A day in the life of a volunteer at LFP

You wake up to the sound of the mosque cascading through the village and motorcycles buzzing by. Stretch, yawn, sniff the air to see if Ibu Ina is downstairs and cooking yet. This may have a significant bearing on your morning ritual as it may take up to 30 minutes before you’re able to boil the kettle to make a coffee. After having determined if there is in fact an Ibu in the kitchen, roll out of bed and navigate the steep stair case descending into the common area. Post haste head into the kitchen whilst attempting to avoid treading on the cats. They will be determined to give you the warmest welcome to the day you could ever hope to receive (though I suspect they only want me for my ability to reach the cat food).

After circumnavigating the cats and successfully making a coffee you make your way into the common area to glance over the schedule for the day. As there is plenty of time before your night shift it’s probably time to work on your project or give the cats a bit more fuss. If you’re lucky however, whilst conducting your accessment of the schedule you may have noticed you’ve been given a task to do such as checking the sleep sites of the different lories or heading to the local school for nature club. Either way it is going to be a full day of new experiences. And before long 4 o’clock rolls around and this is where the real fun begins. Observation shifts. Time to get ready.

  • Get dressed
  • Pack bag
  • Prepare clipboard (decide between ‘Hello kitty’ and ‘Spiderman’)
  • Prepare trackers’ clipboard and equipment

Time to head to the farms and forest. Feel intense jealousy at how effortlessly the trackers move in and out of dense labyrinth of labu and up and down the steep terrain. You’ll spend the next 6-7 hours carefully watching each move and behaviour one of the worlds most endangered primates, meticulously making notes every 5 minutes. After scrambling and tripping up and down the mountain it’s time to head home and to bed. On the way back you’ll wonder about the behaviours you’ve just witnessed before being surprised again at just how beautiful mount Cikeuray can look with the cosmos behind it. Get home. Debrief. Play cards. Laugh. Head to bed wondering what the socially acceptable period of time between showering is and if that even matters to you any more. Fall asleep to dream of the mountain.

  • Ben Tatton
  • Volunteer

Teaching Indonesian children natural history can change attitudes about illegal trade

New research, which has assessed the impact of a children’s storybook on a Critically Endangered species – the Javan slow loris – has been published today (Monday 14 August).

A team of researchers from Oxford Brookes University, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia and the Little Fireface Project produced a book and education programme designed to teach children about the nocturnal primates that are under threat because of being captured from the wild and traded illegally as pets.

Professor Anna Nekaris, Professor in Primate Conservation and Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University and Director of the Little Fireface Project, wrote the book and was the lead author of the study. She said: “After assessing more than 50 books written for primate conservation projects, I was shocked to see that more than 80% of them contained scenes of fire, animals in tears and death. Education theorists have pointed out that such story writing can be destructive and cause readers to have a sense of hopelessness, or even sadness and fear.

Children’s books should spark imagination and be delightful – with this in mind, the book was carefully created so that children would want to return to read it again and again.”

The book, which is entitled Slow Loris Forest Protector, follows the story of a mother and son slow loris moving through their agroforest environment. The mother teaches her son how to find food, including flowers that they pollinate and insect pests that harm farmers’ crops. The depth of the family connection is emphasised, as well as the need for the young loris to learn from his mother. The moral of the story is that by leaving the primates in the forest, they are more helpful to humans than by keeping them in one’s home.

More than 1000 children aged between 8 and 12 years, took part in the research team’s education programme study, which took place in West Java. More than 500 children took part in a cultural consensus assessment – a technique normally used by social scientists- where children were asked to write an essay on everything they knew about the slow loris.

Before reading the book, many of the children appeared to know little about the slow loris, describing general animals rather than details specific to the primate. Those who appeared to know a little more, wrote that it lived in the forest and was brown in colour.

After the children took the book away for three months, the team returned to the schools and asked them to write a second essay. In the second essay, the children could not only repeat almost all key concepts in the book, but many had discovered that slow lorises are protected, that it is illegal to catch them and some learned the penalties. One nine year-old boy wrote:

Slow lorises are the protectors of the forest. They love to eat pollen from Calliandra flowers and gum from the jiengjeng trees. They have big teeth that are useful to not only protect the forest, but also help the farmers by eating the pests off of their crops. Slow lorises should be protected because they are special and have toxic venom. If you catch a loris, you will go to jail for 5 years. Even though they are already protected by the government, we should protect them more.”

Professor Nekaris continued: “By asking children to write their own creative stories, we could truly see what they learned. We could also see that they clearly read the book in their homes and sought information from adults on what they could do to help the slow loris.”

Co-author of the study Denise Span, who led many of the teaching sessions, commented: “The drawings in the book were so magical, it was easy for the children to become engaged. We were very careful not to mention any threats to slow lorises, but kept the entire first session positive so that children could immerse themselves in the knowledge of this animal they were learning about for the first time.”

Indonesian co-author from Gadjah Mada University, Muhammad Ali Imron, notes that this novel approach of assessing conservation education programmes can make a substantial contribution to the Indonesian government, NGOs and Universities. Imron said: “This multi-disciplinary approach to conservation programmes was overlooked by many conservation initiatives in countries that face many threats to their endangered species, such as Indonesia. We have so many conservation education programmes but until now, evaluation has been limited.”

The book and associated education programme were self-published with funding from People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Lush Charity Pot, Born Free Foundation, Cleveland Zoo and Zoo Society and Augsburg Zoo. The book Slow Loris Forest Protector is available for sale in English on the Little Fireface Project Etsy Shop and all proceeds go directly back to funding slow loris conservation. Free translations of the book in Indonesian and Vietnamese can be downloaded from the Little Fireface Project website here.

The research paper is published by the scientific journal Conservation Biology and can be found online. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.13023/abstract

More information about the slow loris and the Oxford Brookes University’s conservation work can be found on the Oxford Brookes website.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Natalie Gidley Communication Officer (Media Relations) at Oxford Brookes University on 01865 484630 or ngidley@brookes.ac.uk.

Notes for Editors

  • Set in a historic student city, Oxford Brookes is one of the UK’s leading universities and enjoys an international reputation for teaching excellence and innovation as well as strong links with business and industry. More information is available on the Oxford Brookes website at www.brookes.ac.uk
  • People’s Trust for Endangered Species has been helping to ensure a future for many endangered species throughout the world since 1977. Visit www.ptes.org for more information
  • Anna Nekaris founded the Little Fireface Project in 1993 under the auspices of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of Oxford Brookes University. Visit http://www.nocturama.org/ for more information
  • Since 2007, all species of slow lorises have been included on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), precluding all international trade.