Javan Slow Loris Surveys Beyond Garut

Yesterday, a few of the team members expanded our Javan slow loris presence surveys outside of Garut. I had previously done presence surveys for Sumatran lorises in Bukit Lawang with our colleagues at Green Hill, but this was my first time conducting a survey in Java. One of our previous volunteers (Ina Kathrin-Spey) had developed methods to conduct a survey of Javan slow loris populations, to determine their abundance and distribution across the island of Java. As the majority of Java’s forests have been cut down for farms, it was rather tricky to develop methods for such an extreme, disturbed area. Thanks to the methods she developed, we completed our surveys in the area of Garut, but yesterday we expanded our first (more lengthy) survey, outside the district.

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Equipment for our presence survey.

Beginning with interviews, we received a lot of surprised and baffled reactions to a photograph of a Javan slow loris. Many of them had never seen one, or even thought it was a pig! After the interviews, we explained a bit more about the work we do in conservation, education, behavior and outreach. Everyone seemed very keen, and asked if they could join us on our night surveys, to help us save lorises. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do this, as too many people would scare the lorises, and also because we didn’t have nearly enough red head torches for everyone.

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Wita starting off the interviews!

We hired one local farmer who knew the area as our guide, and began the trek. Within the first 300 meters we already saw two lorises and got to know all sorts of new flora species that we don’t have in Cipaganti. Due to some earlier rain and steep slopes, we were slipping and sliding all over the place. At one point, it took us 30+ minutes to scale 100 meters up a slope, relying on strong trees to hold us up, and laughing the whole way. After two and a half hours of hiking up the mountain, we were rewarded with a breath-taking view of Garut city at the top of the mountain.

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Surveying lorises in the field.

Over 12 hours, we spread awareness of this Critically Endangered species and learned more about it’s distribution range and cultural awareness along the way. And on top of that – we had a bonding night out, exploring a new area with new exciting trees and new friends. Overall, our survey was a success and the start to an exciting new phase for LFP in our efforts to protect the Javan slow loris!

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A team coffee break!

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

Nocturnal Rhythms

Before deciding to join the Little Fireface Project, my main focus of research was on diurnal primates. This meant waking up at 4am, following monkeys until 5 or 6pm (depending on the season), hiking home, eating dinner, going to bed between 8 and 10 pm, and repeating it all the next day. This schedule felt rather natural, but didn’t leave much time for getting any alternative work done. Weekly schedules would require a full day off of observations in order to do other tasks, like entering and editing data, stocking up on food supplies, equipment repairs or processing samples. When I entered the world of nocturnal research, my circadian rhythms were literally turned upside down.

Now, my daily schedule consists of nightly observations between 5pm to 5am, going to bed around 6am, waking up between 12 and 1pm, and then having an average of 5 hours daily to get all those alternative tasks done. It keeps my days rather consistent, but it was no small feat to get to this stage. When I first started nocturnal research, I simply couldn’t sleep. I was naturally waking up at 8am when I had only gone to bed 2 hours earlier. It took about 2-3 weeks of physical exhaustion from not sleeping enough to kick into the night-life, mentally and physically. Over time, I’ve acquired my own routine that helps me stay in a consistent rhythm. Here are a few tips I find helpful in getting into, and maintaining, a healthy nocturnal work life:

  1. Keep the thermos filled with hot water at all times! I find a cup of coffee or tea accompanying me in the field helps at night. While too much caffeine might make you crash (and the majority of the team here has seen me go through a serious caffeine addiction, averaging 8 cups a day), a few cups during the later hours of the day can help, when it’s dark out and your body thinks it is time to sleep. I’ve almost entirely kicked coffee out of my routine now and I already feel my energy has more than doubled, but I won’t give up my night tea.
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Latte from our favorite bakery an town – an off day treat

2. Cold mandi: A cold shower in the morning works better than coffee! Why? Because a cold shower wakes up all of your muscles. It sounds crazy, but you get used to it quickly. Cold showers dilate your capillaries and get your blood circulating to your extremities, stimulates your metabolic rate, boosts blood glucose, and increases your immune system.

