underneath the leaves of a coffee plantation, and they come in the most amazing colours. Being a marine biologist, the closest I got to identifying this was a nudibranch (sea slug). They are equally as colourful, and most likely equally as poisonous.

I’m not 100% sure about this one, but I’ve rooted around and had a stab at what I think it may be, a Leaf False Katydid. They’re pretty common; it’s almost difficult not to see one, even though they are conspicuously shaped like a leaf. This little feller (lower left), however, couldn’t have been any less camouflaged if he tried. I can only describe the colouration as the orange you would find in a carton of Sunny D. Still a pretty cool find.LC-Blog-2-Picture-5 LC-Blog-2-Picture-4

Some of the hardest insects for me to photograph here have been the butterflies. Just when you think they have landed for a rest long enough to snap, off they go again. Here I was lucky enough to capture this beautiful courtship on camera after begging my way in to someone’s garden for a close enough view. These are Great Mormon butterflies (Papilio polytes), above we have the female and below is the male. Shortly after taking this photo they flew off again, and when I say they, I mean the female flew off and carried the male underneath her.

LC-Blog-2-Picture-6

Next up we have an individual in a group of over two and a half thousand species. This is a spotted tiger beetle, I couldn’t get the species name, but can you honestly blame me? Tiger beetles are adapted to sprinting to catch their prey. You can’t see it in this photo, but their front consists of a powerful set of mandibles that I wouldn’t want to get my fingers trapped in. Supposedly these beetles, this one being roughly 3.5cm in size, can reach speeds of up to 9km/hr. To scale this up for you, imagine running over 500 times your own body length per second. Not hard to believe when their feet look like a pair of Nike Pros.

LC-Blog-2-Picture-7Last up, we have a species of weevil closest identified as a Cyrtotrachelus sp. I’m not sure about the common name as these vary depending on the website you use. Some identify them as palm weevils whilst others identify them as bamboo weevils. I just don’t know. We managed to whittle this one down by its size (~40mm) and pattern on its back. They can also sometimes be identified based on their diet.

LC-Blog-2-Picture-8From stick insects, to spiders, praying mantis and butterflies – I’ve probably only scratched the surface of all the insects West Java has to offer. I would encourage everyone and anyone to get up, get out and explore, wherever you may be. Doing so here has really opened my eyes to the diversity of life you can find just a few footsteps from your house. And who knows, you might just surprise yourself or even inspire another to take an interest in the insects, hey Michael?

Lewis Castle – Research Assistant

click here to see our most recent paper about arthropods living at our field site!

Is it worth it?

Tropical forests are being destroyed at a rate of 1.5 acres every second due to human activities, thereby accelerating climate change through impacts on the carbon cycle, and causing the extinction of species dependent on these habitats. That’s a sentence that’s probably extremely familiar to anyone in my field of primate conservation. Nearly every scientific paper dealing with primates or tropical forests that’s been produced in the past 10 years starts with a statement that’s pretty similar. Almost unbelievably, the fight to have that sentence accepted is still on. Florida just outlawed the use of the term ‘climate change’. Companies that aim to produce ‘sustainable’ products cut down rainforest so they have the land to grow them. Though it often seems like we’ve turned a corner on the whole deforestation/climate change issue back in the UK, possibly due media saturation or compassion fatigue, we haven’t. Organic chickens, locally produced veg, fair-trade chocolate, these ease our burden of guilt, but the petrol in our cars, the plastic containers of our yogurt pots, the foam of our yoga mats, these are products of on-going destruction on a scale which is, for all intents and purposes, unfathomable.

