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 WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK NADIA!!!

We love what Nadia is doing, and here are some ways you can help too:

Tickling IS Torture

Here at LFP We are delighted to see the world getting behind the campaign to save the slow loris from the terrible illegal pet trade!

International Animal Rescue’s (IAR) ‘Tickling is Torture’ campaign has received growing publicity in recent weeks, but we think we can all still do better!

Recently the campaign received some celebrity backing from  TV traveller Simon Reeve, comedian and actress Jo Brand, actor Peter Egan and the TV naturalist Chris Packham; quite a list of supporters.

simon reeve IAR

Jo Brand IAR

Peter Egan IAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although people think the slow lorises in these videos look “cute”, healthy and happy, they are often showing signs of high stress levels, obesity and injury. Slow lorises belong in the wild, and we think you would agree when you look at the two photographs below, which loris looks happier and healthier!

 

loris stressedNycticebus javanicus_ Andrew Walmsley2

 

 

 

 

 

 

So PLEASE sign the pledge, it will only take a few moments!! And take a moment to share the link with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

You can learn more about why slow loris pet videos are so cruel, from our inspiring Director, Professor Anna Nekaris, here.

And you can watch the IAR campaign video here. Be warned the video contains some heart breaking images but this is the TRUTH behind these “cute” videos, PLEASE watch and learn! Let’s send this video viral and stop the abundance of cruel slow loris pet videos.

You can also support the fightback by wearing the ‘Loris: Forest Protectors, Not YouTube Pets’ message, glowing and bright on your back.

Together we can stop the cruelty of these slow loris pet videos!

Mask Mayhem

Hello Loris Fans,

Please help Endangered Asian Species Trust (EAST) to save the pygmy slow loris.

EAST would like people all over the world to take a selfie with their pygmy slow loris mask on along with a card or flag showing your country, and post these photo’s to their Facebook page. You can download the mask & find out more by visiting their website.

These photos will be shared at a meeting with the Vietnamese government on August 1st, to show the how much loris love there is and how far it spreads, in the hope it will show how important loris conservation is.

Our LFP team in Java have got involved, will you??

LFPpygmymasks

And if one loris mask isn’t enough for you, you can also download one of LFP’s Tereh or Bunga loris masks and post it to LFP’s Facebook page!

PLEASE SHARE THE LORIS LOVE!

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,

Stephanie

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

 

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

Top 10 tips worth learning!

I’ve been at Little Fireface Project for 14 months now and Nature Club has been by ‘baby’ for the past 10 months.

Coming from a tourism marketing background in Melbourne, Australia and no intense love for children, this was bound to be fun!   I don’t play with children; I go out for dinner and enjoy champagne.  I LOVE nature and wildlife, I hike and photograph with my husband, but never really hang out with kids.  I’ve decided though that children are like cats … the more you keep away, the more they insist on sitting right on you whilst you try to work (the cats, not the kids).  Now I look back though, I realise that children always sought me out at parties, weddings and family gatherings; and honestly I think it was because I was the most ridiculous ‘grown-up’ in the crowd and I genuinely enjoyed myself.   I absolutely believe this is a very useful skill, so try harnessing that energy sometimes if you can… genuinely.  It will be good for your soul too!

Tip# 1: Genuinely enjoy what you do … and the rest will follow.

So I figured, I’m creative, how hard could working with children be?  I just need to make learning fun and get involved like I do at parties.  Surely if they were having fun they would HAVE to learn and I, in turn, would enjoy it too right?   Yes! That’s exactly what happened surprisingly enough, Phew!

RidiculousTip# 2: Learning should be fun, not just for the children.

Restructuring Nature Club has been has been my favourite role at Little Fireface Project and I have enjoyed seeing the progress of the children during their monthly themed sessions and seeing the numbers continue to balloon.

Tip# 3: Ensure what you are doing is working.  I do pre-post questionnaires for each month to gauge if my lessons are working.

Children join Nature Club every Friday for two hours of hands on and fun learning with a different theme each month.   I cover all styles of learning but, without doubt the kinesthetic learning style is the favourite here in West Java!  These children have a genuine creative flare and when given tasks they produce the most immaculate pieces of art with very little prompting.

So the last time I blogged we had just completed mammals, amphibian, insect and endangered species themes.   We had a visit to the zoo and had heated debates about why animals are endangered.  That was great and it made me realise that some of these children have a great passion for wildlife, even though, in general they are brought up to see wild animals in an indifferent light.

Tip# 4: Don’t assume that every child thinks the same (or learns the same)

Since then, we have learned all about our solar system and the night skies and that clouds are NOT planets.   We played sensory games to show how nocturnal animals have adapted to live in darkness and we made ‘space playdough’ and made our own planetary system.  It was messy and I looked like I had been to a street festival for many weeks later, with glitter in places I don’t dare mention.

