Butterfly, Flutterby, Feeding Lorises in the Sky

Upon arrival in Cipaganti after a warm welcome and a warmer cup of tea, Dan (one of the volunteers) asked me if I wanted to join the team doing mist netting surveys of the local bat species. Happy to be thrown in the deep end and see what the forest has to offer in terms of fauna we made our way up to a small patch of bamboo 5 minutes from the village. The first thing that struck me was how noisy the forest is at dusk, and although the prayers from the Mosque do play their part it was the vast number of insects that lit up the area with their calls. Although we were largely surrounded by crops, which at home in the UK usually do very little for insect diversity, the impression of the biological diversity represented by the insects is impossible to be missed. The stridulation of grasshoppers and cicadas at night sometimes make small talk a burden, and during the day when you venture off of the beaten track (although this isn’t even necessary) emerald green praying mantises perch poised and ready for prey and huge birdwing butterflies soar between the foliage.

Flutterbye

Praying Mantis

I have come to LFP to investigate the insect diversity here and look into the roles that they play both for the lorises and the ecology of the agroforest here. For the next two and a half months I will be conducting lots of surveys to measure the diversity of the invertebrates as well as trying to work out the insect pests that the farmers encounter. Additionally I will be trying to better understand how insect diversity and abundance effects loris behaviour and the foraging requirement that lorises may have regarding insect prey. During nightly behavioural observations that are being done here many a loris can be seen munching on insects, but the exact insect groups that they consume in the wild is still unclear. Once this has been resolved we can begin measuring how the insect prey abundance and behaviour may effect loris behaviour and movement.

To put this in context for loris conservation, in collaboration with Katie who is looking at the effect of climate on behaviour of lorises I will be trying to measure what effect altitude has on insect populations. In other words, if the lorises are moving to higher altitudes (due to habitat disturbance and increased temperatures at lower altitudes), will they have any insects to munch on?!?

Get the kettle on and get the net out, let’s find out!

Field work

  • Albie Henry, LFP Researcher

 

Final Thermal Thursday

Hi everyone, this post is the last one for this thermal Thursday study. This is why this week I will show you picture of lorises but also other animals seen on the forest with the camera during the last 2 months.

We manage to have a cool video of a bat flying from a tree and it is pretty awesome with the thermal camera.

We also saw a lots of Javan kingfisher during our survey; here is the difference between the thermal imaging and a normal picture.

Kingfisher

A kingfisher seen through a normal camera and through the thermal camera.

We spotted few birds sleeping in trees during the survey and here is one picture with tree of them in a coffee tree. These 3 birds where always in the same place during each visits.

Birds Tree

Birds in a tree seen through the thermal camera.

Before I left I also had the chance to follow everyone for a capture to change the collars of some lorises. Here is the thermal image of Ena handled by Dendi. It is interesting to see that the loris is really dark and cold on this image. This may be due to the fact that the hands of the tracker are hotter than the loris and their fur is stopping the heat of their body. But at night they are easy to find in trees, as they are the ones hotter than the trees.

Loris Capture

Captured loris through the thermal camera.

We also manage to saw few owls and squirrel but did not manage to get a proper picture. We also saw a lots or rats and mouse running around and have few nice video that we can share later on as they are interesting too. Few civets, leopard cat and even a banded linsang crossed our path but too fast for us to record anything.

It was an amazing survey and I am sure more amazing thermal stories will follow as the camera is going to be used for few project at the field site.

I hope you enjoyed all these Thermal Thursday as I did and keep on following LFP and more lorises adventures!!!!

  • Priscillia Miard, LFP Researcher

 

“So Close, No Matter How Far”

Living in the field is wonderful! Every day is a new adventure and you are constantly exposed to new things – new people, new cultures, new experiences. I have loved all the Indonesian-related aspects of the field from the get-go! Indonesians are some of the nicest people I have ever met, amazingly friendly! Indonesian food is wonderful – as a vegan, I am enjoying the fact that tempeh and tofu are available at every step, as well as many traditional Indonesian dishes, such as gehu (look it up, you won’t regret it!) – and at such low prices! Indonesian nature I have already mentioned, but here’s another thing – I still can’t get over how huge some of the leaves in the forest are! My first shift in the field, I came back with a taro-taro leaf the size of my backpack. Not sure what my plan with it was, it’s been on our balcony since, but I saw it laying on the ground and could not resist picking it up! I know it’s completely silly, but this sort of thing blows my mind! Indonesian animals – I think it’s more than clear that I am enjoying being spoiled by the exposure to wildlife! Even the chickens here are free-ranging! Amazing!

