Butterfly, Flutterby, Feeding Lorises in the Sky

Upon arrival in Cipaganti after a warm welcome and a warmer cup of tea, Dan (one of the volunteers) asked me if I wanted to join the team doing mist netting surveys of the local bat species. Happy to be thrown in the deep end and see what the forest has to offer in terms of fauna we made our way up to a small patch of bamboo 5 minutes from the village. The first thing that struck me was how noisy the forest is at dusk, and although the prayers from the Mosque do play their part it was the vast number of insects that lit up the area with their calls. Although we were largely surrounded by crops, which at home in the UK usually do very little for insect diversity, the impression of the biological diversity represented by the insects is impossible to be missed. The stridulation of grasshoppers and cicadas at night sometimes make small talk a burden, and during the day when you venture off of the beaten track (although this isn’t even necessary) emerald green praying mantises perch poised and ready for prey and huge birdwing butterflies soar between the foliage.

Flutterbye

Praying Mantis

I have come to LFP to investigate the insect diversity here and look into the roles that they play both for the lorises and the ecology of the agroforest here. For the next two and a half months I will be conducting lots of surveys to measure the diversity of the invertebrates as well as trying to work out the insect pests that the farmers encounter. Additionally I will be trying to better understand how insect diversity and abundance effects loris behaviour and the foraging requirement that lorises may have regarding insect prey. During nightly behavioural observations that are being done here many a loris can be seen munching on insects, but the exact insect groups that they consume in the wild is still unclear. Once this has been resolved we can begin measuring how the insect prey abundance and behaviour may effect loris behaviour and movement.

To put this in context for loris conservation, in collaboration with Katie who is looking at the effect of climate on behaviour of lorises I will be trying to measure what effect altitude has on insect populations. In other words, if the lorises are moving to higher altitudes (due to habitat disturbance and increased temperatures at lower altitudes), will they have any insects to munch on?!?

Get the kettle on and get the net out, let’s find out!

Field work

  • Albie Henry, LFP Researcher

 

One Person At A Time

Hello, all. My name is JoooBooo. I am a slow loris, and I’m currently in West Java, Indonesia educating people about slow loris conservation and helping care for captive lorises. My mission is huge, but with overwhelming love, I reach out.

IMG_8226

JoooBooo trying on the slow loris mask he made at Klub Alam (Nature Club)

Sometimes it seems overwhelming. Wildlife conservation is an exhausting job. Trust me, I just had to take a few days off to recuperate in Bandung. Watch some wildlife shows on TV, get some delicious bugs to eat. But after that time off, I came back feeling more positive than ever and ready to work again. And as discouraging as it sometimes seems, I realized once again that every little bit helps. This is partly due to a wonderful conversation I had with a hotel employee in Bandung. I was explaining my purpose in being here, and why my dedication to my cause was so strong (besides the fact that I’m a loris). And the employee, Yudi, asked me what he and others can do to help. So I told him. It was that simple. Did that solve the problem completely? No, but it’s a good start.

It seems like a lot, working every day and still seeing so many lorises at wildlife markets and in captivity. And seeing that so many of those captive lorises cannot be released, their teeth having been removed or filed down, or having suffered other injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild. But we have to focus on the positive. Those captive lorises at rescue centers are living healthier, more natural lives than they would as pets, even if they are not in the wild. It may be second best in that case, but it’s better than the alternatives. And every person you educate can make a difference.

In the past month, three lorises have been brought to Little Fireface Project. Two were released immediately, as they were wild and had wandered into the village. The message of LFP has spread far enough that the local people recognized them as being wild, and were trying to protect them by making sure they were properly released. The third loris was someone’s pet, and a friend of its owner convinced them that the loris should not be a pet. This little one, Dodol, has been taken to the Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Center to see if she can be released in the future or not.

JoooBooo on route to take Dodol to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

JoooBooo on route to take Dodol to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

So the message is this: the news that reached those people may have been slow, and it may have seemed like a lot of work at the time. But that is three lorises saved. Three lorises like me that can lead better lives. And those people will continue to educate others, and soon the message can spread far and wide. But we have to start with one person at a time.

