For the love of Loris

Conservation works in many ways. As pointed out by our Research Coordinator Robert O’Hagan in a previous blog, it is a precarious balance of research, education, and outreach. These past few weeks, for me as Public Relations Coordinator, have been all about outreach within our local community.


The preparing chefs for our cooking competition are framed by hand-made decorations for the day.

A few weeks ago the idea surfaced to organise an event at the school run by LFP project manager Dendi Rustandi. In the spirit of our annual Pride Days, we decided upon a Festival untuk menyayangi kukang – a festival for loris love. Three weeks of intense planning, shopping, ordering, painting, cutting, colouring, organising, laughing, stressing, budgeting, and celebrating followed. As we were setting up all our newly made decorations on Saturday, I was filled with anticipation. I just wanted it to be a success.


Katie’s artistic skills were captured perfectly in face-paint, and the children happily showed them off.

As my alarm went off at 04:30, I looked outside and saw the faint orange tinge on the horizon, knowing the day was about to kick off. Myself, Katie, and Peter got dressed, grabbed our stuff, and headed over to the school building. As we put the finishing touches on the place, children and their families started trickling in. Next thing I knew, Katie was giving face-paint to immensely impatient children, Peter was hosting a can pyramid where the kids fanatically threw tennis balls at unsuspecting coke cans, and I was running around frantically looking for things to do. Point was, I was working with amazing people and there was nothing left for me to organise or stress about. Everyone knew what to do – Dendi was being the amazing host he is, Adin was busy preparing the Panjat Pinang, and Rizky was taking a register for the cooking competition. Finally, I started to feel myself relax into the swing of things and grabbed my camera to document the day.


Piramid Kaleng was popular with boys and girls alike – prizes ranged from lollipops to colouring books.

There were a bunch of events happening throughout the day. As the crowd gathered, Panjat Pinang kicked off, two poles of bamboo with prizes in the top. The aim: climb the pole, grab the prize. The catch: the pole is covered in a mixture of oil, grease, and soap. Soon the playground was filled with laughter as both boys and men clambered over each other to try and get to the top.




Prof Anna meets the new Kepala Desa.

More laughter followed as the spoon-race and sack-race started. Competitive but friendly spirits made for a neck and neck race, both between the children and the adults. In the meantime, people were voting for the best drawing for the drawing competition. Thirty-five children that attend Nature Club put their hearts and souls into these drawings. As I was
feeling overwhelmed by what was going on, I turned around and saw a familiar face dismount from a motorbike: previous intern Rifqi had come to give a helping hand. He was soon followed by current intern Helmi, carrying ever more stuff over from our house that I had forgotten in my pre-event slumber.


Panjat pinan requires team-work, something the children quickly grasped!

Rifqi and Helmi quickly took over my photography duties as I reported for mine: food tasting. It was time to judge the cooking competition, and we struggled tremendously choosing between all the deliciously made gehu and pisang goreng. As we announced the top three, Ibu Siti, Gina, and Heni prepared for the final stage of the competition: nasi goreng. This decision was even tougher, as all three women put in so much effort into their dishes. It’s tough job, but someone’s got to do it…


2015 Jul Romdhoni - Festival (88)PS

Imam Nana Sumpena speaks to the crowd.

The afternoon was filled with an inspiring speech by Imam Nana Sumpena from Garut, who talked to the crowd about conservation and Islam. The day finished with an award ceremony, giving out prices to the winners of the numerous competitions as LFP mascots Tereh and Bunga watched. As the crowds later trickled out, we crashed down on the floor to have some food with the team. I can’t say a warm enough thank you to everyone who helped make the day possible – from our loyal friends to the locals attending – and hope we will have many more days like this to come.

– Faye Vogely

2015 Jul Romdhoni - Festival (40)PS

All the children from Nature Club show their colouring books.

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 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!


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,


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.


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!

Death by Coffee

Kopi Luwak is a coffee that has been regarded worldwide as the best coffee (a lot) of money can buy.  The coffee cherry is passed through the gut of an animal called a civet.  Civets are found throughout Asia and some parts of Africa and have a very varied wild diet which includes fruit, insects, small mammals and a very small portion of coffee if it is available.CAGED-CIVET_2476

It is very rare that I do anything very ‘touristy’ when travelling; however, I made a ‘tourist-based’ stop on a recent trip to the Island of Bali purely for a personal experience to see what in fact it is that tourists are being told about this insidious industry.

Cat-Poo-ChinoMy husband Michael and I stopped at a KOPI LUWAK (Civet Coffee) ‘information centre’ between Denpasar and Ubud.   As soon as we got out of the car, Michael said “I can smell civets”, he has a nose for these things and when we are in the forest, he often smells an animal before he sees it.   We parked on the opposite side of the road to the centre and the smell was pungent… oddly pungent.  There must be a lot of civets we thought.

Entry to the centre was ‘free’ and a lovely girl took us on the basic tour.  She showed us how the KOPI LUWAK is made from beginning to end (apart from the fact that civets are often taken from the wild, she never mentioned that!)

So, we wandered around the centre which was set on an acre or so of tree-lined paths with our lovely guide and viewed the civets in small, concrete-lined cages.  The cages were clean but bare, with only one branch in each enclosure.  As we walked around, we viewed the interpretive tables that explained the coffee making process, where tourists are encouraged to feel and smell the coffee beans so as they can personally tell the difference between ‘regular’ coffee and ‘civet’ coffee.  Interp-table-(2)We were offered an espresso sized cup of Kopi Luwak for $5.00.   “It tastes so much better than ‘regular’ coffee, why don’t you compare?” our guide invited.  It was blindingly obvious to us that the battered, old, unsealed tin of ‘regular’ coffee offered to us for our comparison, contained a sample of old and stale coffee that must have been there for months.  I dare say, the freshly roasted ‘civet’ coffee may have in fact tasted better than its stale rival in this instance.

So, I am one of these people that like the truth; I am straightforward, so I asked the questions instead of sitting silent to see what industry mantra I would receive.

Here are the ‘so-called’ facts from this particular KOPI  LUWAK centre.


The photos accompanying this article are of the civets living in ‘fairly good’ conditions, but of course, nowhere near the intended wild environment they should be experiencing.  Usually Kopi Luwak producing, captive civets are in cages where they can barely turn around, or even lay down.  The animals in these production centres are unnaturally obese and have severe health issues as a result.  Even in the ‘tourist approved’ cages at this particular information centre, the civets such as the individual pictured below were blind and overweight.


So, I’m going to do some basic calculations for this particular ‘Kopi Luwak Information Centre’.  I’ll be fair and conservative to start with:Rows-of-coffee

60 civets produce 2kg of coffee a day.

2kgs @ USD$60.00 = USD$120.00 per civet

USD$120.00 x 60 = USD$7200.00 PER DAY

If I am not conservative with my calculations;

60 civets produce 5kg of coffee a day.

5kgs @ USD$60.00 = USD$300.00 per civet

USD$300.00 x 60 = USD$18,000 PER DAY

Sadly, this is only one small civet farm on the island of Bali, which is a small player in the Kopi Luwak market.

The production of Luwak coffee is a CIVET-COFFEEmulti-million dollar industry that won’t be shut down in a hurry.  This is due to the popularity of the product; the result of clever marketing strategies that specifically target ill-informed individuals that never question how their purchased product is in fact produced and the cruelty endured by the enslaved wild animals that have been stolen from the wild.

THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK – Kopi Luwak is Cruelty in a cup

Sharon Williams

LFP Coordinator/Environmental Education Officer

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