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

The Kids Who Never Cry!

Always up for anything - local kids are not afraid to get involved, even if it means getting dirtyI’ve been volunteering with the Little Fireface Project here in West Java for just over a year now and something has become extremely clear to me. I am surrounded by genuinely happy, sharing and unselfish children. Honestly, if you hear a child crying in the street, you know something has happened; they have fallen out of a tree or tripped over the stoney, uneven ground. Mothers (all mothers) run from their homes to see who is hurt. They find a child who is not crying because they didn’t get their own way or because they were asked to help with chores, they have hurt themselves.
Each day, for hours sometimes, I wander the village and stop and chat to all of the children, usually with hand gestures and my limited Bahasa Indonesian language skills. We understand each other. What I have learnt is that the children here are truly happy and content with what they have. I have discovered them playing games that my mum told me about playing when she was young.
Always huge smiles to greet you when exploring the villageThe boys and girls here mix together and do not squabble over who has the best shoes or hairstyle. They play marbles, skip rope, fly kites, climb trees, play soccer, fish in their yard ponds and spend hours making mud, grass and leaf pies (YUM YUM!) and they play in the rivers when it is hot; splashing and laughing and taking dives in turn, no pushing, no shoving.
The children are given freedom here, they don’t worry about being kidnapped or run over by vehicles … the motorbikes give way to them. They are happy and they are allowed to be. They are encouraged to be children; to play in the rain and to get muddy feet. In fact, one of the first days in West Java I sat and watched in awe as the children were covered from head to toe in mud, whilst helping catch small fish for relocation in a drained pond. This included girls in their hijab (muslim clothing for girls). The parents have the attitude that the clothes can be cleaned and don’t think it is too much effort to do so. More often than not, the parents join in.
Little Fireface Project has a drawing/drama club at our field station every Tuesday and coloured pencils and paper REALLY are the biggest hit with the kids! They always come and colour and are very excited when they can take their fabulous artwork pieces home. These items, which are small things to our western world children, are a huge deal here. Not an ‘XBOX’ in sight in our village, I am pleased to say.
Local kids play in the dirtSo, controversially perhaps, it is wonderful to see children be children and not be pampered so much that they grow up with a spoilt attitude. These village kids are independent, have loads of common sense and appreciate their life. They are also wonderfully sociable and don’t sit in the corner sulking if they are told NO! These kids just get on with it; they get on with life with a happy demeanour! They don’t have squillions of dollars, but they have lots of love, family time and a way of looking at what are everyday ‘things’ to us, in a new and appreciative way. It helps me do the same and I LOVE IT and appreciate them just as much. I feel I’ve won the lotto.

Sharon Williams – Field Station Coordinator/Environmental Education Officer

Half a World Away

DENISE

Denise and her Indonesian family – Dendi, Adin, Aconk and Yiyi

Five months ago I made the big step to travel half way across the world (literally!) to follow a dream. I packed my bags and left the Little Fireface Project, Indonesia and the lorises and went to Mexico to study spider monkeys. Spider monkeys were the first primates I ever had the privilege to study in the wild and when a PhD position in conservation came up I could not let the opportunity pass by. Like slow lorises, all species of spider monkeys are threatened with extinction.

At first I was worried that the difference between the two places would be humungous. But in reality once you get over a monster jetlag, there turned out to be more similarities than differences and it quickly felt like home. Instead of rice with tofu, here we eat tortillas (little corn flour flatbreads) with beans. And instead of hearing the mosque’s call to prayer at 4am, here we hear dogs barking and latin pop music blasting from car speakers. In Mexico, the weather is hot, hot and hotter and the sun shows its face every day.

I am based in the Yucatan Peninsula of Southern Mexico, famous for its beaches (Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum) and burgeoning tourism industry. It is also home to a wonderful conservation organization that I am very happy to be working with called ConMonoMaya(www.facebook.com/ConMonoMaya).  Like the Little Fireface Project, ConMonoMaya works hard to raise awareness for conservation issues related to the two primates living in the Peninsula: Geoffroy’s spider monkey and the black howler monkey. It is interesting going from studying primates at night to studying those in the day. I used to have my field backpack filled with three sweaters that I would pull out one by one as the night got colder and a thermos full of sweet, hot coffee. Now my backpack is full of insect repellent and water. Despite the heat, we wear long sleeves in the forest in an attempt to ward off little insects called chiggers. They are leave bites that itch for weeks. Our only defence from these little buggers is a laundry soap called Princessa, but even that does not always work.

