Trying to make their lives better

In Cikananga Animal Rescue Centre everybody is worried about finding ways to make the life of the animals better as living in captivity is not the ideal situation for them. When Tara and I (Anna Zango) arrived at the animal rescue centre we decided that we wanted to contribute to this cause. Tara had the amazing idea of collecting some gum from trees in Cipaganti and to take it to Cikananga where the lorises had not eating gum for some months. We decided to make some paper rolls with gum inside and hang them in different places on the cages so the lorises had to move around to eat it.

Do you think they liked it? Well, they loved it!

They ate the gum of almost every single roll.

Infant loris learning to gauge gum in Cikananga

Infant loris learning to gauge gum in Cikananga

Loris playing with enrichment

Loris playing with enrichment

Anna Zango Cikananga 3

We also had the idea of making some holes in plastic bottles and put the food there so the lorises had to make an effort to obtain their food. It was very successful and they were very excited about the bottles: instead of the 5-10 min that they normally spend eating, they had at least 30min of entertainment with the bottles! We are very happy that we could help these amazing animals and contribute to help enrich their lives.


Anna Zango Cikananga 4

Anna Zango
volunteer Little Fireface Project

Reflections from Java: Part 1- Culture Shock

People often speak of culture shock when you go to visit, live or work in a new country. And accompanied come the warnings- don’t drink the water, don’t eat food from street stalls, watch your belongings very carefully… and so forth. Before coming to Java I assumed that my upbringing had made me immune to the shocks provided by a different culture, after all I’ve grown up in countries which few have ever visited such as Rwanda and Ivory Coast. But 9 months in Java has taught me otherwise.

Culture shock happens anywhere, any time and apparently to anyone.

One of the biggest shocks- Indonesian weddings:


One of my favourite moments was in my second week. I had just unpacked my bags and started to settle in when my housemate said we were going to the salon for a makeover. Turns out we were modelling wedding dresses!

Firstly, they put on layers and layers of makeup- I felt like I was wearing a mask and when I thought they could not put on anything more, out came the fake eyelashes. I ended up with 4 pairs on each eye and one eye glued shut. After boiling in a white “western” style wedding dress we were asked to model Indonesian wedding dresses. Mine was red and from Nothern Sumatra with a beautiful and very extensive headdress, making me feel like a real princess.

In Indonesia, the bride gets married in any colour she wants and he groom has an outfit to match. I soon learned after attending a range of weddings that on the big day it is normal for the newlyweds to wear 2 or 3 different coloured outfits so that they have a range of different photos. And one is more beautiful than the next.

An Indonesian wedding is quite an experience! The couple sits on a stage and welcomes all the guests. You are then pushed towards the buffet and unless you hold on to your plate a little old lady (usually one of the parents) will continuously ask you if you have eaten and try and get you to eat even more! The problem: the food is always very spicy and my Dutch palate cannot handle it. So if you go to Indonesia make sure you remember how to say “I am full thank you.”

And then comes the dancing! There is always an additional stage with a band or traditional instrumental music. Dancing will only occur on the stage and everyone wants to see you dance. So when the little old lady is finished asking if you have eaten, she will come round another 10 times to ask you to go and dance… on the stage. But you soon learn to go with the flow and if you dance one song she stops coming by and has the biggest smile on her face. The wedding usually goes on for several hours with the bride and groom sitting on one stage and the guests dancing on the other.

Greetings from Java,


The Little Travellers

In every family there is someone that is a little different. The one who doesn’t quite fit in and likes to spend time doing their own thing and taking the road (or tree) less travelled. You know, the traveller of the family, the vagabond. Well, we have not one, but two loris family members just like that!

Several nights a week here at the Little Fireface Project field site we take GPS locations of our radio-collared lorises.  Most of our lorises have an area that they favour and we usually know which region we will locate them.

I say usually, because, just like most families, there is always one (or two)

As we continue monitoring lorises as part of our ‘Javan slow loris’ dispersal study, we find the odd loris doing odd things. Take Api, our ‘Fire Girl’, for example; she was happily foraging and sleeping in an area located at 1350 metres above sea level, until one day we could not track her signal very well at all. We went up and down the mountain for what felt like 100 kilometres (probably more like five) with the ‘pings’ of the radio tracking receiver becoming weak, then strong and then weak again. We could NOT find her anywhere, which is always a little bit of a worry to us, as we like to know the lorises are safe and well. The very next day, during the day, our tracker Dendi and a volunteer went out to see if they could find Api whilst she slept. After a steep climb through the agroforest, and the radio receiver signal getting stronger and stronger, they had success! There she was, sound asleep, on the top of the hill oblivious to the worry she had caused. Api had travelled so far up the hill that it was a surprise to all of us. The following week she had moved even further up to 1584m above sea level, covering a total distance of at least 2.6km to get from the football field to her new home.

Mo_2014_JAN_M Williams (1) A few weeks later, our handsome boy, Mo, decided he might like to try a vacation too!

So why did the lorises move so far up the hill? Was there too much food competition, were the single lorises down the hill just not ‘cutting it’ in the looks stakes or were our travellers being pushed out by other individuals?

Studying the dispersal of the Javan slow loris will hopefully shed some more light on why, how and when the lorises do disperse.

