EFP Congress LFP talks

EFP

Below is a list of LFP staff and student talks at the European Federation of Primatology’s congress in Rome. We’re very excited to be involved in such a fantastic meeting of like-minded professionals to share the knowledge we gain here about slow lorises!

Wednesday 26th August (poster sessions)

17:30     Priscillia Miard, K. Anne-Isola Nekaris
              First field surveys and Red List assessment of two Bornean slow                                        lorises (Nycticebus menagensis and N. kayan) using local knowledge in Sabah,                 Borneo.

17:30     Siobhan Webster, Louisa Musing, Asier Vazquez, K. Anne-Isola Nekaris
              Public perceptions of threatened slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) on Web 2.0 sites               and implications for social media reporting policies. 

Thursday 27th August

10:15     K. Anne-Isola Nekaris, Nabajit Das
              Venom in Furs: pelage variation and its implications for slow loris evolution

13:45     Francis Cabana, K. Anne-Isola Nekaris
              Gimme more: Exudates do not characterise a fallback food in the diet of the                         Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus).

15:30     Kathleen D. Reinhardt, Wirdateti, K. Anne-Isola Nekaris
              Relationships between altitude, habitat structure and behaviour of Nycticebus                      javanicus in a submontane agroforest.

Friday 28th August

12:15     Vincent NijmanWirdateti, K. Anne-Isola Nekaris
              Primate trade on Java – an overview of 25 years of market surveys. 

15:30     Averee LuhrsSimon K. Bearder, K. Anne-Isola Nekaris
             The prospective use of occupancy modelling as a tool for monitoring potto                           (Perodicticus ibeanus) populations in Kibale National Forest, Uganda.

New Loris Stars Are Born

Our work this month had a very different spin on it. For the last three weeks, we have been working with a film crew from the Japanese television network, NHK. Their plan is to make a documentary about the slow lorises for broadcast in Japan. As there have been many lorises documented as pets in Japan, extending our conservation message to the Japanese people could potentially have enormous benefits for all species of loris.

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Cameraman Shima films at the local Festival.

Our normal research activities had to take a backseat while we searched for the most interesting loris stories to film, and yet our workload was doubled. This was my first experience working with a film crew and it was a real challenge to make the process work. The film crew consisted of only three members, a camera man (Shima), a producer/lighting director (Mikio, whom we have named Maya’s baby after!), and a translator/coordinator (Tamiko).

What I was most surprised about is that when a film crew arrives at a site, they already have a story in mind and it’s the job of local researchers and local experts to try to make that happen. As you might imagine, wild animals do not always play by the rules or follow a storyline. As a result, more often than not, the story devised for a nature documentary will be very different from the original plan. I was also amazed by how non-invasive they have been in their work. Before the film crew arrived, I feared that they would either disturb the lorises with their bright lights or not be able to see in the dim red light that we use to observe them. Thankfully, they had a high-tech solution. Their ultra-high sensitivity camera allowed them to capture high definition videos while operating in red light even
lower than the red light that we use for observations. It’s an amazing piece of kit.

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Shima films as Anna interacts with the local children.

The NHK crew have had as much luck as they have had misfortune so far. Some of the lorises, in typical loris fashion, decided to hide in bamboo all night. Other nights, the lorises did plenty of travelling and exhibited foraging and feeding behaviour (including one of our female lorises, Lucu, eating some fruit which is not something we often see). These kinds of natural behaviours are great to see at times like this because it means that the film crew are not heavily disturbing the lorises in their nightly routine. Their success has been largely due to the efforts our trackers (Aconk, Adin, Dendi, and Yiyi) who expertly found all of the lorises the film crew wanted to capture on camera.

The film crew filled the role of researchers themselves one night when they became the first to discover that one of our female lorises, Sibau, had given birth to a new baby. Sibau only had a baby earlier this year so this is very interesting news indeed. Babies in our research area are always exciting as it is a sign that the lorises are still healthy and reproducing. Just last week, we collared an adult male in Sibau’s home range. This loris is more than likely the baby’s father. This may allow us to observe how the new arrival affects his behaviour. The timing couldn’t be better.

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The team measure and check the female rescued from an electricity box.