DENISE-2DENISE-3It is especially in conservation issues that I see how similar Java and the Yucatan really are. In Punta Laguna, a long-term spider monkey research site, the monkeys are very well habituated and easy to see. This still means a lot of neck ache as they live so high in the trees! But the monkeys are not shy. When I first arrived, I was very surprised to see the monkeys using trees to cross over the road and very close to electricity cables. My first thought was of Tahini, a loris that in my time in Java sadly passed away as she had dispersed into the village as was electrocuted by power cables. I felt an instant fear for the spider monkeys. They were crossing the road to get to a fruit tree on the other side. Thankfully, infants, mothers and adults all seemed to avoid the electric cables every time.

Like slow lorises, one of the biggest threats facing spider monkeys in Mexico is the primate pet trade. It is illegal to keep spider monkeys as pets. In Indonesia primates including lorises are traded openly on big illegal wildlife markets, but here infant monkeys are often seen in front of restaurants or along the road. Infants are caught from the wild and at the very least their mother is shot. These little monkeys serve as tourist attractions with no message accompanying the horrors they went through to get there. ConMonoMaya is actively trying to help these monkeys. They give environmental education to schools in the area and are actively working with wildlife services in Mexico. Another similarity is in the children’s faces. I was afraid that I would not see smiles again like those of the children in Cipaganti. The children have the most pure of laughs, so I was very happy when I discovered that those smiles can be found anywhere. The Mayan children of the village light up in exactly the same way when you talk and laugh with them. I feel very lucky to have been part of Little Fireface Project and now ConMonoMaya.

Denise Spaan

LFP’s Infant Dispersal Study

With the recent onset of the wet season I’ve noticed a few changes in our lorises behaviour’. They seem to groom more, which is understandable after the torrential downpours! I’ve also seen a lot of exciting baby activity, they just seem to be popping up all over the place. Consequently I am looking into infant behaviour and dispersal in Javan Slow Lorises. To start off I’ve been making family trees, social webs and interaction charts finding out whose who and can now see what a tight knit Loris Community we have here in West Java. Despite the large number of lorises we follow and the regular un-collared lorises we find throughout most territories, all of our animals are linked in some way, which is great fun to study.

Baby Alomah during his first collaring

Baby Alomah during his first collaring

We have everything from mothers and fathers, sons and daughters to new boyfriends and girlfriends amongst our focal animals and due to the long study period we can follow them throughout different life stages. We are watching the progress of newborns through their dispersal and have a front row seat as they eventually find territories and mates of their own. For example one of our slow lorises, Lucu, is the daughter of Charlie, a loris with one of the highest elevated territories we have. Lucu has now dispersed and traveled all the way down right next to the village and is now settling in with boyfriend Pak B. We have other individuals we’ve followed from birth such as Dali who is still a sub-adult and as he grows up we are already able to see him interacting with his mum’s newest baby and it’ll be exciting to track his dispersing journey. Alomah (son of One Eye) seems to be in the process of dispersing and is often found waking up with Azka or One-Eye. Maya and Fernando, young lorises themselves, have recently been seen foraging together and Fernando was seen with a very small, and very fluffy, baby so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this new family!

Babu Lucu when dispersing from mother Charlie.

Babu Lucu when dispersing from mother Charlie.

Despite having long been considered as solitary it appears that these mysterious primates have quite the social life and as this project progresses I’m hoping to be able to find out about it in more detail – what age they weaned, what age do they begin to disperse, how far do they disperse, what are the barriers – if any, do they disperse with a new mate or meet a new one there? So many questions, so little time!

