Greetings from the Whoop Troop in Viet Nam!

Since leaving Cipaganti, the puppets and I have settled in at the beautiful Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre in southern Viet Nam.  Run by the Endangered Asian Species Trust (EAST), Dao Tien focusses on the rescue, rehabilitation, and where possible, the release of endangered primates native to south Viet Nam.

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I wake every morning at 5.15 to the wonderful whoops of golden cheeked gibbons duetting.  Much better than an alarm clock!  The gibbons at Dao Tien are all victims of illegal hunting and trade.  Most were taken from their families at an early age and kept in appalling conditions, so it takes years to nurture them back to physical and psychological health and give them a chance to return to the forest.  Some are too damaged by human contact to survive in the wild and will live out their lives at Dao Tien.  Take a look at EAST’s website www.go-east.org to see some of the gorgeous primates in our care at the moment.

So how do the puppets and I fit in?  By day we’re working with students in Thanh Binh High School as part of my Whoop Troop project, connecting with students in LFP’s Alum Nature Club and Situwangi School to learn about native animal species common to Viet Nam and Java.  The Thanh Binh Troop are creating a fantastic puppet show which they will perform in six villages around Cat Tien National Park.  Education and awareness raising are an important part of EAST’s work to help stop the illegal trade in endangered primates.  We run two daily tours of the Centre and have many Vietnamese and foreign visitors coming to see what we do and learn about primate conservation.

By night, it’s the turn of the pygmy slow lorises to emerge.  The huge increase in the illegal trade in lorises for pets, tourist props and medicine mean that we’re completely full of rescued pygmy lorises, with a new enclosure planned this year to keep up with the flood of new arrivals.  If you think Javan lorises are amazing, click here to take a look at the pygmy slow loris on the Endangered Asian Species Trust’s Facebook page! At only 400g, the tiny pygmy loris is the smallest loris species, but they still pack the venomous bite of their larger cousins.

Last week LFP’s Dan Geerah visited Dao Tien bringing the equipment to detect ultrasonic animal calls.  After some expert training from Dan, I’ve gone nocturnal to find out if the pygmy slow lorises of Viet Nam use ultrasonic calls to communicate.  We’ve recently released some pygmy lorises so it’s a great opportunity for me to find out if they use these secret calls.  Understanding more about pygmy loris communication can help with rehabilitation and release programmes and in monitoring wild loris populations.  My favourite night shift is midnight to 5 a.m., which starts with tranquil hours in the forest and ends with the slow gathering of dawn and the sounds of waking birds and insects.  When I hear the whoops of Dao Tien’s gibbons and their wild neighbours in Cat Tien National Park, I know it’s time to head home for bed.

One Person At A Time

Hello, all. My name is JoooBooo. I am a slow loris, and I’m currently in West Java, Indonesia educating people about slow loris conservation and helping care for captive lorises. My mission is huge, but with overwhelming love, I reach out.

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JoooBooo trying on the slow loris mask he made at Klub Alam (Nature Club)

Sometimes it seems overwhelming. Wildlife conservation is an exhausting job. Trust me, I just had to take a few days off to recuperate in Bandung. Watch some wildlife shows on TV, get some delicious bugs to eat. But after that time off, I came back feeling more positive than ever and ready to work again. And as discouraging as it sometimes seems, I realized once again that every little bit helps. This is partly due to a wonderful conversation I had with a hotel employee in Bandung. I was explaining my purpose in being here, and why my dedication to my cause was so strong (besides the fact that I’m a loris). And the employee, Yudi, asked me what he and others can do to help. So I told him. It was that simple. Did that solve the problem completely? No, but it’s a good start.

It seems like a lot, working every day and still seeing so many lorises at wildlife markets and in captivity. And seeing that so many of those captive lorises cannot be released, their teeth having been removed or filed down, or having suffered other injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild. But we have to focus on the positive. Those captive lorises at rescue centers are living healthier, more natural lives than they would as pets, even if they are not in the wild. It may be second best in that case, but it’s better than the alternatives. And every person you educate can make a difference.

In the past month, three lorises have been brought to Little Fireface Project. Two were released immediately, as they were wild and had wandered into the village. The message of LFP has spread far enough that the local people recognized them as being wild, and were trying to protect them by making sure they were properly released. The third loris was someone’s pet, and a friend of its owner convinced them that the loris should not be a pet. This little one, Dodol, has been taken to the Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Center to see if she can be released in the future or not.

JoooBooo on route to take Dodol to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

JoooBooo on route to take Dodol to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

So the message is this: the news that reached those people may have been slow, and it may have seemed like a lot of work at the time. But that is three lorises saved. Three lorises like me that can lead better lives. And those people will continue to educate others, and soon the message can spread far and wide. But we have to start with one person at a time.

  • JoooBooo, slow loris & Volunteer Mascot