The only issue that arises from this “all new all the time” pace is that everything is temporary. As happy as new experiences make me, I have come to a realisation that if I centre my happiness in temporary things, my happiness will be temporary as well. To avoid that, I am trying as much as I can to keep in touch with the constants in my life, for example my family and friends. Missing them is sometimes unavoidable, even in the most wonderful of life adventures. But more importantly, while us field people are having the time of our lives, the people we love, and who love us, are often still home, living their daily lives and missing us, the ones that left to have all of the amazing experiences without them. Staying in touch with them and letting them know we haven’t forgotten them is very, very important, not to mention nice! But sometimes an evil villain enters the scene in the form of the disappearing Internet connection!

While I think we’re lucky to have Internet in the first place, it can be very stressing (and potentially depressing) when the Internet goes out for a few days, especially if it happens on your birthday – yes, this happened to me! Things that have helped me deal with this unavoidable loneliness-inducing problem are, in the order of their appearance (and with some potential advice to others who find themselves in similar situations), the following:

  1. Chocolate

Chocolate contains serotonin precursors, so this is a highly scientific thing to do! Always have a stash of your favourite chocolate, or other comfort food! For best results, find local comfort food, so you have something to miss when you go back home! The other way around is simply too main stream. You are better than that!

  1. Pictures of things I love

Pictures work (to an extent) because our brains, not to get too specific about it, process them in a similar way to processing reality. There are some limitations to this – if interested, please contact me and I’ll provide references! Tricking our brains is fun and luckily, as one of my favourite street artists once said (well, wrote) – It only takes your mind to trick you!

What works for me are pictures of Dublin, Ireland. These I always keep by my bed – because mornings are hard! This sounds random, as I am clearly not Irish (Hello, Croatia, I love you as well!!!) and nobody understands my love for Dublin. To be honest, not even I understand it. But love is to be felt and not questioned, so long live the inexplicable love!

"So I say a little prayer, and hope my dreams will take me there" (because Westlife know what's up!)

“So I say a little prayer, and hope my dreams will take me there” (because Westlife know what’s up!)

Equally good remedies are the pictures of my dogs, Dublin (who saw that one coming?) and Bluma. Pictures of pets (or alternatively, any cute animals; although it’s better if there’s a previous emotional connection!) easily override any bad feelings with warm, fuzzy feelings. Because oxytocin rules!

Dogs

Dublin and Bluma, the best dogs in the world :)

A nature walk, also known as “the shift”

Spending time in nature heals most of lifes troubles! I really believe that many of the problems humanity currently faces could be resolved if all of us would collectively realise that we are nature and nature is us. There is a reason why this connection is so deeply felt when we allow ourselves to get completely immersed in it. Let yourself feel the nature around you. But be careful if you tend to “feel and tell” – letting people know you felt a strong connection to a particular tree will quickly get you labelled as a hippie tree-hugger (I’m giving you a virtual high five in advance, but others may see this as a negative thing! Because people are sometimes the worst! But don’t let that stop you!), so don’t be like me (Or, be like me, we need more tree-huggers because trees are awesome!) and keep that sort of information to yourself (Or again, don’t! Tree love for life!).

Trying to become friends with people at hand

This one is tricky. It is funny how sometimes friendships with people you seemingly have a lot in common somehow just don’t happen. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be discouraged. Try again. Bond. Share feelings. Gossip. Annoy them into liking you. You may not have anywhere to escape and find new people, but remember, neither do they!

