Slow lorises are a unique group of primates found throughout South and Southeast Asia. Their vice-like grip, snake-like movements, shy nature, and most remarkably, their venomous bite, make them unique amongst the primates. They also are to many people undeniably adorable, and to others, nature’s answer to over 100 diseases. Their slow movements make them easy prey to expert hunters who literally empty the forests of these shy primates – amongst the most common mammals seen in Asia’s illegal animal markets, but amongst the rarest spotted even in Asia’s best protected forests.

The Little Fireface Project, named after the Sundanese word for loris, is the world’s longest running loris conservation project, started in 1993, under the auspices of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of Oxford Brookes University. Our research was highlighted in the award winning 2012 film Jungle Gremlins of JavaWe aim to save lorises from extinction through learning more about their ecology and using this information to educate local people and law enforcement officers, leading  to empathy and empowerment whereby people in countries where lorises exist will want to save them for themselves. This is done through education, media, workshops and  classroom programmes. Our education does not stop in range countries, but also reaches out to potential western purchasers of loris pets.

My LFP Experience - 21/05/2017

To me, the decision to become a volunteer at LFP was both hard and easy in the same time. I really loved my job in Jakarta, which I had to leave eventually should I decide to join this project, and I barely knew anything about wildlife activities. On the other side, I’ve always wanted to do some volunteering actions for years but never actually found a project that really excites me like this one. But then I thought that life was simply too short for that kind of hesitation, so I decided to leave my comfort zone and handed my month notice as soon as my application was accepted.

A sight from the front seat of an angkot in Leuwi Panjang Terminal, Bandung

I travelled to Cipaganti from Bandung for the very first time with an angkot (mini bus public transportation, that can pick up and drop passengers in random places) followed by an ojek (motorbike) ride uphill directly to the green house, the name of LFP field station. I got immediately acquaintained with the staffs and other volunteers (and the cats!) as soon as I arrived while enjoying a huge piece of chocolate cake accompanied by a cup of tea, then I met with the trackers the next day. They were all very nice and friendly, hence a very pleasant first impression of my journey here.

Like any other volunteers I join the night observation team, which usually consists of 1 volunteer and 1 observer (plus another volunteer in training if there’s any). My first training session was to observe a male juvenile slow loris named Mungkin (which literally means “maybe”). I find the way they give the lorises name hilarious. Some are based on an Indonesian word: Bintang (star), Lucu (cute), Tombol (button), we also have slow lorises with quite a famous name like: Toyib (from an iconic Indonesian song, “Bang Toyib”), Sule (a well-known local comedian), Xena (warrior princess!), while the others have European names like: Fernando (maybe inspired by a famous ABBA song?), Shirley, Jean, etc. Since I hardly ever exercised, my first shifts were very difficult. I’ve always tried my best not to give up and right now I’m glad that I’ve gotten much better and faster already (although I’m still relatively slow compared to the other observers and the trackers).

Mungkin climbing down on a bamboo tree

In addition to the night observation, I volunteered myself to help managing the data we collected as well. In order to do this, I had to learn about the R programming language, which is arguably one of the best languages to do statistical analysis and data science. In contrast to the other volunteers, I really enjoyed learning how to code using R. We also do a lot of daytime activities here. One of them is our “Nature Club” programme. Twice a week we visit a local school to teach the children English and some knowledge about nature (like what makes a healthy forest, bio-degradability, etc.). Even though I’m really terrible at teaching, I volunteered to assist the teaching force from time to time and tried my best to transfer some of my knowledges to the children. Once in a while we also plant and distribute some trees to the farmers in the conservation area to ensure the sustainability of the slow lorises’ habitat.

Teaching kids English and biology as part of Nature Club activities

Entering my final few weeks, the experience and amazing new friends in the course of my stay at LFP make me really grateful that I pursued my resolution to be a volunteer here. Doing the night observations can be hard sometimes but they are really fulfilling indeed. I’ve always tried to contribute as much as I could, but in the end I still feel that I am the one who gained the most in form of invaluable lessons and perceptions!

  • Joshua
  • Volunteer