In a strange turn of events, the film crew also became a rescue team. This morning, they left for Cikananga Rescue Center to film some rescue lorises with some precious cargo on board. Last night the LFP team were presented with a young female loris found in an electricity box in the center of Garut, the nearest city to our field site. As the rescue center is roughly an eight hour drive away, it is difficult for us to transport lorises from our field site. Luckily the film crew’s trip to Cikananga was perfectly timed with our rescue, so they took on the job of transporting our city-dwelling, electricity-loving loris (Listrika, named for the Indonesia word for ‘electricity’: listrik).

The last television documentary made about the lorises here (Jungle Gremlins of Java) was back in 2012 by the BBC. The attention that it brought to the plight of the loris was truly amazing. The LFP team cannot wait to see how all the footage comes together and what impact this new documentary will have on the illegal trade in slow loris pets in Japan and elsewhere.

– Robert O’Hagan, LFP Research Coordinator

For the love of Loris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Prof Anna meets the new Kepala Desa.

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

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

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

 

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Imam Nana Sumpena speaks to the crowd.

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

– Faye Vogely

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All the children from Nature Club show their colouring books.

Human Nature

Our new volunteer, Peter Rogers, has a background in creative studies. In the below blog, you can read his poetic approach to his first encounter with Shirley. 

            Blip… Blip… Blip… Blip…
Adin holds the satellite high above his head, the prongs silhouetted black against the sterile light of the gibbous moon. He swivels the radio transceiver, and the blips grow louder and quieter as he gages the direction our target is headed. The target in question is a loris named Shirley, also called the Shy Lady.

She is called “the Shy Lady” for good reason: ever elusive, she has been the bane of trackers and researchers alike since she was first collared in December of 2013, largely due to her preference for dense bamboo thickets. Tonight is no exception; we follow the tracking signal until our headlamps alighted upon a familiar sight.

“Ughhhhh….” Faye sighs regretfully as she gazes at the bamboo forest, with good reason. Of all the habitats lorises tend to use, bamboo is the hardest in which  to track them. Thick, impenetrable, and teeming with insects and invertebrates, it is nigh impossible to maintain a constant surveillance within the terrain. As we approach the thicket, it begins to drizzle, and we are soon coated in a fine sheen of glistening moisture.

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A caterpillar found in the bamboo forest, about four inches long with a crown-like crest on its head. Called the “Kalliandra Caterpillar” by one of our trackers.

Nevertheless, we press on. As soon as we plunge into the bamboo thicket, the atmosphere changes perceptibly. The bamboo provides a shield against the light drizzle, but also pressurizes the moisture within, to the point that the humidity is almost visible; microscopic droplets hovering suspended within the air around us. The canopy surrounds us like an immense womb, and I am forced to rely entirely on the light of my headtorch as the dense mesh of leaves blocks the moon.

Aha!” Faye points triumphantly somewhere to our left. I gaze around to see the eyes of the loris we have so desperately sought. Twin orbs of dying sunlight, bleeding out at us through the dense mesh of leaves; they vanish immediately as the two headtorches are pointed toward them.

At last, we have first contact. We settle down in the soft bed of dead bamboo leaves around us, content to give Shirley the space that the Shy Lady deserves. As we sit in the foliage, scanning the canopy for the telltale eyeshine that will give away Shirley’s presence, I reflect upon the impression that our presence must have on her.

We are children of Humanity; up-jumped primates who wear processed plants as clothing, harnessing the power of electrons to bleed light out into the cosmos. Humanity has already taken so much from Shirley and her fellow loris kin; our cities have encroached upon their jungle home, and the refuse of our overconsumption is ruining what small patches of forest are left to them.

And now we have followed this dwindling species into the last domains left to them, wielding beams of strange light to pursue them for our purpose: data collection. Nevertheless, our presence here is necessary for the continued survival of the Javan slow loris species: we must gather data in order to investigate the factors that have contributed to the species’ population decline. Furthermore, our presence scares off poachers, one of the largest threats to slow lorises in the wild.

It is the paradoxical nature of humanity that we ultimately become the very thing that we hate in the world: since a young age, I have always tried to seek the path through which I could best allow nature to reclaim the ruined tatters that humanity has made of our planet. After long years spent searching the fields of science for the most effective method by which I could pursue my plight, I found the unique niche of Primate Conservation, and eventually discovered the Little Fireface Project. Thus I was finally able to pursue my dream of rectifying the nature that Humanity has destroyed.

