Saving endangered primates with fake fur might sound mad but that’s exactly what I’ve come to Asia to try. I arrived at LFP this week with a rucksack bulging with animal puppets and received a warm welcome in the field house. It wasn’t long until some of the neighbours popped by to meet the new residents.
The puppets aren’t just here for a holiday – they’re part of the Whoop Troop conservation education programme that I’ve developed for my MSc Primate Conservation research project. I’m here in Java for a week to deliver the puppets and launch the Whoop Troop project. Then I’m off to Viet Nam for two months to deliver the project there. Students in both countries will be following the course together and will link up by internet to share their knowledge and experiences in this connecting classrooms project. I’ll be finding out whether it’s an effective way of learning about primate conservation.
Here in Java, students in our Cipaganti Nature Club and Situwangi Boarding School in Cikajang have already joined the Whoop Troop. They’ll spend the next eight weeks investigating the behavioural ecology of the Javan slow loris, Javan silvery gibbon, Javan rhinoceros, leopard cat, saltwater crocodile and rhinoceros hornbill, and the threats they face in the wild. And you’ve guessed it… these are our puppet characters. As well as learning scientific techniques for studying animals, the children will write and perform a spectacular puppet show to tell other people what they’ve learned. It will be so exciting to find out what characters the children develop for the puppets!
As if all that wasn’t enough excitement, I also saw my first wild slow loris last night. Katie and Yiyi took me out on observations and kindly didn’t mention my slow and slippery progress up the mountain. They are so experienced they just stride along the trails. Yiyi located our focal loris Fernando quickly and we watched him foraging for two magical hours until thick fog set in. Reading scientific papers and watching videos hadn’t prepared me for the slow loris’ graceful stretch between branches and sinuous climbing motion. Although sadly the fog put a stop to observations, I felt really contented just sitting there in a carrot field listening to the cicadas and frogs. Javan fog is so much warmer than fog in Oxford!
- Claire Cardinal, MSc Researcher