Jess Wise

Student Volunteer

A visit to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

Earlier this month, I paid a visit to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre. During the week I spent there, I was lucky enough to help the keepers look after their animals. They have some amazing animals, all with their own sad story on how they ended up there – from otters to sun bears, from leopards to crocodiles, from hornbills to lorises.

cat

For some of the animals at the centre, their story does have a happy ending and they are able to be released back into the wild. While I was there, some gibbons were taken away for release to Sumatra, some Javan warty pigs were relocated to an endangered species breeding centre for reintroductions, and long-tailed macaques were sterilised as preparation for release later that month. Papers have also been submitted for the release of some of the many slow lorises that they have at that facility. However, the sheer number of slow loris that they have there – over 80 – clearly shows the scale of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Just before I left, another 2 slow lorises were handed in to the centre, one of which required medical attention. Many of these lorises can’t be released either, because their teeth have been pulled out to prevent them from biting their previous owners
or traders so they will live in the centre for now at least.

release

After spending the previous 2 months observing slow lorises in the wild, it was a sad sight to see so many in cages that can never be released. But Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre is doing an amazing job in light of such a bad situation. Although, like many other rescue centres here, they are running out of space to house these poor animals. I hope, for the sake of all the wild animals here in Indonesia, that consumer demand for the exotic and the illegal trade in animals stops because it is neither sustainable nor ethical.cage

 

Rebecca Cresswell-Davies: Student Volunteer

How to Find a PhD

Many LFP volunteers are undergrad students or have just completed their degree/masters and many of them ask me “How can I find a PhD?” How did you get yours?” so I thought his was a topic worth discussing! Now I can’t promise you a PhD nor can I say there is a sure fire way to get one but below are my tips.

First I need to explain the difference between two different PhD’s: The studentship and the self-funded. Studentships are generally a PhD offered by a group of supervisors which have a research question or problem and they are effectively hiring a student to solve this issue/answer the question and get a PhD at the same time. These do pop up regularly but are fiercely competitive since they are already funded. However you will get little to no control over the project, depending on the Uni and supervisor. You may get open studentships if you are lucky, these are random and allow you to create a project with a supervisor. Usually field work is not funded with these. May force you to do some teaching but that I all very good experience!

The second is the self-funded. These are sometimes advertised, but mostly these are the PhDs you create yourself and “pitch” to a supervisor. You have lots of control and this is essentially YOUR project but … you need to find the dosh. You need to pay tuition, living costs and field costs. My PhD is this kind :S Basically these are relatively easy enough to find/make since money is often the limiting factor for PhDs.

  • Be Persistent

It won’t happen on its own and a fairy godmother won’t just hand it to you (well she may but she’ll be a supervisor and proposing something very unethical…). You know the websites like findaphd.com etc. well go on it every week. Find universities you are interested in and visit their websites every week. Write it in a diary and on this same day weekly you go through all of your websites. But what are you looking for? You are looking for studentships! University websites are all awfully designed and I see it as a personal challenge. If you can find the page where they keep the studentship information you are halfway there. It is a maze and EVERY uni is different but a page does exist. It may be general or each faculty may have its page. You need to have a huge coffee (or wine) and go through every uni that you are interested in.

 

This is Katie who did her MSc with LFP. She now has a funded PhD through sheer persistence! Say hit o trackers Dendi and YiYi!!

This is Katie who did her MSc with LFP. She now has a funded PhD through sheer persistence! Say hit o trackers Dendi and YiYi!!

  • Find Supervisors

While you are waiting for your *OMG THIS IS PERFECTTTT* PhD to appear, why not help that happen and send e-mails to ALL of the possible supervisors which are experts in the field of research you are interested in. You need to do more than just say “Hi, I’m looking for a PhD”. Hopefully you know the direction you want to go in and have some ideas of how to accomplish this. These should be mentioned. Be super polite and respectful but not a robot and do not write more than a paragraph (depending on the supervisor, if s/he needs to scroll he may not read it coming from a random). Let them know you have a proposal you would like to show them, this way you can filter out the ones that could not care less or can’t take on more students. This way if a studentship pops up, they may let you know to apply or if they love you may get into discussions about a self-funded. Just don’t send a full proposal to them because they *could* take it and do this amazing research themselves.