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Adin, one of our trackers, hanging out with Safari Micky in the bamboo forest.

I am brought out of my reverie by Faye’s triumphant cry. “She’s been there all along!” I gaze toward the spotlight Faye’s headtorch makes against the foliage, and find myself gazing directly into the eyes of the very loris that we have been trying to find: twin orbs of dying sunlight; flickering embers in the fires of natural Java. The sight of her gaze burned itself into my memory that night, leaving an afterimage that time will never be able to erase.

When I looked into those eyes, I saw a reflection of myself: a tiny critter crawling upon the surface of our rock hurtling through the abyss; the urge to survive, the urge to procreate, the urge to leave some impression upon the vast universe into which we have found ourselves born.

It is so easy to give up. So easy to just sit back and just let the inevitable flow of technology roll over the world, steamrolling our charismatic megafauna and turning the natural world into a distant memory.

Yet there is hope, and I saw it within the eyes of that baleful primate within the canopy of bamboo leaves on that misty July night. Although we yet have much work to do, and many things to learn along the way, there is still hope; twin embers that we may yet reignite, shining on against the darkness of the night.

The next generation

 “Our greatest natural resource is in the minds of our children.”

– Walt Disney

2015 JUN VOGELY - NC PLANTS (39)It only seems fitting that these famous words were uttered by Walt Disney, a man who cared greatly for both youth and the natural environment. Nature Club, an initiative started by LFP in 2012, aims to nurture those minds and provide them with what they need to make a difference in today’s ever-changing world. Our field site in West Java is a combination of beautiful, Indonesian montane forests facing an increasing presence of agriculture. Educating the local children on the importance of protecting what is left is key to preserving the habitat of the slow loris.

Every Friday, children from the surrounding villages are invited to join us for the free Nature Club sessions at Sekolah Mi-Alhidayah. The school, which was built with the help of LFP and its sponsors, is run by our head-tracker and project manager Dendi Rustandi. One of the rooms in the inviting and brightly-coloured building is set aside for the use of Nature Club, and as time passes its walls are slowly becoming plastered in drawings, maps, pictures of animals and plants, and murals.

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Girls listen as Pak Dendi explains about ecosystems.

Nature Club aims to educate by providing fun, involving classes on numerous biological and ecological topics. In the past, the children have learned about wildlife (both local and international) from a theoretical perspective, as well as getting involved in a more hands-on manner. Sessions start with a quick English lesson, teaching the children key words for the afternoon ahead. Following, we ask them to fill in questionnaires on the subject matter. By retaking these tests after a few weeks, we can conduct research into the effect of our work by looking at how much the children retain and how their views of the world around them are changing. After the necessities are over, we aim to keep the lessons light-hearted, fun, and involving. We play games, go outside, or have them conduct basic scientific experiments. As long as laughter fills the air we know we’re doing our job well.

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The Conservation Passport tracks attendance and motivates children to keep coming back – a “diploma” awaits at the end of the curriculum.

At the moment, the focus of the curriculum is on the importance of trees and agroforestry. The children are discovering the botanical world as they build a tree nursery, learning to value trees not just for their ecological, but also for their economic benefits. As the landscape in Cipaganti is facing pressure from agriculture, the loris habitat is slowly disappearing. By educating the children (and, in separate efforts, the farmers) on how trees may benefit both themselves and the lorises, we hope to provide an environment where both species can live closely together.

Working with the children here in Cipaganti is incredibly rewarding. Since we started the new curriculum last month, attendance has increased every week. Whenever I walk through the schoolgates, I am welcomed by a group of excited children: “Miss Pey, miss Pey! Apa kabar?” The only answer I can give, is great. Things here are absolutely great.

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The most important thing: having fun!

Research Ready – LFP’s plans for the future

As the new research coordinator at LFP, I have been charged with the task of bringing LFP’s research projects into the future and increasing our data output and impact. A change in management is a difficult time for any project. Before one can move forward with new research, one must become familiar with the research previously and currently conducted at a field site.