We will monitor Api and Mo closely to see if their relocation is a permanent one or whether they were just checking out a new area for future reference. We have also welcomed many new animals to our dispersal study;



Kiara- the risky lady- found wandering on the ground of someones farm in the day!








Maya- the quiet beauty- named by our friends at Shaldon Wildlife Trust








JAVAN SLOW LORIS - Nycticebus javanicus 'WINGKI'



Cabe- the aggressive boy- possibly the son of Sibau, will he travel far? or is he a mommas boy?





Dali- the little ladies man- often seen with Tereh and a very handsome little boy




Stay tuned for more vagabond adventures!


The Path to Freedom – A volunteer’s experience with rescued lorises

There are many jobs to be done at the Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Center, and all of them are rewarding. But for me, nothing was as rewarding as working with the slow lorises. It was love at first sight when I first saw one ten years ago, and my experience working with them was a dream come true.

I was lucky enough to feed them and clean their cages almost every day. I also helped them get weighed, helped Little Fireface Project’s postdoctoral researcher Grace Fuller film them eating insects as part of her venom study, helped build furniture for two outdoor habitats, had a delightful late night (or rather, midday) rendezvous with them and even saw three wild lorises!

Although the reason the slow lorises arrived at the Centre is sad and devastating, it was wonderful to meet and get to know so many lorises as individuals. And Cikananga is taking excellent care of them. My favorite was one who had a blind eye. I was calling him Captain Kukang, or the Captain, as he needed a tough name to make up for his eye, and, well, he looked like a pirate. He’s such a delightful little guy, curious but cautious, and so sweet.

Although I already knew these animals were beautiful, it was such an excellent experience to be able to work with them on a daily basis. I am already looking forward to helping with their release and setting all my new little loves free.

Nadia Muqaddam

Special thanks to Bradley The Tanner’s who have supplied LFP with gloves for handling these venomous yet adorable animals!

A world of creactivity

Making a special place

I love drawing and colouring, but I normally don’t have enough time to do it. So could it be more perfect if a task for the project involves working with colouring pencils?

Therefore, when Densie asked me about helping her with making a poster about nature for decorating a space for the children I immediately answered: of course! With the concept of nature-poster in mind, we decided that it would be a good idea drawing a huge tree, with long branches and deep roots, big enough to cover the entire wall. But we wanted the place to be dynamic and fun, so we came up with an amazing idea: drawing some animals separately from the poster and, by adding some Velcro to the back, the children have to place the animals according with the place they live.
So I drew some animals and Tara helped me colour them, here you can see some examples, I hope you like them!

Once the place is finished I will let you know the result. Be patient!

education blog photo Anna Zango


Drama Club:

The Little Fireface Project is not only concerned about conservation but also about helping the local community in many ways. In order to make it possible, the LFP team has implemented different programmes that involve education with children, and I am going to talk about the newest one. Sharon Forest had the amazing idea of doing a project with children in order to inspire and strengthen their creativity, and that is how the Drama Club was born!

The first session we decided to tell the children to make some instruments using their imagination. They made guitars, drums, cymbals, harps… by using just cardboard boxes and elastic bands! Quite impressive, isn’t it? After that they dressed up and had some fun performing different characters, trying their best to express sadness, happiness, annoyance among many different feelings. They did it very well and it was a lot of fun!

The first session was an absolutely success and I can’t wait to do the next one. Let’s see with what these amazing children surprise us this time!

Nature Club:

Nature Club is a small club for the children of Cipaganti here at Little Fireface Project’s Indonesian field site.  We are fortunate enough to have much to do with local people, especially the children.

Although Nature Club has been running for some time now, things have now been structured a little bit different, to ensure that every child can learn in the unique way that they learn best.  We all know that everybody learns differently and the children here in Cipaganti are no exception!  Some children are in awe when they learn English, others really do prefer the ‘hands on’ learning and others learn through play.  So the ‘new’ Nature Club is encompassing all of those ways of learning.

April was “FOREST” month and each lesson starts off with an English lesson; words associated with the forest.  The children love it and they seem to pick up the language really well (better than my Indonesian I must say).

Apart from English lessons, children are encouraged to answer questions which revolve around the forest near their village.  Learning about what animals live there and why the animals and their forest homes are important.  We did craft activities and forest walks to make sure our kinesthetic learners are covered, provided animal and tree photographs for our visual learners and lots of questions and answers to assist our audible learners; above everything else … we make it fun!


Activities so far include:

  1. How plants grow – Including a competition to see who can grow the biggest plant from some green pea seeds
  2. Tree Identification – A walk in the forest to see who can find the trees listed on a tree photo sheet
  3. Poster Making – Who lives where in the forest?
  4.  Learning to identify animals living in the forest in West Java.

With over 20 children attending each class, Nature Club is a valuable tool to teach children about the environment and the animals we share it with.

I have also learned that the children here in Cipaganti are extremely analytical.  They love problem solving and the activities that encompass this.

Nature Club is a wonderful platform for sharing and I have learned as much from these children as they have from me.

Next month … MAMMALS.

Nature Club - Forest (small)

Loris Predator Reaction

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!

Entering the lorises world for the first time

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 :-)




Education in Java

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, Awareness, Awareness!!!!

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.

Tasik awareness

The horrors of market surveys

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.

Civet coffee

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.