DSC_0313When I tell people back home that I study primates, they often think I work in a lab, administrating some experimental drug on chimpanzees. When I tell them I work in conservation, they think I spend my time in flip-flops wandering through forests glassy eyed staring at tree frogs. There is approval in most people’s eyes with the lab scenario, and mocking amusement in their faces with the latter. I think there’s a problem there – we associate success, wealth, a ‘proper’ job with machinery, making something, building bridges, roads, cars, selling products, transporting goods, managing, infrastructure, steel, concrete, packaging, forklifts, hardhats and hi-vis vests. Lab coats fits in their somewhere too. To be successful, we show the world around us the trappings of success; a house, a car, a nice sofa, an amazon prime account, our kids going to a nice school… There’s nothing wrong with this. In England at least, we’re taught from a very early age that these are important things, there what make you a real member of a society, integrate you, that they make you a real person. But conservation doesn’t fit in there. It’s not important. It’s probably something that happens very far away… Well, generally it is.

Through a few centuries of civilization, half a dozen major invasions, and a few wars, the UK has been stripped of nearly every natural resource above ground. With this, wildlife has been almost completely removed. We once had bears. Fricking BEARS. Now we have to fight to save badgers. Not that badgers aren’t nice, it’s just a sorry state of affairs that we’ve sunk to these levels. But for all our growth, modernism and high-speed broadband, is the UK happier than anywhere else? Are we superior to the likes of Peru or Sumatra or Chad? If a nation’s success is measured in machinery and hard-hats and the time it takes to receive a pizza delivery, then yes, but if it’s to be measured in closeness to nature or ecological wealth … i.e the possibility of surviving the next few hundred years… then no, in old Blighty we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

With all this modernism, all these shopping centers, what are we aiming to achieve? Sometimes I feel like the only purpose of the entire race is to reach a comfortable level of sterility where all obstacles (in the form of wildlife and pesky forests) are removed to make way for more supermarkets and discount sports stores. To some extent, I understand this. Forests and wildlife are dirty and smelly. They’re nice to look at once in a while with a fence around them, but what purpose do they serve? Well, they serve a pretty big one. Carbon stocks in tropical forests trap the carbon dioxide we pour into the atmosphere and turn it into nice, breathable oxygen. If they’re chopped down and burnt to make way for crops or palm oil or cattle, then not only does the possibility of storing CO2 emissions decrease, but whilst being burnt, those forests release more CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to the warming of the planet. But what about the wildlife within those forests? Well, they’re the gears which drive those forests and keep them working. Without seed dispersal and predators, the ecosystems which keep those forests functioning break down.

What point am I trying to get at? Well, as I write this I’m sitting in the office of The Little Fireface Project in West Java. I’m surrounded by people who’ve forgone the trappings of success to try and save some wildlife, and in turn save some forests. Lorises serve an important ecological function. By raising awareness in the local people through conservation education, maybe they might think twice before chopping down some forests for crops, or not take lorsies to sell as pets. By conducting non-invasive research on lorises, LFP raises awareness internationally about these amazing creatures, and maybe a palm oil company or a government with think twice before creating a plantation or constructing a road. My little project whilst I’m here is to reintroduce a loris that was caught for the pet-trade to his natural habitat. Not only will this give him a better life, living as a wild, free animal as he was meant to be, but we’ll also raise awareness about conservation and lorises with the local people. It is, admittedly, just a drop in the bucket when faced with that terrifying figure of 1.5 hectares of tropical forest destruction every second, but with projects like this one happening all over the world, and people like you reading blogs like this one, maybe the Little Fireface Project can make a difference.

Chris D Marsh

Life in Cipaganti

Well, where do I even begin? I guess I should start off by introducing myself. My name is Lewis and I’m a research assistant here at the little Fireface Project. You’ve probably seen a few other blog posts from Francis? I’m assisting him here with his data collection for his PhD, but definitely isn’t the only thing that keeps me occupied!

On our way to Garut

For anyone who doesn’t yet know, Cipaganti is a town of no more than 3,000 inhabitants located on the side of Mt. Papandayan, an active volcano. We’re cruising here at an altitude of around 1,300m above sea level and call ‘Rumah Hijau’ (Green House) our home. On a clear day, you can see for miles, and on a clear night, the stars blanket the sky – the shooting ones too!

