ABOUT THE LITTLE FIREFACE PROJECT
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 Java. We 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.
One year of wild ride - 25/06/2017
This week exactly marks my one year of working with this awesome slow loris conservation organization. I can’t believe it’s already one year.
I came here the first time as a research assistant volunteer for PhD researcher, Katie. I planned to volunteer for just three months. I thought it was going to be long enough, but I was wrong. Three months were too short, especially when I treasured it and time flew quickly, so I decided to extend for another two months. My job was mostly involving night observation, following a radio-collared slow loris for at least 6 hours each nights. The work starts at 5 – 11 pm for first shift or 11 pm – 5 am for second. Honestly, I don’t really care about having a first shift or second one. They have their own benefits. For instance, I can at least sleep while the night is still on after having a first shift, but sometimes I have to wait a little bit longer for the replacing second-shift team to arrive at our site and replace us. While second shift is usually colder, I feel that the time weirdly goes faster during this shift. I have to sacrifice second half of the night, though, but I could see the beautiful sunrise after the shift is finished. I don’t know how many hours I have spent, but I could say that every nights and every lorises that I had followed had their own unique stories.
Again, time went quickly. Back in November 2016, It was supposed to be my last few weeks in Cipaganti, but I was offered with Wildlife Trade Officer (WTO) position. WTO main responsibilities are to conduct animal market surveys, online trade research, and manage the data. Eager to know what’s gonna happen if I took the job and still wanting to involve myself in conservation area, especially with slow lorises and such an amazing team, I decided to take it.
To be honest, the job is like a double edged sword. On one hand, I could see the biodiversity that my country should have, on the other hand, it is also painful to see thousands of them being caged and sold. I have seen a lot of wildlife, mostly birds sold in markets across Java and Bali. This is saddening. Imagine being the bird inside the cage –your freedom is taken away and you couldn’t do anything, but to sing to cherish your master-. Not just the birds, but the other kind of wildlife too. For the online trade research, I am focusing on the slow loris trade as the traders in the animal markets have openly displayed less slow lorises to sell due to confiscation and law enforcement and shifted to online method which they assume it is safer. It is so devastating that each months, I see many slow lorises being advertised online and there are still a lot of people who are excited to buy them. The condition of the slow lorises can rip your heart apart as they seem not well taken care. Apart from the devastating things about being WTO, I am given chances to travel across Java, and recently Bali. The main goal is to visit the markets in each regions, but I can always find something to enjoy the places where I stay.
At the field station, when the others and I have leisure time, we usually play board games. I enjoy board games (especially kaboo!) as this is one of ways that can bring us together. There has been countless of laughter, not just while playing board games, but during other things to. Being here for one year also means that I have said a lot of goodbyes to returning volunteers. I guess this is the part that I hate the most as we are not going to see each other again.
I love working with Little Fireface Project and the supportive and hilarious team of staffs, volunteers, and trackers. All I can say is that It’s been a wild wonderful ride. I learnt a lot. I have met amazing people from the other parts of the world who become my family as the time goes by. The experience is priceless.
- Abdullah Langgeng