It was the first time I was going to an animal market in Indonesia. I knew all about it, I knew it would be awful. I had no idea.
At LFP we love to give you good news and cute pictures but because of the nature of our work, we often also have not so good news to give. In order to learn what we are up against, we need to educate ourselves on what is actually happening and we must try and see it from both sides. This was me trying to educate myself and hopelessly trying to grasp at anything rational but ultimately failed.
Our driver drove us to the edge of Jakarta’s biggest animal market. As soon as we got out we were slammed with the tropical heat and humidity. What is strange is that the people selling these animals are actually very nice! They would chat, ask questions and make jokes and laugh nonchalantly and not even register all of the suffering animals all around them. It seemed to me like they don’t think animals can suffer. Maybe they are robots? Maybe they just believe animals are so far removed from humans that they do not feel pain, so what they are doing cannot be cruel. To them, they are just earning a living. If they don’t even have a concept of animal cruelty, then maybe the conservation and welfare education NGOs like us offer is misguided?
The hardest part was not even seeing the nine stacked cages filled with baby macaques (about 53 of them), tons of civets, fruit bats, hundreds of birds or soft shelled turtles. It was playing the part. Talking to these men and acting like a dumb tourist. Looking at that dying tree shrew and saying “Oh my gosh how cute is that??” Even having a look of disgust was not allowed. If I wanted to see the good stuff, they had to trust me.
Then I saw it: two cages, each with two lorises (one either dead or almost there). The very animals I am working to protect, right in front of me. And I couldn’t do a thing. Except smile.
Needless to say this has definitely re-ignited my fervor for loris (and all) animal conservation. We need to work together, share our knowledge and produce evidence based protocols to mitigate this mess. I never want to feel helpless like that again.
Plenty of more embarrassing things happened to me this week but that wouldn’t really fit in the tone of this post now would it?