Lewis and Jess

I’ve been here for just over two weeks now, and usually the first thing I notice whenever I visit a new destination are the types of birds I see around me. Anticlimax alert, there are very few! I didn’t see any in Jakarta (the capital), and very few up here in the mountains. The environment here is extremely perturbed, with much of the primary forest cleared for crop fields. Not what I expected, but the remaining fragments are just stunning and teeming with insects (more of that on my next blog).

Cipaganti

The village people are so welcoming and friendly. I get smiled and waved at from almost every house I walk past. To them, a white ‘Bule’ (foreigner) is a novelty. To put this into perspective, I’ve already attended two weddings since arriving – people I’ve never met before in my life. I think Jess and I (another volunteer) could give Branjelina a run for their money with the amount of pictures and interviews we’ve had together. I think the novelty works both ways.

Indonesian Wedding

The people are also very religious and are called to prayer five times a day, two of which are the early hours of the morning when their day begins. For anyone who complains about waking up for their 9-5 job back home in England, try being them and waking up at 04:30 every day. There are many mosques here in Cipaganti, each is lined with megaphones to which their prayers are sung out of. Symphonies of religious songs can be heard rolling down the mountain as each mosque joins in with their own prayer. It can be both beautiful, yet challenging if you’re catching up with sleep post loris shift!

Nature Club!

I’m quite a fussy eater, so moving in to the LFP house was a bit of a risk for me. I’m not a vegetarian, but have learned to live without meat for the time being. The food is delicious, there is so much variety and so many flavours – I’m growing fond of the spicy foods and have convinced Aconk (one of our trackers) to teach me to cook. Sundays are our days off so if ever we feel homesick, we go to Garut which is a 25 minute motorbike ride down the mountainside to Byanbong, and from there, a 45 minute bus ride. We get coffee, use the wifi, there’s an arcade with the most intense dance mat I’ve ever seen, Pizza Hut (yes, I’ve already been) and more market shops than any person could lug back up the mountain.

CipagantiLewis Collecting Data

I’ve learned so much about the culture and the environment here and over such a short space of time too. I’m so glad to be a part of this amazing project and already have so much to write about for next week. Until then, stay tuned folks!

Lewis Castle

Research Assistant

Food Based Conservation

My time at Loris Land is almost over. In April I will move from this magical land and go to a rescue centre for two months to finish my studies. It occurred to me that I haven’t even told you all about my research yet! Well, grab a glass (bottle) of wine and get ready for a juicy insight into a loris crazed researcher’s brain. I apologise in advance if I offend anyone with my thoughts.

This research aims to increase the welfare of lorises in rescue centres like this one!

This research aims to increase the welfare of lorises in rescue centres like this one!

I have been working in animal nutrition for a while now, and in this modern day and age with all of our “ethics” and lab rules … HOW do we know if we are feeding the right diet to an animal. You feed it … it doesn’t die. Does that mean the diet is good? You feed it, it is alive and breeding and performs natural behaviours? Is that satisfactory? What about giving them the nutrients that they need, but in a presentation that is not at all akin to the wild, such as giving only pellets or a porridge. These are all questions which really interest me and I would like to be able to explore. Nutrition impacts every single facet of an animal’s life because they have adapted to exploit a specific group of foods in the wild.

My personal motto is that captive diets should be based on wild diets. It isn’t always possible to reproduce a wild diet in captivity though so we have to make do with what we have. To study this further, I had the idea of looking exactly at what lorises eat in the wild and then calculating their nutrient intake and translating this into a captive diet. I want to look at every.single.nutrient. Lorises are actually a great model animal for this since their captive diets are currently … so so. Plus, with the sheer amount of lorises in rescue centres, creating a good but cheap diet would be amazing for these poor little guys! A special diet for those without teeth would also be a good addition.