  • JoooBooo, slow loris & Volunteer Mascot

You and What Technology?

Between myself and this evening’s tracker, Yiyi, we have easily been on 400 observational nights of loris watch. That’s over 2400 hours of following these small, shy and fantastically cryptic animals through the fragments of Cipaganti’s agroforest. Alongside experience, we also have a heavy arsenal of equipment aiding us in locating the lorises; radio telemetry, red spotlights, ultrasonic microphones… the list goes on. None of this however, seemed to be a match for what One Eye deployed this evening: evolution. Over millions of years of time, lorises have evolved to perfect and fine tune behavioural and morphological adaptations. One in particular was just one step ahead of me and Yiyi this evening; crypsis (the ability of an animal to avoid detection by predators, often used by nocturnal animals using methods of camouflage and mimicry).

IMG_7926

One Eye, moments before her disappearance

After locating the area of strong signal using our radio tracking equipment, we began scanning the area for One Eye, keeping a look out for the classic eye-shine or hint of branch movement. Ten minutes passed with both of us carefully scanning the nearby bamboo, searching the top of nearby trees and clambering underneath the frame of local vine crop known as labu- all with no luck. Delving into my arsenal of equipment, I grab the thermal imaging camera (yeah, like the ones from ‘Cops on Camera’ and ‘Road wars’. Cool, right?). Scanning all around, we located bats and even insects, but no loris. The signals rarely lie, so when it says the loris is here, it must be here. The search continued as I scanned the trees while Yiyi crawled under the labu, looking like some SAS troop wielding the thermal camera.

Twenty-two minutes passed before Yiyi whispered, ‘Dan, look’. I slowly dropped to my knees to look under the labu canopy, and there, only 1 foot away from where I had been standing, One Eye had nestled herself amongst leaves and vines, with only two hands on show. This just made me chuckle and think: the hours of experience we have and hundreds of pounds of equipment we use, still sometimes isn’t enough to contend with these evolutionary tuned, top-class hiders.

Target located.

Target located.

  • Dan Geerah, Volunteer

A New Way of Learning

Saving endangered primates with fake fur might sound mad but that’s exactly what I’ve come to Asia to try. I arrived at LFP this week with a rucksack bulging with animal puppets and received a warm welcome in the field house. It wasn’t long until some of the neighbours popped by to meet the new residents.

IMG_7550 (1)

Local children swarmed Rumah Hijau at the site of the six puppet animals!

The puppets aren’t just here for a holiday – they’re part of the Whoop Troop conservation education programme that I’ve developed for my MSc Primate Conservation research project. I’m here in Java for a week to deliver the puppets and launch the Whoop Troop project. Then I’m off to Viet Nam for two months to deliver the project there. Students in both countries will be following the course together and will link up by internet to share their knowledge and experiences in this connecting classrooms project. I’ll be finding out whether it’s an effective way of learning about primate conservation.

Here in Java, students in our Cipaganti Nature Club and Situwangi Boarding School in Cikajang have already joined the Whoop Troop. They’ll spend the next eight weeks investigating the behavioural ecology of the Javan slow loris, Javan silvery gibbon, Javan rhinoceros, leopard cat, saltwater crocodile and rhinoceros hornbill, and the threats they face in the wild. And you’ve guessed it… these are our puppet characters. As well as learning scientific techniques for studying animals, the children will write and perform a spectacular puppet show to tell other people what they’ve learned. It will be so exciting to find out what characters the children develop for the puppets!

IMG_1649

The puppets caused a lot of excitement at the boys boarding school in Cikajang!