The diversity of tasks carried out by LFP made this a difficult yet rewarding task for me. Our research spans conservation education, behavioural research, sleeping site analysis, small carnivore research, camera trapping, and market surveys. Despite our already wide array of research interests, I plan to expand the research scope of LFP. Unfortunately none of our new research projects are in full swing yet but I can say something about our plans and early stage developments.

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Stephanie Poindexter doing loris observations in our fieldsite in Java.

Two of our current research focuses are based on two of our PhD students, Katie Reinhardt and Stephanie Poindexter. Stephanie is interested in the cognitive ability of lorises and whether or not they use large-scaled spatial memory and directed travel to navigate their home ranges. This involves collecting as much GPS data as possible on the lorises’ movements. Stephanie plans to bolster her dataset with object permanence testing on captive individuals. Object permanence is the term used to describe the awareness that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer visible. In its most simple form, this level of cognitive ability can be investigated by showing the lorises desirable (food) items and then hiding them from view by covering them over with something. If the lorises are observed to remove the cover and take the item rather than assume that the item has vanished, this would provide strong evidence for an awareness of object permanence in lorises. The ability to understand object permanence may help the lorises locate food and other resources and may help us explain how lorises navigate their environment.

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Katie working on her vegetation plots.

Katie’s PhD is just as fascinating. She is interested in slow loris energetics (i.e. how they use and regulate their energy) in a changing climate. Katie’s research is especially relevant now because of the growing threat of global climate change to our planet’s wildlife and because many animals, including our lorises, are being forced up to higher and higher altitudes as human settlements and agriculture encroach further upland. Climate varies with altitude and may be forcing our lorises to behave in new ways to survive. Katie’s research is key to understanding this type of adaptation. Katie’s research will also examine the potential role of lorises as plant pollinators. We are currently setting up our plots in each of our lorises’ home ranges. From these plots, we will collect data on vegetation, phenology (phenology is the study of periodic biological phenomena in relation to climatic conditions e.g. flowering and fruiting seasons), and climatic variables such as temperature and humidity. These data, combined with behavioural data should give us an insight into the effect of climate of loris behaviour.

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The fieldsite in Java experiences a large amount of disturbance in the form of agriculture.

As the single biggest threat to lorises at our field site in West Java is habitat destruction and disturbance due to farming practices, a big focus for me this will be the introduction of agroforestry practices to the area. Agroforestry is the practice of integrating trees into agricultural systems. If done in a systematic and carefully considered way, trees on farms can have huge benefits. Planting trees on farmland can lead to carbon sequestration (which is key in tackling greenhouse gas driven climate change), better water and nutrient cycling (leading to higher crop yields for a reduced input), reduced soil erosion, natural disaster mitigation (by reducing flooding and landslides through soil stabilisation), increased animal biodiversity (through increased plant species diversity and increased habitat area), habitat restoration, economic benefits, and many other things besides. In systems like these, trees provide many services to both humans and wildlife. This project will be a long-term endeavour and will require the construction of a tree nursery and much trial and error with regards to tree species and crop combinations but we hope that our lorises and the other wildlife in the area will feel the positive effects of this in time.

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Tree-tagging with tin tags allows Katie to monitor phenology and habitat structure.

Other studies that are in the pipeline for this year are loris vocalisation research, baseline biodiversity surveys, and small carnivore behavioural observations. Already this year LFP team members have contributed to the publication of around 15 scientific articles on topics as varied as loris evolutionary history, loris venom function, the illegal wildlife trade, loris distribution, loris conservation, and loris captive welfare. I hope that the rest of the year will be even more fruitful. Watch this space.

– Robert O’Hagan, LFP Research Station Coordinator

Village Life

Coming to Cipaganti as a volunteer, without any background in primatology, zoology, conservation or science was – without doubt – one of the most daunting things I have signed up for to date. (At the risk of that sounding overly dramatic, let me first point out out that as an actor, that may be the underlying tone of this blog entry… Sincere apologies to all.)

Why then, might you ask, would someone like me even consider such an endeavour?

Short Answer? Adventure!

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Cipaganti’s amazing sunrise.

