This week with Nanda Grow I have started an amazing new project that seeks to discover the reaction of lorises when a predator is near. In order carry it out Nanda has recorded the sounds of different predators, including owls, eagles and orang-utans, and we are going to compare the behaviour of lorises before and after playing these sounds. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Then let me explain how our first trial went! After an intense and successful capture night, we had some extra time and we opportunely found an uncollared loris. So Aconk, Nanda and I decided to carry out the first experiment. The loris was calmly foraging in a tree, but once we played the recording of an eagle call, he quickly went down the tree and moved to an area covered with lots branches: he was being more cryptic! As we couldn’t see him very well, we don’t know if there was any venom-response. Let’s see if the next time we are luckier! Don’t worry, I will keep you updated!
For me seeing an animal in its natural habitat is always a privilege but working with nocturnal animals is rather extraordinary. It is like entering a secret world. I know it is quite common to be afraid of what might lurk in the night, but I am fascinated by the creatures that have evolved to live their lives in the darkness, while we sleep.
Navigating the maze of farmers’ fields in the dark with nothing but a red light to guide you is a very surreal experience. You lose your sense of balance at first, especially as the mountain side (or volcano side) where our lorises live is very steep and can be very muddy after heavy rainfall.
As you may know we track our lorises with antennae that would not look out of place on top of your house. The local people must think we are crazy as we walk through the village at dusk with all our tracking gear. The antenna admits a bleeping sound which grows stronger as you near the collared animal.
Once we have found our lorises we sit, avoiding crushing the farmers crops, and observe its behaviour. I find it odd carrying out research amongst a carrot field as I am used to working in a forest. I watch with mixed emotions as it is somewhat sad to see them living in such a depleted habitat. It is like they are making their last stand, in the few remaining trees surrounding the fields. Yet it is encouraging that they are adapting to surviving out here. We have already seen some amazing adaptive behaviours, which will be revealed soon…
Believe it or not slow lorises are actually pretty fast and sometimes we can’t keep up with them as they search the night for insects and tasty kaliandra flowers. Most nights at the moment it rains very heavily and we have to take refuge in one of the kind farmer’s huts. Sometimes you can even feel the volcano rumbling or smell the sulphur as it reminds us that it is very much active.
In Indonesia you never know what is round the corner, so I look forward to the next few months out here
Blog nature club Anna:
In Cipaganti every week on Friday the Nature Club takes place, an after-school program that seeks to promote consciousness and love of nature in children of any age through many different activities. This week, with the help of Denise, Tara and I, loris puzzles were designed! The puzzles have images of lorises and questions about them, so once the puzzle is completed the children have to answer the questions right: so they can have fun and learn at the same time!
As the children that came to nature club are different ages they were divided in three groups according their age and different puzzles were assigned to them. Sometimes the puzzle was a challenge even for the volunteers and Pak Dendi! But finally, with a lot of enthusiasm and a bit of effort, all the puzzles were solved and the questions about lorises were answered.
Afterwards, the children spent some time coloring images of animals and learning the names of them in English, as Tara and I learnt them in Indonesian! Finally, before leaving, Pak Dendi read aloud a story about animals which all children enjoyed a lot. It was about a monkey with a blue bum!
Now I just have to wait to enjoy the next Nature Club session with these enthusiastic and motivated children!
Forest Protector sessions Tara
The forest protector pack is part of the Little Fireface’s education project. It incorporates a beautifully illustrated children’s book, a matching activity pack and memory game. During my first few weeks at the project I have visited 4 schools with the rest of the team. Two of the schools are in our local area and have nearly finished the program which lasts for around 2.5 months. Each week the children have an activity to complete, which is led by us and a teacher or one of our trackers. The sessions I aided with involved making slow loris (or kukang in Indonesian) face masks, origami and question games. The children seem to really enjoy the lessons and remembered the English words we taught them.
The other two schools were far away in Tasik and we did the introductory sessions which involved a talk about our project and the slow loris and competitions for batik loris bandanas and stickers. After the session our loris mascots came in which the children loved. One of the schools was a high school with a group of 300 kids. The other was a primary school with a group of 40 kids. As these schools are far away the teachers are given teacher packs with instructions and carry out the program themselves.
At the start of the program the children are asked to write a short story about the kukang and draw a picture, the majority of the kids did not know very much about lorises and only wrote a few sentences and we had a range of drawings from insects to turtles. At the end of the program the children are asked to repeat this task, it was really encouraging as the children wrote at least a paragraph and knew a lot about lorises. It would be interesting to revisit the classes in the future to see if they still remembered the lessons.
Awareness is one of the most important aspects of our work in Java. Awareness can lead to change and thus by giving talks at schools, offices, to people on the street we can help secure a safer and better future for the Javan slow loris.