  • Find Funding

Okay so let’s say you get in discussions for a self-funded. You are thinking “Hoooooly moley, I just found a PhD this is amazing!” but then you get asked “How will you be funding this?” which pops your short lived bubble. Well there are many grants out there, all of them are competitive and very few of them will pay tuition. I will now tell you something that most supervisors will hate. JUST SAY YOU HAVE THE MONEY AND FIGURE IT OUT LATER. There is a problem in the system that you can’t apply for funding until you have a PhD but you can’t get a PhD until you have funding. Just smile and say yes it is all fine for tuition and field work will be taken through grants. At least after it is agreed, JUMP on the funding and grant applications because you got yourself a PhD baby! Don’t forget government or bank loans which are often essential for paying the large up front tuition costs which you can pay back.

Ex-LFP coordinator Denise also found a funded PhD in Mexico! She is LOVING it.

Ex-LFP coordinator Denise also found a funded PhD in Mexico! She is LOVING it.

  • Apply everywhere

Whether you want the self-funded or studentship, you should be applying to as many studentships as you can. Applications are hard. They make you think critically and nicely sell yourself all the while remaining humble and showing the supervisor how good you will make him look. See it as practice so when you see your “OMG this one is just so perfect for me!” you will be ready. Plus, look at it this way: you can never get a yes if you don’t ask so go apply.

  • Talk to everyone

It is true that it isn’t always what you know, it is who you know. Networking skills are a HUGE asset. Go to conferences to meet the head honchos of the field you want to get into, buy them coffee or a drink, give them a business card of yourself you created a week prior and SHOW them how keen, smart and fabulous you are. Get their cards and follow up a week later. The 2 years before my PhD I would ask my parents to pay conference fees as a Christmas present. Also, you never know who the funders are. You may be lucky to talk to a manager of an institution who is looking to fund a PhD in your area. Believe me, this DOES happen, people.

Stephanie did her MSc with LFP and how she is self funding her amazing PhD project!

Stephanie did her MSc with LFP and how she is self funding her amazing PhD project!

The last tip is you need a little luck. Being at the right place at the right time is lucky and magical and can change your life so how can you make this happen? Be at as many places as possible, talk to as many people a possible, do as many things as possible. Won’t happen if you just sit around ;)

This was a bit of tough love but you need to be pragmatic. If you aren’t, the ones that are will get YOUR PhD. Rise students, rise! It helps to come up with a battle cry when time are low, mine is “SECONDARY PLANT METABOLITES!!!!!!”.

If you found a PhD please post your story in the comments to share with everyone!

Good luck.

Love and Lorises,

Francis Cabana

LFP Research Coordinator/ PhD Student

Jungle Gremlins of Java BBC 2, 29 Nov

Jungle Gremlins email banner repeat

 

 

On 29 November, BBC2 will air the award winning Jungle Gremlins of Java. This compelling documentary follows the research of Oxford Brookes University’s Professor Anna Nekaris, director of the Little Fireface Project, as she seeks to understand the behaviour of the elusive slow loris and to conserve them in the wild.

If you would like to help the slow loris after viewing this film, there is so much you can do!

  • Donate to the Slow Loris Fund at Oxford Brookes University & help our conservation & research efforts
  • Volunteer for the Little Fireface Project
  • Read our advice to help to remove illegal slow loris videos from the Internet
  • Zoos & rescue centres can download our nutrition guide to improve their loris’ diets
  • Visit our Etsy shop or Adopt a Slow Loris for Christmas and help our conservation efforts
  • Write to your ambassador in loris range countries and let him or her know your feelings about illegal trade & its impact on your travel & consumer choices

 

 

Meeting the Gremlins

Having the opportunity to complete a placement year/year in industry was a key feature that I looked forJess Wise when deciding on my university course. After deciding on Conservation Biology at UWE, U.K., thinking of ideas for my placement was never far from my mind and early into my second year I looked to finalise the details. I’d been keeping my eyes open, scanning job sites as well as reading magazines and watching various documentaries for ideas trying not to get ahead of myself (‘trekking through rainforest with David Attenborough’ is not a commonly advertised job title – I’ve checked). I was mentally compiling a list of ideas and dreams and becoming familiar with organisations, and although I’d eventually come to terms with the fact I wouldn’t be setting off anywhere with Sir David, I was determined to make the absolute most of my year out.