Long answer? I am a closet nature-nerd (Shhhh…).
My Nat Geo subscription dates back to the age of 12 and much to the dismay of my parents, I refuse to let a single dog-eared issue be disposed of. I have also always had a burning urge to travel, albeit not to the usual hum-drum, tourist-filled places… My sense of wanderlust being firmly established yet somewhat unconventional, perhaps.

When my long-time friend from home, Rob, took up the position of field station co-ordinator at LFP, I didn’t really bat an eyelid. He was always heading off to some far-flung corner of the planet saving animals and protecting their natural habitats. Like a ninja. A CONSERVATION ninja… However, when he mentioned to me that there was an opportunity for non-ninjas, like me, to volunteer in the field and actually contribute something to this incredibly worthy cause, my interest spiked. Suddenly e-mails were being hurried back and forth and plans were being made at lightning speed. A mere seven days after my flights were booked, I was off. Nervous as hell.

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Mountains!

Life here in the village of Cipaganti, in the Garut regency of West Java, is as far removed from “The Western Way” as one could imagine. Every now and then little hints of western culture crop up, but they are short lived and swiftly swallowed up by the immense devotion to the traditional ways by which people here live their lives. The morning call to prayer can be heard simultaneously from Mosques all over the region and without hesitation, the village springs to life, paying little heed to the still-dark sky.

Being from a notoriously sleepy town in the West of Ireland, the 5am kick-start took some getting used to. However, having recently discovered the magic of earplugs, I have been granted a new lease of life (sleep) and the slumber situation so far seems to be coming up Milhouse.

When it comes to getting around, the best, and often only method of transport is “ojeg” or motorcycle taxi. They can be easily hailed down but they will often stop to ask you if you need a lift to the next town or village. As Cipaganti is located on the side of a steep volcano and the roads are in extreme disrepair, taking an ojeg downhill is pretty much a matter of holding on for dear life. That said, the drivers appear to be some strange breed of wizard, skilfully mastering each swivel of the handlebar and summoning their bikes to stay on track despite every law of physics conspiring to work against them… Silly science.

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Cream of the crop kids

My trip here happens to have also coincided with Ramadan; a forty day fasting period whereby absolutely nothing is consumed during daylight hours (this also includes water along with the Indonesian man’s beloved cigarette or “Sampoerna”). Children here usually begin training for Ramadan from the age of four, participating in semi-fasts with their families until they are fully geared up for the whole hog (no pun intended).

It’s incredible how little – from an outsiders point of view – Ramadan is allowed to impact on daily life here. Shops are opened, farms are tended to and business is conducted as usual. Despite temperatures of +30°C and 90% humidity, 12hour work days of backbreaking, labour-intensive graft are endured, seemingly without complaint.

As the project itself depends hugely on the support and co-operation of the local community, extra care is taken in the field house to obscure from view any food or drink during fasting hours. While this clearly portrays LFPs respect towards the local community, it also serves to make one feel like a massive cheat, guiltily scoffing away cereal and noodles behind closed doors like Gollum. The shame is immense…

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Always smiling!

One thing you can guarantee to brighten up the day, however, are the people, and in particular, the local kids. As kids go, they’re top notch. Cream of the crop adorable. Their fascination and curiosity with the project and its team is simply infectious and they are happy to sit and chatter away for hours at a time while colouring in pictures – wonderfully oblivious to the idea of any language barrier even existing. I will take many things away from this incredible trip, but the warmth and generosity of these magnificent people and their families will hold steadfast in my memories of Western Java.

– Seóna Tully

Observations for conservation

Hello! My name is Robert O’Hagan. This is my first blog as research coordinator of the Little Fireface Project. I think it is fitting that the first thing I write about is the role of research in conservation. This is something that I have pondered deeply for many years, while trying to come up with new ways to conserve animals and their habitats.

In recent years, this has become a more poignant subject for me as I have encountered several people in the field of conservation that almost had me calling my views on the subject into question. I have been surprised by the lack of understanding that some people have about the role of zoological research in conservation. Worse still, I have become painfully aware that many people treat these two things as separate entities. Quite simply put, they are not.

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The area around our field site in Cipaganti is heavily cultivated. A combination of research and education is vital to preserve the  remaining forests. Photo by Faye Vogely.

