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

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

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