It has been busy, busy, busy in Java spreading the loris love this past week. We were kindly invited to one of our local Kacamatan’s to host a movie day. A Kacamatan is the head office of an area. It is thus the office in which all the village chiefs have meetings to discuss relevant to a region as a whole. We hosted the movie day in front of all the village chiefs within one of our survey areas. It was a very important day for the project. To be able to present our work in front of so many important people was quite nerve wracking! The head of the police was even there!
It started off really well and everyone was quite engrossed in what our head tracker Pak Dendi was saying. However, as a result of a morning full of meetings, the group grew smaller and smaller as time went by. Thankfully, those that stayed were the ones that seemed to be truly interested asking multiple questions not only about the loris, but also about the education work we do in the area.
The day ended in an invitation to come and teach at a local pre-school by the head of the womens association. What a great contact to have!!!
The week ended with more social events as we had a team trip to Tasik Malaya. Tasik Malaya is about 3 hours away from our field station and in different regency. They also speak Sunda and are still located in West Java. Wawan Tarniwan, an Indonesian photographer that has worked very closely with LFP from the start and a native to Tasik arranged for us to give talks at two schools. The three hour trip meant that we had to leave the house at 5am. We packed the car with 7 team members, two life-sized mascots, giveaways and a driver. It was a quite a trip down bumpy roads but when we arrived at the elementary school to give our first talk the children were ecstatic.
The teachers opened up the classroom to connect it to another one. That meant that not only did we have a class of 45 students of level 4, we also had an additional 50 plus onlookers join the session from levels 5 and 6! The room was jam-packed!
Pak Dendi asked the children questions about the loris and they were able to win little prizes. The session ended by reading out the Forest Protector book with mascots Tereh and Bunga acting out the scenes and being a bit silly thanks to Pak Adin- which was met with squeals of laughter! We left books, activity packs, memory cards, stickers and a teacher’s pack with the teacher of class 4. We’ll be heading back to Tasik in a few months to evaluate the success of the book pack. We are all very excited to see the children again!
At 11am we moved on to give a session at a high school. Pak Dendi gave a presentation covering everything from loris distribution to market surveys and education. We had over 200 students in the room, all of which seemed genuinely interested. Most had never heard of a “kukang”, the Indonesian name of a slow loris, but all wanted photos by the end of the team and with our lovely mascots.
It was a long day but we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Pak Dendi’s voice was a lot softer by the end of it, and everyone was quite tired but at the same time it was very invigorating to have been part of.
Market surveys in West Java
Doing market surveys is no easy task for the LFP team in Java. You are faced with seeing hundreds and thousands of animals all crammed into the smallest possible cages. Often times there are many animals stuffed into one cage, and the conditions are awful. Most animals do not even have water, let alone food! If they are lucky enough to have anything to eat, it is often not at all suitable, with sugary bananas being a favourite amongst traders. Keeping a straight face and acting as if all is nice and cute is paramount to avoid suspicion but it is also extremely challenging at times.
Recently, the LFP team went undercover to a series of markets across western Java. Every market we visited was dirty and smelt horrible – like death. It doesn’t take long to see that such a smell comes from dozens of birds sharing cages that have most likely never been cleaned, and if so, the excrement is just emptied on the floor below. Cage upon cage is stacked on top of each other. Bird cages can be placed on top of a tank full of hamsters, which in turn is resting on a cage of lizards.
The biggest shock for the team was the sheer number of civets seen! The common palm civet, a small nocturnal carnivore, seems to be of growing popularity as a pet. In one city the team even saw a civet on a chain sitting on the back of a motor cycle!
In Jakarta, one of the road side stalls was specialized in macaques. There were at least eight cages visible, with in each between 3-5 juvenile macaques. The sadness in their eyes was heart breaking! We did not encounter any lorises or other primate species at the markets. But that does not mean they are not there!
Many animals show signs of abnormal or stereotype behaviour as a result of psychological trauma which is extremely difficult to witness. Birds frequently hop up and down the cage, whilst sugar gliders were repeatedly performing back flips.
Shockingly, outside a big mall in the city centre we encountered a seller who had 4 owls of two different species, two sugar gliders and a turtle for sale. This is a beautiful mall, full of western chains, and yet outside on the street there were animal sellers trading in exotic pets. Sellers happily took the animals out of the cages to show you and entice you to touch. The animals are often clearly stressed or desperately try to avoid being caught.
A sense of hopelessness overwhelms you at some point whilst walking through the markets. It is important at those moments to remember that with education things can change, as we have seen around the field site. It is therefore critical that we focus on education to help instill a love for animals so that in the future they will no longer be found on Java’s cruel animal markets.