Allow multiple trials, at least 30 (because 30 is the magical number of parametric stats, and you want to use them! They are fun and sophisticated, sort of like you think you are! Most people don’t like them either, so you have that in common as well! It was meant to be!). After 30 trials, chances are you’ll have either A. gained a friend for life (or at least you now know enough about each other that you have to stay on good terms for safety reasons!), or B. gained an “Unfriend” for life (which also works because it’s important to have someone to awkwardly avoid at conferences!). In most cases, by the time you will have done 30 trials (and analysed the data, because you are, first and foremost, a scientist!), yours or theirs’ time in the field will be up. And some day you will feel strangely nostalgic about people from both categories!

(This section was written by a 70-year-old Elena from the future.)

  1. Deciding to live large and splurging on the phone Internet connection

Phone data price – practically nothing!

Being able to send random “I miss you and love you forever!!!!!!!” messages to your friends in the middle of the night (because emotions are awesome and people should know you have them!) – priceless!

This post is dedicated to everyone back home and in the UK, as well as in all the other places they have dispersed from there – if I haven’t messaged you in a while, for now read the text within the quotation marks in my last sentence!

  • Elena Racevska, Research Coordinator

Kukang in Bukit Lawang

 

TT1

– The view at Bukit Lawang

Last week three of the team members (Faye, Julia and myself) headed off to Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, to work with some of our fellow conservation friends at Green Hill Bukit Lawang.

- Photographing and identifying birds with the local trackers.

– Photographing and identifying birds with the local trackers.

Green Hill is run by husband and wife, Andrea and Mbra, who have both been working in conservation and primate research for over 20 years now. Andrea is a fellow alumni of the Oxford Brookes University Primate Conservation MSc programme, and requested we bring Forest Protector to their own Nature Club, and offered us to visit any time we wished. I have been returning to LFP over the past two years, but still hadn’t found time to explore the other Indonesia islands, so I was ecstatic to visit Sumatra.  Recently, all Asian primates have been re-assessed by the IUCN Red List, and the Sumatran slow loris is being increased from Vulnerable to Endangered. Sumatran lorises are more frequently being seen in market surveys and confiscations, for sale as exotic pets (an issue all slow loris species are faced with). From this news, we thought this would be a critical time to expand our education curriculum to another island for slow loris species at risk, as well as see some of the amazing Sumatran wildlife.

Flying in to Medan, we immediately began our journey to the lodge: a 3-hour bus ride followed by a 20-minute tuk-tuk to another bus, then another tuk-tuk, to then hike 20 minutes through a cave and along a river.  Despite the constant transport hopping, our commute seemed to be going quickly, though this may have been attributed to the stunning view. Java only has 9% of its rainforest left, so we were all in awe of the green horizons and tree covered mountains, in contrast. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for us to realize all the green was in fact acres of palm oil and rubber plantations.

Once we arrived at Bukit Lawang, we were greeted with dozens of smiles and immediately went over our schedule. Over the next few days we would trek through the forest and national parks, while our nights were filled with community outreach, education, networking and nocturnal animal surveys. With both forest type and climate drastically different from Cipaganti, we had to quickly adjust to denser rainforest, leeches, far more aggressive mosquitos, and the biggest adjustment of all—heat! Thanks to the mountains of Cipaganti, we were all in shape for the long hikes uphill, but in significantly cooler temperatures.

TT4

– Heading out into the forest for GPS tracking.

Faye and Julia focused on the education and outreach aspect of our trip, while I embarked on loris surveys. Our survey methods were a combination of night transects, vegetation surveys and GPS tracking. While my Bahasa Indonesian is far from fluent, it is definitely at its best when discussing the forest and wildlife. I conveyed the methods as best as I could, and we set off for 6 hours in search of Sumatran slow lorises.  Toward the end of the transects, we happened to walk through the village where Faye and Julia had been giving their presentation about slow lorises. After immediately spotting some of our LFP awareness stickers freshly added to windows, the children all came running out of their houses to tell me what they learned, and how much they now love the loris: “Saya suka kukang!!!”. Parents as well (who also attended the presentation) came out to say hello, thanks and shake my hand. It was such a lovely feeling to hear them speaking so fondly of the loris, and seeing the immediate impact and awareness we helped to spread after just one presentation.

- An amazing way to spend a birthday!

– An amazing way to spend a birthday!