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Our LFP rubber duck team, enjoying a cold mandi?

3. Bubur o’clock: this has become a bit of a house tradition. As most of us are on a nocturnal clock here, those who aren’t on the late night shift will join those who just returned from observations to our neighbor Ibu’s shop for our favorite traditional breakfast dish; bubur. Bubur is a rice porridge commonly served with either chicken, eggs or peanuts. It’s a nice team bonding time as well, and whoever just came back from observations will update the others on what their focal loris was up to that night.

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Waiting in line for bubur!

Side note: we have also just learned that the village bubur is most commonly used as baby food. This has had no influence on our routine, and we proudly wait in line with the infants, awaiting our rice porridge goodness.

4. In-flight ear buds and eye mask(s): as many of you may have read in previous blogs, we live directly across the street from the village mosque. The first call to prayer is at 4:30am, and then again at 7am, etc, etc. When you are trying to sleep in, those free in-flight ear buds that your airline gave you will become your best friend. Also, your body’s internal clock is sensitive to light, so in-flight eye masks come in handy too when you need to sleep through the sun that is creeping into your room.

5. Off-day exercise: Our job is literally to hike a mountain every day. It’s always nice to do something leisurely for yourself on off days – from something as small as enjoying a hot chocolate on the couch to going into town for lunch—but if I want to sleep later in the day, I still need to do some form of exercise or I am just too wired with energy to sleep. Sometimes I go out to the field to practice photography, some of our volunteers will go play Frisbee on the football field, but some weeks we all need our off-day to catch up on data entry or writing up our research. On days like this, even a small house “planks and squats” workout or “DG’s wicked workout” is enough to do the job in 30 minutes, so we can power through our desk work. And once again, it also serves as team (ab) building!

6. On busier weeks where I need to do diurnal work like vegetation plots or phenology monitoring on top of my nocturnal work, I sleep at strange hours of the day, between 2 and 10 pm. It can be hard to sleep during the mid-day when everyone else is awake and buzzing with energy, and this is when Spotify and Celestial Seasonings tea step up to the plate. There are different playlists under the theme of “sleep” people have created on Spotify, and you can find a playlist that works for you. I usually down a mug of ‘sleepytime tea’ and put on a playlist of rainstorms, and I’m out like a light.

These are just a few personal tips I find helpful to stay energized during my work hours. Everyone finds their own routine that works for them, but I hope these can help ease the transition for anyone considering or preparing to embark the realms of nocturnal fieldwork!

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Student

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

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

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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.

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– 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

 

“So Close, No Matter How Far”

Living in the field is wonderful! Every day is a new adventure and you are constantly exposed to new things – new people, new cultures, new experiences. I have loved all the Indonesian-related aspects of the field from the get-go! Indonesians are some of the nicest people I have ever met, amazingly friendly! Indonesian food is wonderful – as a vegan, I am enjoying the fact that tempeh and tofu are available at every step, as well as many traditional Indonesian dishes, such as gehu (look it up, you won’t regret it!) – and at such low prices! Indonesian nature I have already mentioned, but here’s another thing – I still can’t get over how huge some of the leaves in the forest are! My first shift in the field, I came back with a taro-taro leaf the size of my backpack. Not sure what my plan with it was, it’s been on our balcony since, but I saw it laying on the ground and could not resist picking it up! I know it’s completely silly, but this sort of thing blows my mind! Indonesian animals – I think it’s more than clear that I am enjoying being spoiled by the exposure to wildlife! Even the chickens here are free-ranging! Amazing!

The only issue that arises from this “all new all the time” pace is that everything is temporary. As happy as new experiences make me, I have come to a realisation that if I centre my happiness in temporary things, my happiness will be temporary as well. To avoid that, I am trying as much as I can to keep in touch with the constants in my life, for example my family and friends. Missing them is sometimes unavoidable, even in the most wonderful of life adventures. But more importantly, while us field people are having the time of our lives, the people we love, and who love us, are often still home, living their daily lives and missing us, the ones that left to have all of the amazing experiences without them. Staying in touch with them and letting them know we haven’t forgotten them is very, very important, not to mention nice! But sometimes an evil villain enters the scene in the form of the disappearing Internet connection!