I’d come across Prof Anna Nekaris’ Little Fireface Project on one of my many searches and added it to ‘The List’. Months previously I had seen “Jungle Gremlins of Java’ and my interest was sparked. I knew of slow lorises, but in little detail and it was while watching Jungle Gremlins that I fell in love with the slow loris and was horrified to learn of their plight. Watching scenes of them elegantly wiggle through the trees with that snake-like movement then switching to those same huge eyes but from a cage in animal market shots brought me to tears. FALCO_1431The documentary had opened my eyes not only to the magic of seeing these curious animals in the wild, but also to the horrors and realities of fieldwork conservation. It inspired me and fueled my desire to spend the year out at an in-situ conservation project. I often thought of the documentary but spending my placement in Java sounded too much like a dream; it had the traveling aspect I was looking for and I had a new found love for slow lorises; fascinated by the little we knew of them, their adorable appearance and was desperate to help in any way I could to reduce the trade and numbers in the markets. By this point I had looked into the project and was impressed by its diversity. Jungle Gremlins of Java had left a lasting impression!

SONY DSCIt all happened quite quickly after that, a couple of days after finding LFP on a search page a friend randomly talked about someone she knew who was working in Java with slow lorises – ‘Firefaces or something’ and had I heard of it? That same day while flicking through an old copy of BBC Wildlife Magazine I came across an article about slow lorises, including an interview with Prof Nekaris and discussing her project in Java… Later that week, probably while procrastinating from some important deadline, a link to the Little Fireface Project page popped up on my news-feed of some social media site, possibly the only time when knowing what a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend has ‘liked’ was actually useful! Finally unable to ignore these series of events I took the plunge and found Anna’s email from the project website and the rest is history. Now three months down the line and writing this from the volunteer room in the Javan field station I can honestly say that it was the most life-changing decision I’ve ever made.

Jess Wise – Student Volunteer

PROTECTING THE LORIS – OUR LOCAL TRACKERS’ POINT OF VIEW

Trackers 1My name is Aconk and I have been working with Little Fireface Project (LFP) for 2 ½ years.  Even though I am the youngest working here, I was the first to start working with this new project.  My father, Pak Ade Jaja taught me how to walk in the forest and taught me how to identify animals and plants, including plants for medical purposes.   There were many myths about the slow loris, but I was not scared of them.  I had never seen one in the forest before I started with LFP.

KIARAThe local myths about the slow loris probably helped save the loris from the pet trade here in our village.  We believe that if the blood of a slow loris touches the ground all of the ground will dry up and the crops will die.  So, we never touched the loris.  We also believe that if a slow loris is in your house, your family will have bad luck or someone could even die!   I don’t believe these stories, but many people do.   City people don’t believe these myths, so this is bad for the slow loris.

Little Fireface Project is like a miracle to me and our village.  It has really changed the mind of people about caring for the forest, all animals and the environment.  LFP volunteers and staff (including us trackers) show local people how to maintain balance in the eco-system.  ACONK NUGRAHA and ADIN NUNUR with 'TOYIB'We have learned and taught that the ecosystem is important and that we should keep our environment healthy for our children and grand-children.  We don’t want them to only hear stories of what was here.   We share our experience and ideas with our community by holding movie days, pride day weekend events, nature club lessons for children and other impromptu events. Not only is LFP helping protect the loris, it is also providing jobs and income for our small and remote village. Children and adults are also learning English, which would be impossible for many of us, as we are so far from the nearest city.  We are also protecting other animals in the forest, not onlt the loris.  During our rounds, which we do seven days a week, we see many civets, owls, frogs and leopard cats.  Our community respect them and are especially proud of the Javan slow loris.

I work with three other trackers and they have similar positive things to say about LFP too. Pak Adin and Yiyi are two of our trackers who also work their farms here in West Java.  From a farmer’s perspective, they have learned that slow lorises and other mammals, birds and reptiles help keep pests at lower numbers.  Slow lorises are wonderful at eating insects and are really helpful, as many farms do not use insecticides.

Pak Adin has children that regularly attend our Nature Club classes.  They learn English and about the environment and that is REALLY important, as the children don’t really learn that at school.  LFP allows the children to try crafts and games that our small village has never seen or even heard of.