The last day of our trip also happened to be my birthday, so we went on a trek through Gunung Leuser National Park where we saw Sumatran orangutans, long-tailed macaques and Silvered leaf monkeys, followed by river-rafting back to the lodge. As a primatologist, I couldn’t have asked for a better celebration or end to our trip. The people of Bukit Lawang have been nothing short of lovely and we look forward to working with them more, and teaching people about the nocturnal primates sleeping in their back gardens.

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

 

The Indonesian Side of Life

Hello, everyone!

 

My name is Elena and I have just taken over from Rob as the new research coordinator here at the LFP field station in Cipaganti. While I have lots of research experience, this is the first time that I am working in the field. I am so excited to be here, and I will share my field adventures with all of your through LFP’s Facebook page every Saturday!

I have arrived to the site almost one month ago, and every day since I got here, I have come to the same conclusion – coming here was one of the best decisions of my life! First of all, the nature around our village is stunning! My home country (Croatia) has a lot of beautiful nature that I have spent some time exploring, but this is, of course, a completely different story. Going out to the field feels like walking straight into an issue of National Geographic! Banana trees and bamboo everywhere, endless fields of a local crop called labu, and misty mountain tops in the background – it really cannot get better than this!!

A little bit of the stunning scenery: this is one of the agricultural fields we have mapped for the agroforestry project!

A little bit of the stunning scenery: this is one of the agricultural fields we have mapped for the agroforestry project!

That is, of course, what I thought before I went on my first night shift! My first night was a rounds shift – two of our trackers and I went to check on all of our lorises. I cannot describe how anxious I was to finally see a loris in the wild after hearing so much about them through all of last year (LFP director Anna Nekaris is my MSc course leader, so we are all pretty familiar with slow lorises!). The experience was unbelievable – their little eyes glowing bright red under our head torches made an impression that will last a lifetime! On top of that, we saw two common palm civets – after having a carved wooden one on my necklace for over a year, I was overwhelmed by finally seeing real ones! We also came across a leopard cat –  after the runaway civets that could not get away from us soon enough, the leopard cat seemed like the most calm and collected animal in the world, completely unimpressed by our presence and proximity!

Since this first night, I have followed our lorises for a couple of nights each week. The moments I spend in their proximity are nothing short of magical. Having the opportunity to get so close to such an endangered animal is an incredible, yet humbling experience. Between them, all the little colourful insects, frogs, birds, and an occasional snake, I feel like I am finally in a place where I have always wanted to be! I had my first field-birthday this week, and I was lucky enough to spend it observing Sibau, one of our females. Needles to say, it was the best birthday ever!

Getting comfortable in the cabbage field while waiting for our loris to wake up!

Getting comfortable in the cabbage field while waiting for our loris to wake up!

Living in Indonesia has so far been completely amazing. Every day is a new adventure, and even though everything is so very different from other countries I have previously lived in, it somehow feels like home.

If you want to hear more of my Indonesian adventures, follow my weekly updates on the LFP Facebook page every Saturday!

Until then, have a nice week!

  • Elena, Research Coordinator

 

 

 

Tree Nursery: Where It All Begins

As part of my internship at The Littlefire Face Project I am working on the new agroforestry project. The project aims to work with local farmers to improve The long term quality of the soil – to benefit the productivity of the farm and to help the forests. By farmers having their own nursery they can supply themselves with good quality seeds, rather than waiting to be given them by the government or having to buy lower quality seeds from the mass market.

MarionBlog

But why plant in a nursery?

 A nursery has these objectives:                                                                                        – To give every chance to seeds or cuttings to grow quickly and in the best conditions    – To produce more plants in a small area ready to be replanted in the forest                    – Speeds up the process of the plants developing their root systems and aerial organs (true leaves, stems…)

Young plants are, by nature, fragile and delicate; the nursery is therefore installed in a warm, sunny place, sheltered from winds and if possible near the forest. Compost is used as it has all of the nutrients, bacteria and fungi that the plants need – making a tree nursery the best place for plants to grow.