Releasing one of our lorises after a health check

Releasing one of our lorises after a health check

SO one issue with these kind of studies is that you can’t necessarily measure the digestive parameters of your wild animals to use as a “golden standard” when you do diet trials. Armed with a bucket of gum the amazing LFP trackers and I have been collecting over months, dried nectar and insects I will be giving some captive lorises a diet which reflects the proportions and quantities of wild lorises. I’ll then be able to measure how much fibre they can digest, how long it takes the diet to pass through them, see how they behave and see how much food they ingest. I hope to be able to do some fancy microbiology and see the state of their gut microbes as well! Now I make a pretty big assumption that these results will be similar to the wild lorises, which is a whole other thing. With all this info, I will then be able to have diet trials which have the necessary nutrients and measure the SAME things again. The diet which most closely resembles the wild type *should* be the ideal captive diet.

The team during the latest health checks

The team during the latest health checks. Little Ena was as calm as could be!

I have lots of ambitions and I really want my studies to help the lorises in any capacity. It would be great if this diet also helps the success of reintroductions but that isn’t for now. I need to finish this study first before I can move on to other things. I can’t believe this adventure is almost over when it feels like I just got my hands into it. I was called Princess on my first day here, and I have remained a princess throughout, yet ever so slightly more rugged now (and beardy).

I look forward to sharing my results with you all!! More from the rescue centre adventures soon :)

Francis Cabana

PhD Student and LFP Research Coordinator

LITTLE FIREFACES – BIG CHALLENGES

As I boarded my plane in Orlando, Florida, to begin the long 30+ hour day of travel to Indonesia, I realized I was stepping largely into the unknown. Sure I knew some basic facts, but that’s about all I had: I am going to a place called Cipiganti, there are Javan slow lorises there, and somehow I will help save them.

Getting from Jakarta to the field site exposed me to the insanity that is Indonesian traffic, but what really struck me was the very last leg of the journey. The rocky road that branches off from the main street to take you up to Cipiganti is treacherous to say the least. The last 25 minutes of my travels were filled with bumping, jostling, and bouncing up this rock pile and I began to think to myself, “What did I just get myself into?”

Well it turned out I had gotten myself involved with a great organization filled with even greater people. Within 24 hours of arriving at the field site I was on my way to see the lorises and assist with data collection. After using radio telemetry to find the loris’s general location, we used our headlamps to scan the trees looking for our focal animal. Scanning, scanning, scanning….woah! As my head torch illuminated two bright red eyes beaming back toward us, it became immediately apparent why lorises are called “firefaces.” It is one thing to see a picture of a loris, and quite another to observe one personally. They are so weird and strange in the absolute best way. I know that I won’t forget that first night out in the field as we watched Azka, our focal loris for the night, move gracefully through the treetops foraging for insects.

My time with LFP was limited to only three weeks unfortunately, as I needed to return to school to finish my final undergraduate semester (which is where I am now, writing this instead of doing schoolwork). However during that time I was able to take part in many different aspects of LFP’s work and learned an immense amount. Assisting with the education programs was a blast, and the kids were fantastic. I think I provided them with as much entertainment as they provided me, especially with my horrible attempts at speaking to them in Indonesian. One of the most exciting projects I had the opportunity to assist with was setting camera traps. To reach the camera trap site you have to make the arduous hike up into the primary forest. The primary forest is amazing, and a glimpse into the past. As I stopped to take in all the green, all the sounds, all the life, I couldn’t help but imagine how different this island must have been before the impacts brought about by humans changed it forever. After finally setting up all the cameras, it was time for an Indonesian-style picnic. We washed our hands in a cool pool at the base of a small waterfall before we sat down to enjoy our meal. The food was set out on banana leaves resulting in a delicious buffet of rice, tempeh, bala-bala, chombro, and I don’t even know what else; all I knew was that it tasted amazing.

Despite all the fun I had assisting in LFP’s research programs, it was clear that many challenges still face not just the slow loris, but all of Indonesia’s wildlife and remaining natural environment. Wildlife trafficking, deforestation, corruption, and cultural attitudes are just some of the many obstacles that must be overcome for conservation to truly work in Indonesia. While this list may seem daunting, organizations like LFP are working hard on the front lines to give Indonesia’s wildlife a fighting chance for survival. Conservation is like the road up to Cipiganti: always uphill, full of unexpected bumps, and sometimes it may seem like you won’t make it to the top. But with hard work and perseverance, you will reach your goal, whether that’s making it back to your house at the top of the hill after a long day or saving a Critically Endangered primate. Big challenges face the little firefaces of Java, but NGOs like the Little Fireface Project are giving them a fighting chance, and I’m proud to have contributed in a small way with the conservation of the Javan slow loris.