Research is the cornerstone of any good conservation project. In order to conserve a species, one must know as much about their behaviour and ecology as possible. Unfortunately, protecting or conserving a species’ habitat is not as black and white as saying: “Stop cutting down the forest, you’re killing the animals!” Forest resources and the land they grow upon represents a livelihood for many people and quick money for local and national governments. Because you cannot simply halt this activity, you must collaborate with local, national, and international authorities as well as the local community to reach a compromise.

This compromise is often in the form of damage limitation, i.e. identifying important vegetation for a species or a set of species and then trying to integrate this with local and national land policies. For example, from our research on the Javan slow loris, we have identified tree species that are essential loris food sources (e.g. jiengjen, kaliandra merah, etc.), important sleeping sites (e.g. the bamboo species), and that provide high levels of connectivity for safe and efficient movement through the environment. These tree species can then be targeted for protection and/or reforestation. This is something that I hope to do a lot more work on this year.

Knowing an animal’s home range (by taking GPS data) allows us to say how much space an animal needs to survive and reproduce. Population surveys allow us to assess the conservation status of a species and the urgency of the conservation action required. This status can influence international trade policies and can highlight target species for conservation. Enforcement of wildlife trade laws are still lacking but they have saved many animals and will continue to do so. Wildlife market surveys, like those the LFP team carry out, can expose the extent of the terrible illegal wildlife trade, raising awareness on the issue and hopefully pressuring more law enforcers into action.

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Markets selling illegal animals are unfortunately common around Java and Indonesia. Photo by Tara Blanthorn.

Data collected on behaviour, social organisation, and all of the above are necessary to successfully care for rescue animals and zoo animals in breeding programs. These organisations rely quite heavily on research sites like ours that study wild individuals for information on species’ diet, substrate use (for enclosure design), social organisation (for how to house animals together), etc. For the same reasons, research on wild animals is crucial to the success of reintroductions and releases (although the success of these projects varies widely and we are still learning). Oftentimes, just having a research presence is enough to deter and/or reduce poaching and logging in an area.

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Education is essential. Dendi Rustandi, one of our trackers, teaches the importance of conservation to the children in Cipaganti. Photo by Tara Blanthorn.

Education, outreach, and awareness are also fundamental to conservation. Teaching people that wildlife and their natural habitat can be helpful to them (in terms of ecosystem services, eco-tourism, etc.) and teaching them about the animal welfare issues involved in the wildlife trade and habitat destruction is essential for wildlife conservation. Education is impossible if you know nothing about the issues you are educating people on. Again, research is the key to this lock.

Long-term datasets are necessary for meaningful results and that is why long-term field sites like our field site in West Java are so important. Having said all that, research projects need to always operate within the confines of animal welfare and ethics guidelines. Any project failing to do this cannot hope to align itself with conservation goals.

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Me collecting data during a routine de-collaring of a loris.

Research has alerted the world to the imminent dangers of climate change, our planet’s sixth mass extinction event (which we humans have initiated), and many other things besides. Without research we would be living in ignorance and blindly diving headfirst into ecological oblivion. Because of dedicated researchers, we know what we must do to save this world and all of its inhabitants. The only question remaining is: can we stop the anthropogenic devastation currently being unleashed on the world and undo the damage we have already done? There are many amazing projects and researchers working all around the world to discover and educate. Knowledge is power and I, for one, remain optimistic for the future.

– Robert O’Hagan

Cu Li Tuesday: What’s in that field pack?

Hi Loris Lovers,

LFP Research Stephanie Poindexter here! I am now on day 42 of following three released pygmy slow lorises in Cuc Phuong National Park. Currently I am watching two males and one female, who have been given the lovely Vietnamese names of Một, Hai, and Ba, which translates to One, Two, and Three. With my limited Vietnamese and the trackers’ limited English, sometimes simple is the best way to go. Personally, I like their names they sound much nicer than refereeing to them by their radio frequencies, which was the first suggestion…yikes!

After about 170 hours of observations, I’ve found that released lorises run fast and they run far. I am getting quite the workout climbing up hills, over fences, and through vegetation as tall as me, I also have a few cuts and bruises to show for my hard work. Recounting the night’s adventures is always a fun point of conversation during breakfast each morning. The funny thing about working while everyone else is sleeping, is that no one except for you and the trackers know exactly what type of work you are doing.