Though it seems that civets are very popular as pets in the illegal markets, they are also being used for making civet coffee.
In an upscale supermarket in Jakarta, the LFP team encountered three different brands of civet coffee in the rack amongst other coffee varieties. Additionally, in one of the hostels the team stayed, it was amongst the morning coffee options. Whether it has been around for a while, or the demand is growing, please do not contribute to it. Think before you buy nicely packaged civet coffee or Kopie Luwak as wonderful nocturnal animals may be suffering.
This week Cipaganti’s residents took centre stage at our ‘Cipaganti Mencari Bakat’ (Cipaganti’s Got Talent) event, show casing a range of different talents.
Bringing the whole community together it was a wonderful day full of fun and laughter.
As far as talent goes, Cipaganti certainly has it! From the youngest to the oldest contestants there were some wonderful acts. Before the event begun there was much intrigue as to what Cipaganti might have in store and the crowd was not disappointed!
One very interesting act and difference from what you might expect to be a talent in a western country, which was performed by more than one individual, was reading passages from the Koran. It might seem like a basic skill but it is in fact a very intricate and detailed ability that the children learn as part of their Islamic religious studies. The text is written in Arabic and each sentence sung without pause for breath between words. It is an enchanting listen and a strong representation of how religion is a prominent element of people’s lives here. To an untrained ear it was hard to make any fault in these performances, but the addition of Ibu Ani to our jury meant that we had an experienced listener to aid the other judges in their scoring.
The very well deserved winners of the children’s acts were an all-girls dance group called ‘The cute’. They went all out with not only their very well-rehearsed dance routine but their pink costumes head to toe, each adorned with a homemade crown.
The winner of the adult competition was a local teacher who sang her way to victory with a local tune.
All the winners were thoroughly impressed with their trophies and prizes and the day ended on a high up the mountain here in loris land.
Sharon’s experience at the LFP Nature Club
I have learned that the children of Cipaganti are wonderfully creative. Give them blank paper and some coloured pencils and they are sincerely happy drawing scenes from their everyday lives; the mountains, ponds, their families and homes.
Coming from Australia and with a background in children’s environmental education, I was excited to assist Little Fireface Project’s ‘Nature Club’. ‘
Nature Club’ is a weekly fun group session for any children of Cipaganti to join. They learn about animals, the environment, habitat protection and the world around them.
I decided for my second week assisting with ‘Nature Club’, I would make some simple play-dough in several colours. It was easy and cheap to make and I was sure it would be a hit. We placed the play-dough on the floor and waited… “Apa ini?” one small girl asked. “What is this?” It occurred to me that many of the children here had never even heard of play-dough. When they touched it, their faces lit up! This gooey stuff was fun!
In the play-dough session we encouraged children to make whatever they liked on an A4 sheet of white paper. Little by little, once their confidence grew, fabulous three dimensional masterpieces were coming together. The boys were making lizards, fish and turtles (including a teenage mutant ninja one!).
Girls favoured making cakes, flowers, trees and of course, a loris. Working with this ‘new stuff’ brought out a whole new creativity and a whole new conversation piece between them.
The “Masterpiece in Play-dough” session saw the children spend almost two hours working on their sculptures. They were so excited that they could take their art work home to show their parents and I found it amusing to watch 28 very determined children walking down a stony street trying to keep their pictures intact and perfectly balanced. I’m pleased to say … all made it home in one piece.
Some simple play-dough saw some very clever children make some very beautiful art.
Needless to say, play-dough is on the “Cipaganti’s Most Wanted” list.
Anna is off to Java and has closed the shop until February 2014. Thanks for all your support and get ready for the news from Java!
The LFP team travelled to one of Java’s big cities this week to go undercover and carry out a market survey. We posed as completely naive tourists in order to browse the stalls without attracting any attention that might put us in danger. From the moment we pulled into the dusty market place we got into character “oohing” and “ahhing at the “adorable” animals. Cage upon cage of mistreated and distressed animals stared back at us as we wandered about the narrow alleyways. Animals both domestic and exotic crammed into grotty dirty cages, most no larger than your average hamster cage. We didn’t see any primates for sale but were assured by our guide that on other days they are openly for sale on the market. The stakes are a little higher now though because sellers are more conscious of the conservation status of Slow Lorises.
Despite not seeing any lorises the day we went to the market we came face to face with many other residents of the forests where our own lovely lorises live. From one particularly dirty cage a Civet cat stared up at us with huge sad eyes, it was absolutely heart wrenching. We then spotted another cage further back and were mortified to see that it contained several baby civets pressed together. The seller proudly told our guide that they were wild caught very recently. We doubted they would survive very long having been separated from their mother at such a young age. Fruit bats huddled in a shaded corner of one cage which had been left out under the baking hot sun. Elsewhere, one owl seemed to have had no choice but to grow around its cage. Its wings pinned above its back and its head hung near its feet – completely defeated. Sugar gliders are a new craze here and we saw very many for sale throughout the day.