Taylor Tench – Student Volunteer

 

Civets, lorises and leopard cats, oh my!

Life in the LFP field station is what you make it. It’s possible to skate through your time here in West Java missing out on the wealth of opportunities outside the door. And with the focus of the project obviously being slow lorises – a nocturnal animal – shift times coincide with the most active period of forest life and if you want to see the other inhabitants of this Javan agro-forest really all you have to do is look. Uncollared_2014_Michael Williams (5)This abundance of wildlife is a major plus point for rainy season and the increased chance of seeing some of Java’s fauna definitely helps get me out the door and into the agro-forest when the weather is miserable and it’s raining! As if the chance to observe and study the wild behaviour of one of the “World’s Top 25 Most Endangered Primates” and the world’s only known venomous primate needs to be talked up, but if your study animal has been out of sight for 45 minutes or you’ve been stranded in a little farmers hut for hours due to the weather it really does help to have interesting surroundings.

If you set out on first shift, leaving the project house in daylight most of the larger forest inhabitants have yet to wake up although as you climb up the hill the journey often coincides with the start of the cicadas evening chorus and at dusk a multitude of buzzing insects fly in loops around your head – many of them having a nibble. The lorises we follow vary in distance from the field station from about a half-hour walk to nearly an hour to get up to the higher territories of Charlie, Toyib and Azka. Now I’ve been here for a couple of months I’m getting the hang of where to look for what along the different routes; I know where the civet family lives, what loris territories I’m most likely to see a leopard cat in, what to look for to notice the long tail of a dragon camouflaged in the Kaliandra trees alongside the paths and which farmers ponds, hidden amongst the undergrowth, provide a home to which frog species.

Once you’ve located your focal loris for the evening’s observation and you’ve settled in to take your GPS point and observation it’s rewarding to see the wildlife return as you quieten down. The ground comes alive as you watch it with innumerable grasshoppers and crickets, crazy looking shimmery beetles, stick insects on the lower branches and praying mantis and katydids among the leaves. During behavioural observations we take GPS points at 15 minutes intervals and record behaviour ad libitum throughout the night. One of the most important things to consider during a shift is the effect of the observers on the target loris, as we don’t want to influence their behaviour; for the welfare of the animal and in turn to ensure you’re collecting valid data! It’s always important to keep quiet and once the animal has moved off we wait at least 15 minutes before following so the loris doesn’t feel like its being chased. Being still and silent for prolonged periods of time mean that you get a good look at a variety of animals. This week alone I’ve had some awesome encounters; while huddled in a tea field watching adult male loris Azka gouging gum in jeingjen trees a Javan ferret badger trundled up foraging not 5 m from Pak Adin and I, his little white tipped tail bobbing along and later that same evening while sat in an unused and overgrown field a banded linsang walked calmly towards us, stopping about 2 m away to catch and chew a large insect before wandering off and watching us from a safer vantage point. It’s not only the lorises that are more active during a second shift. I’ve found I’m much more likely to see civets in particular while out on the later observation. I’ve had occasions of common palm civets crossing directly over my head while using the water pipes to cross fields into the next clump of trees or them walking straight past me while they travel noisily through bamboo trunks.

While its refreshing to see how adaptable so many of these species are to life in their anthropologically altered habit, it also make me think of how diverse the area must have been before humans came in and cleared the area for crops. After all we are here because of a need to research a primate species, which is listed as Critically Endangered with its major threats being habitat loss and human persecution. Habitat protection is such a simple idea to suggest but one of the hardest to enforce. As I observe the wildlife, moving from crop field to crop field during my shifts I just hope that it isn’t too late for these remaining species.

Jess Wise – Student Volunteer