My housemate, a visiting zoo keeper from Germany, knows that I study the lorises, but she was interested in what type of data I was collecting at night in the forest. During my attempt to explain everything, she asked, “Well, what’s in that pack you always take with you?” I thought, what a great question, so I laid everything out on my bed .

Culi Tuesday 22

It was a bit like a clown car, pulling all of theses items out of this small bag. I explained to my housemate how I use each item and by the end I am confident that she could go out and collect the same data too. Here is a list of everything I carry with me:

  • First Aid kit
  • Rain cover for my backpack
  • GPS
  • Rite in the Rain notebook
  • Binoculars
  • Flagging tape
  • Pencils and pens
  • Back up batteries
  • 5 liter water bladder
  • Repellent
  • Head torch with red filter
  • Small digital camera
  • Vietnamese dictionary

I’ve Arrived!

Hello everyone!  I arrived in Indonesia on the evening of Tuesday 28th April, by the time I’d reached base camp at LFP on the Wednesday afternoon I’d taken over a 100 photos!  This is my first time in Indonesia; it has so much going on; beautiful green countryside, extraordinarily friendly people and crazy roads!

Rice-field_Melissa-AndertonSo far I’ve said goodbye to Lewis – a volunteer here at LFP as well as a friend from home, in fact, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here, and Jess – the longest serving volunteer here and someone so full of knowledge I’m feeling a little lost without her!  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sharon (project co-ordinator), Michael (Media officer) and the four trackers – Dendi, Aconk, Adin and Yiyi.  They have all been so wonderfully positive and I’ve really enjoyed spending time with them, they’ve made me feel so welcome!

Lewis-Leaves-LFP_Melissa-AndertonThe way of life is shockingly different from the U. K. and I think this makes it a little easier to become a part of it – I cannot compare it at all!  I went on my first shift with Dendi on Thursday evening to find and record the position of each of the collared lorises – it was so cool to finally see them!  I think at the moment Rasi is my favourite – I managed to get a really good shot of him chilling out on a banana leaf!  He looked absolutely beautiful.  It really was an experience I’ll never forget.

Nature-Club-01.05On Friday I joined Sharon and Jess at Nature Club – this is a class that is organised and run at the local school by Sharon from LFP and Dendi (one of the four trackers and also the builder and owner of the school) to help educate the local children about the wildlife in the area and the world of nature in general!  The children were all there voluntarily and it was great to see their enthusiasm towards learning about nature.  During the walk to and from the school I was surprised to see so many people smiling, waving and saying hello to us.  The people here are so friendly!

Rasi_Melissa-AndertonFriday night was my first observation shift.  Jess, Aconk and I set out at 11 pm in the hopes of finding Pak-B before moving on to observe Toyib…unfortunately it had been raining for 6 hours non stop – and pretty heavy, by the time we left it had stopped, but then at about 12.30 after hiking around rice fields and forest areas, it started raining again…we took shelter in a farmers shack to wait it out expecting it to cease, 5 am came and went and we were still stuck in the hut!  Eventually we had to brave the ran, after 4 and a half hours…I was so gutted that we didn’t get to see any Lorises.

My first weekend here I had the opportunity to visit a hot springs (pretty much a warm swimming pool outside) – it has some amazing views of the mountains surrounding the town.  This week has been pretty hectic with Jess leaving us; Sharon and I took a trip to survey an animal market in an Indonesian town, while at the same time seeing Jess off.  It was so hard for me to see wild animals with so much beauty, in cages; birds, reptiles, mammals the lot were caged or leashed…babies separated from their mothers, some so frightened they were rocking back and forth, others scrambling over each other in cramped cages.

I had a late shift last night to watch Toyib…man did he move!!  Adin and I were constantly moving through fields and trees (I slipped countless times – which Adin seemed to find hilarious!) to get a view of him.  It was a great chance for me to get acquainted with the fastest mover of the clan…I don’t blame him really, if I had the agility of a loris I’d be constantly on the move too!

That’s all for now, I’ll keep you all updated with the goings on here at LFP from a volunteers point of view next month!

Melissa – Student Volunteer