The multiple benefits of the nursery:                                                                                  – Favourable conditions for growth                                                                                     – Provides better monitoring of disease and pests, and facilitates better care of the seedlings. The young shoots are pampered in the tree nursery so grow better and faster than if they had started to grow directly in plots in the forest!                                            – Good quality conditions means farmers have the tools to successfully grow any trees, plants, or crops that they would like

- Yiyi and Adin building the tree nursery

– Yiyi and Adin building the tree nursery

This is only the beginning of our project, but the benefits will continue to grow. Farmers will increase the diversity of their crops, have more streams of income, and so better financial security. For nature, agroforestry is good for the climate as trees help to control carbon levels, water quality is improved, and more trees means more biodiversity!

  • Marion Jourdain, Intern

The Return of the Research Coordinator

 

So, for those of you who don’t remember me, I am Rob, the Research Coordinator here at LFP. If you follow any of our social media platforms, you may have noticed that I haven’t been featured much in recent months. The reason is that I had an unfortunate motorcycle accident back in October and broke both my arms! All you animal lovers will be happy to know that I had this motorcycle accident because I lost control of the bike while avoiding a direct collision with a chicken AND a cat.

2016 Jan Geerah - Selfie with locals

Still participating in village life!

Unfortunately, my recovery has not been as fast as I was hoping so I will be leaving Indonesia a little earlier than expected later this month. Despite my injuries, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave our lorises behind so soon. I still felt like I had a little more to give before I left for home. So, with the rest of the LFP team acting as my arms, I have been working on getting some projects up off the ground.

I have been working with one of our long-term volunteers and village favourite, Dan, to get our loris vocalisation study going. I have been working with our ever-useful, hard-working volunteer, Ina, who has been leading the charge on developing presence surveys (to find out where the lorises are living outside of our field site) and creating a system for mapping the agroforest landscape that characterises our field site. Myself, Ina, and our Public Relations and Outreach Officer, Faye, have been working hard to get our new conservation education curriculum together. The girls put in all the hard work while I offered guidance on content. Much to the dismay of the LFP team, you don’t need your arms to talk. My increased levels of talking combined with my almost complete inability to do any physical activity and help out around the field station has become a common theme. I probably owe the team a few favours at this point.

rob

Giving an educational session on compost as part of the education programme

Apart from this, I have been doing my absolute best to get our new agroforestry project started. The agroforestry project feels like my baby and, honestly, it is the main reason why I decided to put off returning home for this long. Our wonderful Indonesian staff (Adin, Aconk, Dendi, and Yiyi) and our newest volunteer Marion have been fantastic in helping me to make this a reality. There will be much more news on this over the coming year. I am very exciting and thankful that this project is finally taking shape and it has made working with my injuries worthwhile (or at least a little less ridiculous).

2016 Jan Aconk - Working on Tree Nursery (39)

Working on the tree nursery, a vital aspect of the agroforestry project

I will continue to act as an adviser on the agroforestry project even after I return home and help in any way that I can. So, although I am leaving LFP, I will never be too far away.

  • Robert O’Hagan, Research Coordinator

It’s a vet life

The Little Fireface Project team consists of people from all over the world with different cultural and academic backgrounds. Eager to do my part to save the elusive yet captivating Javan slow loris, I joined Little Fireface Project three weeks ago as a research assistant, bringing my own twist to the team. I always had an interest to help mammals in their natural habitat and after becoming a licensed veterinary technician (LVT) in America, LFP had given me the opportunity to do so! I have worked in America as a LVT for the past 3 years and am glad to bring a medical aspect to this team.

One LVT tip I shared is implementing the technique of using the distance of the anogenital space in order to tell the sex of a loris. Females will have shorter anogenital distance than males. Sometimes it is difficult to sex a loris but using this measurement can help determine the sex of a loris more easily.

There are two potential ways to non-invasively test stress levels in a slow loris. One is by looking at the state of the brachial gland. When a loris is stressed, they secrete a venomous excretion from the brachial gland as a defense mechanism, which they would later combine with their saliva. Another way to test stress is to examine cortisol levels. Studies have shown cortisol levels are directly correlated to how stressed an individual is. By collecting and examining faecal samples, you can later test cortisol levels in a lab. PhD student Katie Reinhardt and I will be visiting Cikananga Rescue Center this week to test and compare the cortisol levels of captive and wild lorises.  Then we will research to see if cortisol levels are directly related to brachial secretion. If this is the case, then rescue centers, zoos and wild researchers could easily identify a lorises stress levels in the most non-invasive level—by simply looking at their brachial glands.