Tip# 5:  Keep things interesting and mix it up … go outside, make puzzles, posters and puppets.  This is done on minimal budget here and we recycle EVERYTHING.

Our current Nature Club theme is ‘oceans’ and strangely, the children seem to have an excellent knowledge of the oceans compared to what they knew about forests when we first began.  The ocean is about two and half hour drive from us and the forest is at the doorstep … literally, so this was a surprise for me.     One 10 year old girl, Hismi, was up in arms over the killing of all of the sharks and fish.  She said “killing sharks and fishing too much is really bad for the ocean’s health and we will all be sorry one day”.  I came out of that class with the biggest of grins on my face.

Tip# 6: NEVER assume the children know less than you!

Next month I am sure will be everyone’s favourite theme when we learn about primates.  There are some great primate activities planned and I cannot wait to be climbing, swinging, leaping and playing in the forest near where we live for the CHIMP-OLYMPICS (remember, I’m the ridiculous adult and will be the first to climb a tree like an orangutan).    I’m also in the process of making a ‘Primate Quest – Q & A game’ which will be available for all organisations to use in their education programs.

Tip# 7: Think outside of the square.  Try things.  Sometimes they work sometimes they don’t!

Did you know that Little Fireface Project, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Columbus Zoo funded the building of the new Nature Clubs rooms which officially opened this year?  Since then, our classes have grown and grown.   What started as a class of 10 is now 45 eager and ready to learn children.  Forty-five LOUD and energy-filled children learning about nature and wildlife (did I mention loud?).  The children have even decided that they want to start a tree planting club and want to plant trees at least once a month.    Now that’s a win!

Tip# 8: Reward effort … small stickers or cards go a long way.  We have attendance awards every two months.

Once more, I am so proud of my personal achievements here and particularly with Nature Club.  I only have three months left on the ground here, and then we are off to Europe via Central and South America, hopefully to do more environmental education with organisations along the way.  Now there is something I NEVER thought I’d say.

Tip# 9: Take a leap of faith, whether it be in environmental education or life!

I do believe a solid foundation has been set for future environmental education endeavours here and I just know Little Fireface Project will continue with the wonderful work they have been doing.

Tip#10: Get out and do it!.. It just might change your life and someone else’s too.

 

Sharon Williams – Project Coordinator/Environmental Education Manager

BURSTING WITH PRIDE

 Twice a year in our small village in West Java, Little Fireface Project hosts Slow Loris Pride Days. Pride Days is weekend of fun, games and community gathering at the end of January and again in July. We host these days to celebrate the Javan slow loris and to say a huge thank you to the people who live here and who help protect the wildlife near their home. You see, the area surrounding our village is mainly agroforest, so working together to secure habitat and protect the species is of great importance. Although the people here knew about the slow loris before Little Fireface Project arrived, there were many myths surrounding the loris and people were scared of the cryptic creature. Today it is a different story, with the community really caring for the loris and looking at it as almost a mascot for their area, that they can be proud of protecting. A Critically Endangered primate at their doorstep and they plan to look after it!
 So in celebration of the slow loris, pride days started a few years ago and are always one of the village main events. The event this January was HUGE and served as a double celebration; Pride Days and the opening of our new school. Little Fireface Project in conjunction with Columbus Zoo and Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund completed the building two new school rooms and our Nature Club rooms. This means that all children can now attend school, no matter what their socio-economic situation is. All of the primary school children in our area can have an education.
With over 400 people attending Slow Loris Pride Days this year, there was something for everyone. MASTERCHEF Cipaganti saw ladies cooking off for some great prizes, and the huge oily and slippery bamboo poles saw men and kids trying to climb up to the top to get prizes. I was exhausted just watching them. One child never gave up and got to the top … after an hour of continuous trying!
There were sack races, marble and spoon races and ‘bobbing for coins in the flour’ games. OH WHAT FUN!
 We enjoyed a band and some wonderful dance groups showed us their moves, as well as group dancing for everyone. It was a blast.
After lots of planning and anticipation, we also started our tree planting initiative. Phase One of ‘ ‘corridors for slow loris and wildlife’ began. Over 250 trees were planted along the river by over 70 enthusiastic children. This is not only good news for wildlife, this is also good news for the farmers, as the tree planting assists with river bank stabilisation and soil integrity. Phases 2 is ready to go and phases 3-5 are well in the planning stage. Our ever keen Nature Club kids want to start a ‘forest guardian’ club so they can help with future plantings. The children actually jumped up and down and clapped when they were asked about the idea. I think they liked it!
After slow loris pride days, I sat back, had a coffee and reflected on a small community that had come together to celebrate one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates, the Javan slow loris. I thank everyone here and I love how children and adults alike help the Little Fireface Project in any way they can.
This will be my last Slow Loris Pride Days. I leave in June and I can honestly say that the community spirit here will stick with me for a lifetime!

Sharon Williams – Little Fireface Project Coordinator / Environmental Education Manager

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

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