Many of you will never experience the horror show that is an animal market; the sounds of the rainforest and the smell of a rubbish dump in the high summer. Almost all the animals we saw displayed behavioural abnormalities, but what else would you expect? They really are in hell under a hot tin roof.
Sadly, the traditional Indonesian animal markets aren’t the only place you can purchase an exotic pet. Even the glitzy Mall had exotic animals for sale outside its grand entrance. Several sellers had set up cages containing a range of animals for shoppers to haggle for. They even had a kitten Leopard cat wearing a pink ribbon! Despite the cages being much cleaner than those found in market place it’s still incredibly distressing to see exotic animals being sold so freely. At this rate there’ll be no wildlife left in Java’s forests. They’re all for sale at the nearest animal market!
Meanwhile in Cipaganti, Tahini has had us running around in a blind panic since her signal recently disappeared from her usual stomping grounds near Mommy Tereh. After several days of playing the “We no find Tahini” game, Denise and Adin set out on an epic quest across the land in search of the lost loris. They succeeded and found Tahini on extended vacation in an area of forest near Kepala Desa’s (village chief) office on the other side of the village! Playboy Azka led his observers on a wild goose chase around the forest before finally settling on a favourite hotspot for gum trees. Here he hung upside down gnawing away happily for nearly two hours, stopping periodically to survey his surroundings. Another loris who spent a great deal of time hanging out this week was Charlie. She was seen catching moths for over an hour whilst suspended by her feet from a bamboo branch. Lorises are such incredible acrobats!
Last week when out observing slow loris Charlie who was moving out and about all over the forest, we nearly stepped on a civet trap. We have never seen a civet trap before. We deactivated it and went back the next day. For the next few days, it was still there and we went round to deactivate it. Though not aimed at lorises, lorises often walk the path and could easily get caught in the trap. We decided to focus our week’s education efforts on civets. Monday morning we split the LFP team into smaller subgroups. Charlotte and Aconk went to talk to the farmers and provide information about the work that LFP does and the importance of civets to the local ecosystem. Pak Dendi and Josie went around looking for traps and thankfully didn’t find any more. All traces of the other track had been removed as well. Remaining team members Denise and Adin went on a mission to find missing loris Tahini. The overall feedback was extremely positive. People seemed really happy to hear about civets and like the civets being on their farms. Thankfully none of the farmers around our field site had set up the trap to catch civets.
Slow Loris Movie Night
On Saturday night it was the final of the Cipaganti football tournament. LFP decided to take the opportunity to hold an educational slow loris movie night. We showed the movie “Don’t Let Me Vanish” on the big screen. Before and after the movie questionnaires were handed out to assess the usefulness of such movie nights. We hoped to educate especially adults and farmers, as well as children, on the importance of lorises to the ecosystem and their endangered status due to the wildlife trade. People were so excited to watch a movie on the big screen. Afterwards we showed some other movies about Cipaganti, the Loris Pride Days and even an amateur Halloween movie featuring the LFP team. The latter was met with fits of laughter and ended the evening on a high.
Diorama – can you spot the loris?
For our weekly school visit this week we figured we’d have the children get creative. We brought 7 boxes with us and a bag full of leaves, twigs, and branches from the forest. What did we have planned? We wanted them to make night time forest dioramas. We split the class into groups and showed them an example that volunteer Charlotte had made in a tea box. We hung up pictures of a loris, a civet and an owl and asked that each group draw and place at least one of each of these animals in their boxes. It was a scramble to the forest bag as soon as they discovered it and each group made a great box featuring the animals, starry night skies and plants. At the end of the session head tracker Dendi went round each group with a headtorch with red filter and shone the light into the boxes. At the same time he explained the work that LFP does in the forest when we go out at night. He told the children about the harming effects of using white light to the eyes of the animals. It was a lovely way to connect the work we do outside the school sessions with the activity and at the end of the class some of the children asked when we were returning.
Last week volunteers Charlotte and Josie took the nature club outside with head tracker Pak Dendi. There is a beautiful stream with a backdrop of the Papandayan volcano near the project house and that was their class’ destination. They took with them a stack of folded paper and coloured pencils. The idea was to draw the stream and the volcano onto a postcard. Greetings from Cipaganti. The children were very excited and got stuck in. Not only did they decorate the front of the card, but some children also wrote messages on the inside and one memorable one said that the child had never been happier than with the arrival of the Little Fireface Project.
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