This month, I had to go to Jakarta for processing my research permit. Upon my return, I realised that I was too late to get an angkot (a typical Javan mini-van taxi) for the last leg of the journey from Garut to our field station. After speaking with some of the locals, a friendly member of the local military brought me to a government building for assistance. Something must have been lost in translation because I thought he was offering me a lift home but instead, he just left me there.
I proceeded to speak with the government officials and after an hour long conversation of telling them about the Little Fireface Project and slow lorises, I discovered that they knew of a loris bought from the pet trade that had been released into a tiny patch of about ten trees in the middle of Garut City. I searched for the loris but could not locate it. When I finally found a way back home, I spoke with the other LFP team members and we resolved to go back and look for the loris again. We went back twice and still no sign. I resigned myself to the thought that the loris had been stolen or killed.
One week later, we received a call from the Perhutani (a branch of the Ministry of Forestry) saying they had received a loris from maintenance men in Garut. These maintenance men had found the loris in an electricity box three kilometres from where the government official had told me that a pet trade loris had been released. Apparently it had been causing power outages!
The LFP team quickly jumped into action and retrieved the loris from the Perhutani. We brought it back to our field station for a health check and discovered the loris was in good health and still had all its teeth. We also discovered that it was a young girl. The trip back to the field station was somewhat comical to behold. We drove a motorbike at a snail’s pace so our precious cargo would experience as little stress as possible. Our wonderful tracker, Adin, took on this important job. Our field site is located high up a mountain. The road leading up the mountain is good is some places and treacherous in others. The treacherous parts are fine for us humans but the rocky road is probably too much for a stressed out loris. Therefore, we decided to walk with the loris in hand for those parts and ride the motorbike for the others. It was slow progress but we got there in the end.
There was more drama to come. After setting the loris up with a temporary transport cage in a dark room with some branches to cling onto, some food, and some medicine, I went to bed for two hours. When I woke up I discovered that she had escaped and was crawling across the curtain rail in our field station! The most bizarre thing about this is that the cage was perfectly intact, with no doors opened, no bars bent, and the towels I had placed over it still in the exact same position. Luckily, the recapture went smoothly and we had her back safe in her transport cage in no time. Perhaps she was just small enough to squeeze through the bars but I think her great escape will remain a mystery.
It was almost inevitable that we named her Listrika (‘listrik’ is the Indonesian for ‘electricity’). Thankfully, the NHK film crew who have been filming at our field site for the past three weeks were leaving for the closest rescue center (Cikananga) that morning. This meant that we could send little Listrika with them for rehabilitation and a full veterinary examination. We are happy to say that Listrika is reportedly doing well in her new home. However, many questions still remain e.g. Was this the same loris as we were told about before? If so, did she travel three kilometres all by herself (this may be possible using insulated telephone cables)? Is this a different loris also from the pet trade (this is worrying because the trade in Garut was considered to be almost non-existent in recent years)? Is this a wild loris surviving in an urban environment? Her good health and full set of teeth combined with reports of this occurring in other Javan cities, make the latter option a possibility. However, her location, the coincidence of a loris being released in the city a week earlier, and the fact that we have never received a report of city-dwelling lorises throughout our three years working in the area make this unlikely. Unfortunately, this too will probably also remain a mystery.
– Robert O’Hagan, Research Coordinator