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Julia giving medical care to the housecat, Steven.

I am also able to provide basic medical treatment for one of the team’s four legged members. The team has a house cat, Steven, who wins the hearts of all who meet her. Originally brought in to hunt unwelcomed mice in the field house, the feline does more than just keeping mice at bay. Steven brings joy to everyone just with her loving presence and makes the field house a more welcoming and fun place to stay. Unfortunately, after being spayed Steven had post-surgical complications and needed medical attention. Luckily LFP has connections with Dr. Dian, a veterinarian who works at Pusat Konservasi Elang Kamojang, an eagle conservation about 45 minutes away by motor bike. Stevie received medical attention essential to her wellbeing and is currently being treated with daily antibiotics. It will be a long road to a full recovery and I am glad to be here to lend a helping hand along the way.

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In better times, distracting us from work!

  • Julia Koncelik, LFP volunteer

Selamat datang!

Arriving to the village of Cipaganti to start work on The Little Fireface Project I found myself far away from the hustle and bustle of the capital and instead surrounded by welcoming faces, both in the LFP house and in the village! I was lucky enough to arrive just 2 days before Loris Pride Day; an annual event set up by LFP to celebrate the project and thank the community for allowing us to be a part of their village. The event included parades, games, music, puppet shows, and dancing; a fantastic introduction to the project and the villages involvement with us!

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One of my first days was at the annual Pride Day.

As the week went on I was introduced to the Kepala Desa (village chief), took data on a nature club session, and learnt more about my job as Field Station Coordinator. The Little Fireface Project is involved in so many areas of conservation; from research, to outreach, social media, education, to agroforestry. The interests and passion of the team keeps this expanding and the range of staff and volunteers employed here reflects this. My background is in primate and domestic animal rescue centres, and conservation project management; which will hopefully continue to compliment the team and help towards the conservation of the slow loris!

  • Laura Beasley, Field Station Coordinator

In the Limelight

Over the last couple of decades, wildlife documentaries have become a popular television genre. Young biologists everywhere idolise David Attenborough, Steve Backshall, and Chris Packham. But the reality of wildlife doc is often a lot messier than people expect. Film crews normally work with actors; people who can be asked to repeat sentences and movements, scripts that can be followed, and lines that can be rehearsed. When they arrive in fieldsites like ours to film animals, things can get tricky. Animals follow no script, won’t repeat anything, and in the case of the loris, the challenges are endless. They are nocturnal, cryptic, small, fast, venomous… So when we get crews over, it is always with a sense of apprehension on whether they’ll adjust.

As was the case with Tim and Phil. Friends of the project, we invited them to come over and help us shoot a promotional video for LFP. Although they had some experience working with animals, nothing would compare to lorises. So when I picked them up in Jakarta, I hoped they’d be able to make the switch.

2016 Jan Geerah - Aconk and film crew (3)

Phil films Aconk using the telemetry equipment.

I needn’t have worried. Tim is a shining ball of happiness and optimism, and as far as he concerned nothing is impossible. Even when he crashed his precious drone into a flagpost (and the crowd inhaled as one), he still had a smile on his face. Phil, his partner in crime, is a loveable, funny guy who found his way into the hearts of the local children by always letting them see what he shot and putting up with their relentless questioning.

2016 Jan Geerah - Selfie with locals

Rob, Tim, and Katie make friends with local girls.

As for the lorises, they were luckier than most! On their first night, they managed to get beautiful shots of One-Eye’s lovely new baby. Also Maya and her brand-new little one (who still clings to her) were caught on tape. During the days, the team would come and film us at work, interview our staff, and witness the festivities at Pride Day. It was a pleasure to have them with us for the week, and we are looking forward to seeing how our project will look on screen! So from all of us at the project, we’d like to say a big thank you to Tim & Phil.

2016 Jan Geerah - Ina film crew (2)

Intern Ina is being interviewed for our upcoming short documentary.

Keep an eye on our Facebook, Instagram, and website for sneak-previews and the final product in the coming weeks!

  • Faye Vogely, Public Relations & Outreach Officer