While I think we’re lucky to have Internet in the first place, it can be very stressing (and potentially depressing) when the Internet goes out for a few days, especially if it happens on your birthday – yes, this happened to me! Things that have helped me deal with this unavoidable loneliness-inducing problem are, in the order of their appearance (and with some potential advice to others who find themselves in similar situations), the following:

  1. Chocolate

Chocolate contains serotonin precursors, so this is a highly scientific thing to do! Always have a stash of your favourite chocolate, or other comfort food! For best results, find local comfort food, so you have something to miss when you go back home! The other way around is simply too main stream. You are better than that!

  1. Pictures of things I love

Pictures work (to an extent) because our brains, not to get too specific about it, process them in a similar way to processing reality. There are some limitations to this – if interested, please contact me and I’ll provide references! Tricking our brains is fun and luckily, as one of my favourite street artists once said (well, wrote) – It only takes your mind to trick you!

What works for me are pictures of Dublin, Ireland. These I always keep by my bed – because mornings are hard! This sounds random, as I am clearly not Irish (Hello, Croatia, I love you as well!!!) and nobody understands my love for Dublin. To be honest, not even I understand it. But love is to be felt and not questioned, so long live the inexplicable love!

"So I say a little prayer, and hope my dreams will take me there" (because Westlife know what's up!)

“So I say a little prayer, and hope my dreams will take me there” (because Westlife know what’s up!)

Equally good remedies are the pictures of my dogs, Dublin (who saw that one coming?) and Bluma. Pictures of pets (or alternatively, any cute animals; although it’s better if there’s a previous emotional connection!) easily override any bad feelings with warm, fuzzy feelings. Because oxytocin rules!

Dogs

Dublin and Bluma, the best dogs in the world :)

A nature walk, also known as “the shift”

Spending time in nature heals most of lifes troubles! I really believe that many of the problems humanity currently faces could be resolved if all of us would collectively realise that we are nature and nature is us. There is a reason why this connection is so deeply felt when we allow ourselves to get completely immersed in it. Let yourself feel the nature around you. But be careful if you tend to “feel and tell” – letting people know you felt a strong connection to a particular tree will quickly get you labelled as a hippie tree-hugger (I’m giving you a virtual high five in advance, but others may see this as a negative thing! Because people are sometimes the worst! But don’t let that stop you!), so don’t be like me (Or, be like me, we need more tree-huggers because trees are awesome!) and keep that sort of information to yourself (Or again, don’t! Tree love for life!).

Trying to become friends with people at hand

This one is tricky. It is funny how sometimes friendships with people you seemingly have a lot in common somehow just don’t happen. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be discouraged. Try again. Bond. Share feelings. Gossip. Annoy them into liking you. You may not have anywhere to escape and find new people, but remember, neither do they!

Allow multiple trials, at least 30 (because 30 is the magical number of parametric stats, and you want to use them! They are fun and sophisticated, sort of like you think you are! Most people don’t like them either, so you have that in common as well! It was meant to be!). After 30 trials, chances are you’ll have either A. gained a friend for life (or at least you now know enough about each other that you have to stay on good terms for safety reasons!), or B. gained an “Unfriend” for life (which also works because it’s important to have someone to awkwardly avoid at conferences!). In most cases, by the time you will have done 30 trials (and analysed the data, because you are, first and foremost, a scientist!), yours or theirs’ time in the field will be up. And some day you will feel strangely nostalgic about people from both categories!

(This section was written by a 70-year-old Elena from the future.)

  1. Deciding to live large and splurging on the phone Internet connection

Phone data price – practically nothing!

Being able to send random “I miss you and love you forever!!!!!!!” messages to your friends in the middle of the night (because emotions are awesome and people should know you have them!) – priceless!

This post is dedicated to everyone back home and in the UK, as well as in all the other places they have dispersed from there – if I haven’t messaged you in a while, for now read the text within the quotation marks in my last sentence!

  • Elena Racevska, Research Coordinator