KidsEven the children, who are too young to attend Nature Club or school  like to play games with the volunteers and staff at LFP.  It’s always nice to hear that the children are involved in fun games.  Their favourite thing to do is colour in.  Nazmi, Yiyi’s son loves visiting the field station coordinator and sit and do colouring with her.

sHOPThe local shop owners also had very positive things to say about LFP.  They really enjoy seeing the ‘bule’ (local name for white people), as they always stop for a chat, even if they can’t speak Indonesian.  LFP support the local shops and the volunteers like to eat Indonesian cakes!

Before I started with LFP I could only speak Sunda (Javan language) and Bahasa Indonesian.  I am now advanced in speaking in English and Yiyi and Pak Adin are slowly learning.  We feel very proud to work with Little Fireface Project.

 

I guess we are lucky that laughter is an international language, and that we all get along really well.

Aconk, Adin and Yiyi – LFP Trackers

Education – Not just for kids!

I was planning on coming to Little Fireface Project (LFP) with my husband Michael to lend a hand with Nature Club, the environmental education program here and assist with loris observation data, for just three months. 12 months later, we are still here and I have found my bliss.
Nature ClubNature Club had a very good foundation and children were coming along and doing crafts and learning about nature and the slow lorises. The classes were very casual and the 12 or so children that came regularly had lots of fun, but I saw more …
I could see Nature Club had real potential and I immediately put my hand up to assist with building on this program. I had worked at a sanctuary in Australia and I was the environmental education coordinator there, so I had a million ideas running in my head. The great thing about Little Fireface Project is that I was given free rein to be creative and brainstorm with others as to what was needed.
NatureSo, after a few weeks of putting together lesson plans which covered audible, visual and kinaesthetic learning styles, the new NATURE CLUB was born, with much more structure. LFP Nature Club now has monthly environmental themes and we have already worked our way through forests, mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and endangered species (time does fly when you are having fun!) and future lesson plans will cover; colours and camouflage, recycling, ocean life and ‘the night’.
With over 30 children attending regularly now, our lessons need to be quite broad and adaptable, as the age group is from 5-14 years old. Many children cannot read or write yet, so much of the younger children’s lessons include lots of colouring pictures and visual activities. The older children who can read and write have pre/post questionnaires each month to see if what we are doing is working. The learning improvement of each subject has been astounding and including lots of hands on, games and outdoor activities really work for these kids!
Nature Club goes to SchoolLittle Fireface Project has kindly supported and sponsored two brand NEW Nature Club Classrooms as part of a new school in our village. The first stage of the school is due for completion in January 2015, so Nature Club will be split into two groups. We will now have a 5-10 year class and 10 year plus class. This means the 10+ can really get serious (with lots of fun, of course!) and do more field trips and outdoor studies, with even more structured learning.
nATURE cLUBOne single event that sticks in my head about the Nature Club children and their attitude toward wildlife was when we got a call one night about a slow loris in someone’s garden. There was a loris in their tree at their house. When our LFP rescue team got to the loris, to capture and relocate it, we discovered that three of our Nature Club girls (10 year olds) had found a Kaliandra flower and tied it to a long stick and put it near (but not too close) to the loris. When I asked why they did what they did, their easy reply was “because we know Kaliandra is their favourite food and we know that we can’t put out hand near the loris, because they are venomous”. To me, that whole event was amazing for two reasons. The local people know that the lorises belong in the forest and they really respect them and the children had learned about what the loris needed and its habits.

KidaNature Club is forever evolving and I am now trying a few new ideas, and the new ideas are working.
Now each class has an ‘in disguise’ public speaking aspect to it and the children who would once run from the class crying are now proudly and LOUDLY standing up in class and sharing their knowledge and stories. We also now have homework each week, so the children take it home Pak Dendiand ask for help from their parents (remember, many children can’t write yet), so the parents are getting involved too!
So basically, Nature Club is a huge success and I could NOT do it without the much needed help of our local manager/teacher, Pak Dendi and our trainee teacher, Sri. I must admit, Nature Club is always the favourite activity of our volunteer students from overseas too! They always put their hand up to help, as Indonesian kids are truly amazing and way too much fun!
The whole Nature Club program is done on a very tight budget and we just get creative with how we do things. We make our own paints, play-dough and recycle our paper and bottles.
I found my bliss I tell you … Bliss!

Sharon Williams – Field Station Coordinator / Environmental Education Officer