Have Fun with the LFP Team

Aloha, my name is Elsa. I am a University student who came to Cipaganti to join the LFP team in June of this year. I volunteer at LFP with my friend Endah to finish my final project for my university. My project in LFP is to observe infant development and dispersal. So, I have to follow uncollared baby lorises and I have to say that it’s a little bit hard to do because if the baby was hiding or goes to the area that I don’t know, I have a hard time finding it again. Sometimes, when I go to find the baby, I fail. Because the mother is not always with the baby. But, it’s still fun when I go to the forest to observe lorises because I have trackers that always help me.

Two weeks ago, the LFP Team and the trackers went to the local hot springs together. It was partly a goodbye present for Laura who was leaving after she finished her work in Cipaganti. We went to Darajat Pass all in Aconk’s family car, squished together because the car was a little bit small for all of us. We arrived at 6 pm and then we were playing together and taking a lot of photos until 10 pm. I had so much fun because we can do something together with all of the members. I always hope we can go to another beautiful place together before I go back home to Jakarta.

The LFP Team at the Hot springs

Another exciting moment was Indonesian Independence day on the 17th of August 2016. We made a parade with the students from MI Al-Hidayah school all the way until the football field in Pamegatan. Alex and Nadia wore Tereh’s and Bunga’s costumes to make the parade more fun for the kids around the villages. We played an Independence Day song and the school’s song all along the march to draw attention from the people along the way and finished with a unique display of performances from all of the villages.

Alex and Nadia with the slow loris costumes

Thankfully, the weather was so nice so we were able to make a great parade with two giant lorises at the front of the march. Along the way, we also shared stickers with the kids and people who watched us at the side. I feel happy because a lot of people were so enthusiastic about the Independence Day. They made a lot of accessories which hung up along the way or on their own house and they also put the Indonesian flag in front of their house. The village chiefs made a lot of tournaments such as football and volley ball matches. It made Independence Day very special for the local people.

Me and the MI Al Hidayah parade

One last memory that I want to share is how I got to teach the MI students aerobics routines every Friday morning, when I didn’t have a shift late on Thursday night of course. The MI students were so cute when they tried to follow my instructions. They followed along perfectly! I became so close with the kids and I will find it hard to leave them when I have to go back to Jakarta. I always want to play with them. Should I move to Cipaganti and live here for the rest of my life? What do you think, my friend?

The students when they do the aerobics

The students when they do the aerobics

There have been so many happy and fun moments that I can’t count since I got here. I will never regret my decision to join LFP in Cipaganti and volunteering for three months. I found a lot of new experiences and knowledge that I received from all of the members. There is so many people to whom I want to give my thanks. For example, I thank Marie for teaching me the way to analyse the data with RStudio and many more people that I couldn’t count but who are so precious to me. Thank you for giving me this incredible experience!

LFP Team is my new family in Garut

LFP Team is my new family in Garut

Loris spotting: A tale of tragedy and triumph

“Ok, Azka the loris is definitely somewhere within this….2 km2 area”. Myself and Aconk, the tracker, were about a 45 minute hike up into the forest, in the dark, and suddenly we couldn’t get a signal on the loris we came to observe that night. Though we were unsure of what the problem was, we were certain that we couldn’t pin down the location to less than that area. With only headlamps and red filters to search, our hopes were slim of finding Azka that night.

Lorises are excellent at hiding and sometimes I think that they only let us watch them when they want to be watched. For starters, they enjoy sleeping in dense patches of bamboo where they are virtually impossible to see at times. I don’t blame them, it looks like a rather comfortable little fortress, but that doesn’t help us much. And so we sit, under a beautiful sky of stars, and wait. Wait for the loris to venture out of its cozy cocoon of bamboo and begin to explore the night.

I love these nights trekking through the maze of fields and forests in search of the ever elusive yet undeniably charming Javan slow loris. But as much as I enjoy the search, I recognize that our work would be much more difficult without the help of some essential equipment. Most critical perhaps being the tiny radio collars that each of “our” lorises wears. These collars transmit a loris’ location to help us find them. It’s amazing to see the lorises moving swiftly through dense vegetation as if the collar wasn’t even there.

collier

A photo of one of our lorises navigating the forest with their radio collar.

In order to detect a certain loris’ unique frequency, our trackers carry receivers hooked up to large antennae which they expertly move to try and follow the signal as we navigate the steep terrain. It’s embarrassing to be gasping for breath and sweating as we hike through the forest and then turn to see a dry-faced tracker who’s carrying twice the gear, plus a massive antenna and not even out of breath. Oh, and he’s probably smoking a cigarette at the same time.

Aconk getting a radio signal during a day shift

But here we were, unable to get a signal and unsure of what the problem was exactly. Maybe the collar was losing power. Maybe the antennae was malfunctioning, or the receiver. We could do tests on the equipment easily back at the LFP field station, but neither of us wanted to give up a night’s worth of observational data! So, we began to search…manually.

Using the bamboo patch that we knew the loris had used as a sleep site earlier that day as a starting point, we began to systematically search the trees around that area as it was only 19:00 and thus Azka most likely only left the sleep site an hour ago, no more.

I didn’t realize how spoiled I had been until this moment; having a perfectly clear signal easily directing me to the very tree that a loris was in. I didn’t realize it, until it was taken away from me. So, we began scanning the trees, one by one. We began climbing into difficult to reach positions just so that we could be sure to have had a view of each part of each tree; to be sure that we hadn’t missed a spot!

The beautiful landscape that we’re lucky enough to work in

And then I saw it, like a flash of fire in the night. Two glowing red circles moving slowly, calculatingly through a kayu putih tree only 15 metres from the sleep site. After a quick high five and a brief celebratory dance, we sat down and began our observations. And you know what? Those 5 hours of data felt more earned than any other shift I’ve had.

I have an enormous amount of respect for earlier conservationists and the incredible data that has been collected through hard work and perseverance. But I’m very thankful that we have this great technology and equipment now to make our work easier. Less energy spent on finding the loris means more energy spent on saving them!

  • Sharon McCabe, Field Station Coordinator