Loving Life in Cipaganti!

Hi, Everyone! My name is Abdullah. I am from Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. I have been here for two weeks, so for the rest of this blog I’ll tell you how it feels being a new Indonesian volunteer at LFP.

Well, the first LFP activities that I went through did not happen in Cipaganti Village. I went to Bekasi to attend a BGBJ (Bantar Gebang Bekasi Jawa Barat) event because the LFP team was learning how people in the area could recycle waste into profit. I also met two other new Indonesian volunteers there. We had a tour around a waste area and it was kind of an eye-opening moment to see that so many local people still lived around and from it and more than 2000 tons of rubbish were thrown there every day. Solutions are urgently needed!

After that, the team headed back to Rumah Hijau. When we arrived, the rest of the team who did not join BGBJ warmly greeted us. They are very nice and fun people. I had an experience of working with multinational team only for several weeks last year, but working and living under the same roof with them for months? I believe it will be another good story, which it turns out it is.

visiting BGBJ with other members of the team

Visiting BGBJ with other members of the team

The next day, the workday began. We had a week full of training. We were trained about first aid and then I got practices on nectar and pollen collection, capturing, night observation, vegetation plots and loggers, and setting camera traps. This is something AMAZING because I never had a chance to do that while I was in college, except the vegetation plot. It’s all novel to me, even the night observation because I had only ever done day focal observation for my undergraduate research and it’s a little bit different.

learning how to set camera trap

learning how to set a camera trap

To be honest, I find it a little bit more challenging to work in the daytime rather than night. It is still Ramadan, a month where most adult muslims are obligated to fast from dawn to dusk and I fast, so when I do some activities such as vegetation plots and camera traps, the thirst and hunger are multiplied, especially because they require us to hike the steep terrain and I could not drink and eat anything at all until dusk. In addition, some trackers and people in LFP were getting sick due to the weather and I was worried about my health too when I had lower nutritional intake while fasting. Somehow, I managed to finish my tasks, complete the fastings, and stay healthy. I thank God for that.

The weirdest feeling in Cipaganti is maybe the mixed feeling of “Nooooo… I do not want a second shift for night observation. I just want to go to bed early….” since the second shift happens at 12 am to 5 am and the feeling of “Oh my God! It’s so adorable. I want to know what kind of behaviours it will show us tonight” once you step up, get out of the house, move to the agroforest, spot the lorises, and observe their behaviours. It is such a pure joy when you witness that. Honestly, the feeling of I-just-want-to-sleep-right-now is still there, but it can not triumph that joyful moment of observing slow loris’s adorable movement. Plus, sharing random stories with partners or trackers or enjoying the serenity under the moonlight of the Cipaganti agroforest are good options to spend the night while waiting for a slow loris to act.

night observation on denpa that was hiding behind dense foliages

night observation on Dempak who was hiding behind dense foliage

Volunteering here is already an amazing experience. I learn a lot of new things from the project and learning novel things is another pure joy for me. I don’t know how to explain that kind of joy, but when you do it, you feel content. I believe  volunteering will be a great opportunity for those who want to embark on masters, Ph.D study, or getting involved in professional world of primate conservation. Also, the Javan slow loris is native to Indonesia, so we all as world citizens have an obligation to protect our endangered species, we Indonesians must work especially hard to protect them!

  • Abdullah, PhD Research Assistant

Greetings from the Whoop Troop in Viet Nam!

Since leaving Cipaganti, the puppets and I have settled in at the beautiful Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre in southern Viet Nam.  Run by the Endangered Asian Species Trust (EAST), Dao Tien focusses on the rescue, rehabilitation, and where possible, the release of endangered primates native to south Viet Nam.


I wake every morning at 5.15 to the wonderful whoops of golden cheeked gibbons duetting.  Much better than an alarm clock!  The gibbons at Dao Tien are all victims of illegal hunting and trade.  Most were taken from their families at an early age and kept in appalling conditions, so it takes years to nurture them back to physical and psychological health and give them a chance to return to the forest.  Some are too damaged by human contact to survive in the wild and will live out their lives at Dao Tien.  Take a look at EAST’s website www.go-east.org to see some of the gorgeous primates in our care at the moment.

So how do the puppets and I fit in?  By day we’re working with students in Thanh Binh High School as part of my Whoop Troop project, connecting with students in LFP’s Alum Nature Club and Situwangi School to learn about native animal species common to Viet Nam and Java.  The Thanh Binh Troop are creating a fantastic puppet show which they will perform in six villages around Cat Tien National Park.  Education and awareness raising are an important part of EAST’s work to help stop the illegal trade in endangered primates.  We run two daily tours of the Centre and have many Vietnamese and foreign visitors coming to see what we do and learn about primate conservation.

By night, it’s the turn of the pygmy slow lorises to emerge.  The huge increase in the illegal trade in lorises for pets, tourist props and medicine mean that we’re completely full of rescued pygmy lorises, with a new enclosure planned this year to keep up with the flood of new arrivals.  If you think Javan lorises are amazing, click here to take a look at the pygmy slow loris on the Endangered Asian Species Trust’s Facebook page! At only 400g, the tiny pygmy loris is the smallest loris species, but they still pack the venomous bite of their larger cousins.

Last week LFP’s Dan Geerah visited Dao Tien bringing the equipment to detect ultrasonic animal calls.  After some expert training from Dan, I’ve gone nocturnal to find out if the pygmy slow lorises of Viet Nam use ultrasonic calls to communicate.  We’ve recently released some pygmy lorises so it’s a great opportunity for me to find out if they use these secret calls.  Understanding more about pygmy loris communication can help with rehabilitation and release programmes and in monitoring wild loris populations.  My favourite night shift is midnight to 5 a.m., which starts with tranquil hours in the forest and ends with the slow gathering of dawn and the sounds of waking birds and insects.  When I hear the whoops of Dao Tien’s gibbons and their wild neighbours in Cat Tien National Park, I know it’s time to head home for bed.