IMG_1659 (1)

Klub Alam (Nature Club) children getting to know the puppets at our school in Cipaganti

As if all that wasn’t enough excitement, I also saw my first wild slow loris last night. Katie and Yiyi took me out on observations and kindly didn’t mention my slow and slippery progress up the mountain. They are so experienced they just stride along the trails. Yiyi located our focal loris Fernando quickly and we watched him foraging for two magical hours until thick fog set in. Reading scientific papers and watching videos hadn’t prepared me for the slow loris’ graceful stretch between branches and sinuous climbing motion. Although sadly the fog put a stop to observations, I felt really contented just sitting there in a carrot field listening to the cicadas and frogs. Javan fog is so much warmer than fog in Oxford!

Whoop Troop Logo Sticker

  • Claire Cardinal, MSc Researcher

Javan Slow Loris Surveys Beyond Garut

Yesterday, a few of the team members expanded our Javan slow loris presence surveys outside of Garut. I had previously done presence surveys for Sumatran lorises in Bukit Lawang with our colleagues at Green Hill, but this was my first time conducting a survey in Java. One of our previous volunteers (Ina Kathrin-Spey) had developed methods to conduct a survey of Javan slow loris populations, to determine their abundance and distribution across the island of Java. As the majority of Java’s forests have been cut down for farms, it was rather tricky to develop methods for such an extreme, disturbed area. Thanks to the methods she developed, we completed our surveys in the area of Garut, but yesterday we expanded our first (more lengthy) survey, outside the district.

13101195_10153422903511583_547650407_n

Equipment for our presence survey.

Beginning with interviews, we received a lot of surprised and baffled reactions to a photograph of a Javan slow loris. Many of them had never seen one, or even thought it was a pig! After the interviews, we explained a bit more about the work we do in conservation, education, behavior and outreach. Everyone seemed very keen, and asked if they could join us on our night surveys, to help us save lorises. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do this, as too many people would scare the lorises, and also because we didn’t have nearly enough red head torches for everyone.

13059427_10153422903376583_572849782_n

Wita starting off the interviews!

We hired one local farmer who knew the area as our guide, and began the trek. Within the first 300 meters we already saw two lorises and got to know all sorts of new flora species that we don’t have in Cipaganti. Due to some earlier rain and steep slopes, we were slipping and sliding all over the place. At one point, it took us 30+ minutes to scale 100 meters up a slope, relying on strong trees to hold us up, and laughing the whole way. After two and a half hours of hiking up the mountain, we were rewarded with a breath-taking view of Garut city at the top of the mountain.

13101316_10153422903161583_1884191091_n

Surveying lorises in the field.

Over 12 hours, we spread awareness of this Critically Endangered species and learned more about it’s distribution range and cultural awareness along the way. And on top of that – we had a bonding night out, exploring a new area with new exciting trees and new friends. Overall, our survey was a success and the start to an exciting new phase for LFP in our efforts to protect the Javan slow loris!

13081935_10153422902631583_665889995_n

A team coffee break!

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

Nocturnal Rhythms

Before deciding to join the Little Fireface Project, my main focus of research was on diurnal primates. This meant waking up at 4am, following monkeys until 5 or 6pm (depending on the season), hiking home, eating dinner, going to bed between 8 and 10 pm, and repeating it all the next day. This schedule felt rather natural, but didn’t leave much time for getting any alternative work done. Weekly schedules would require a full day off of observations in order to do other tasks, like entering and editing data, stocking up on food supplies, equipment repairs or processing samples. When I entered the world of nocturnal research, my circadian rhythms were literally turned upside down.

Now, my daily schedule consists of nightly observations between 5pm to 5am, going to bed around 6am, waking up between 12 and 1pm, and then having an average of 5 hours daily to get all those alternative tasks done. It keeps my days rather consistent, but it was no small feat to get to this stage. When I first started nocturnal research, I simply couldn’t sleep. I was naturally waking up at 8am when I had only gone to bed 2 hours earlier. It took about 2-3 weeks of physical exhaustion from not sleeping enough to kick into the night-life, mentally and physically. Over time, I’ve acquired my own routine that helps me stay in a consistent rhythm. Here are a few tips I find helpful in getting into, and maintaining, a healthy nocturnal work life:

  1. Keep the thermos filled with hot water at all times! I find a cup of coffee or tea accompanying me in the field helps at night. While too much caffeine might make you crash (and the majority of the team here has seen me go through a serious caffeine addiction, averaging 8 cups a day), a few cups during the later hours of the day can help, when it’s dark out and your body thinks it is time to sleep. I’ve almost entirely kicked coffee out of my routine now and I already feel my energy has more than doubled, but I won’t give up my night tea.
KatieBlogCoffee

Latte from our favorite bakery an town – an off day treat

2. Cold mandi: A cold shower in the morning works better than coffee! Why? Because a cold shower wakes up all of your muscles. It sounds crazy, but you get used to it quickly. Cold showers dilate your capillaries and get your blood circulating to your extremities, stimulates your metabolic rate, boosts blood glucose, and increases your immune system.

KatieBlogDucks

Our LFP rubber duck team, enjoying a cold mandi?

3. Bubur o’clock: this has become a bit of a house tradition. As most of us are on a nocturnal clock here, those who aren’t on the late night shift will join those who just returned from observations to our neighbor Ibu’s shop for our favorite traditional breakfast dish; bubur. Bubur is a rice porridge commonly served with either chicken, eggs or peanuts. It’s a nice team bonding time as well, and whoever just came back from observations will update the others on what their focal loris was up to that night.

KatieBlogBubur

Waiting in line for bubur!

Side note: we have also just learned that the village bubur is most commonly used as baby food. This has had no influence on our routine, and we proudly wait in line with the infants, awaiting our rice porridge goodness.

4. In-flight ear buds and eye mask(s): as many of you may have read in previous blogs, we live directly across the street from the village mosque. The first call to prayer is at 4:30am, and then again at 7am, etc, etc. When you are trying to sleep in, those free in-flight ear buds that your airline gave you will become your best friend. Also, your body’s internal clock is sensitive to light, so in-flight eye masks come in handy too when you need to sleep through the sun that is creeping into your room.

5. Off-day exercise: Our job is literally to hike a mountain every day. It’s always nice to do something leisurely for yourself on off days – from something as small as enjoying a hot chocolate on the couch to going into town for lunch—but if I want to sleep later in the day, I still need to do some form of exercise or I am just too wired with energy to sleep. Sometimes I go out to the field to practice photography, some of our volunteers will go play Frisbee on the football field, but some weeks we all need our off-day to catch up on data entry or writing up our research. On days like this, even a small house “planks and squats” workout or “DG’s wicked workout” is enough to do the job in 30 minutes, so we can power through our desk work. And once again, it also serves as team (ab) building!

6. On busier weeks where I need to do diurnal work like vegetation plots or phenology monitoring on top of my nocturnal work, I sleep at strange hours of the day, between 2 and 10 pm. It can be hard to sleep during the mid-day when everyone else is awake and buzzing with energy, and this is when Spotify and Celestial Seasonings tea step up to the plate. There are different playlists under the theme of “sleep” people have created on Spotify, and you can find a playlist that works for you. I usually down a mug of ‘sleepytime tea’ and put on a playlist of rainstorms, and I’m out like a light.

These are just a few personal tips I find helpful to stay energized during my work hours. Everyone finds their own routine that works for them, but I hope these can help ease the transition for anyone considering or preparing to embark the realms of nocturnal fieldwork!

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Student

A Night Out With Ena

Not being a full time researcher I only go out on observations around once a week unless needed. That one night is like unplugging yourself and leaving any unfinished jobs, questions, deadlines, emails, data entry etc at the door for that next six hours. So over the last three weeks/month of being ill and not going out on observations I’ve really missed that little bit of escapism.

After one failed attempt at getting back in the field this week and returning home after sickness struck again, last night I finally got a full follow, and it turned out to be quite the little treat. We arrived to find Ena wondering along the edge of some bamboo, low down, right by the path so I immediately started filming. We played hide and seek with her for most of the night as Ena would hide between thick branches or behind tree trunks until we found her again for just seconds, before jumping into the next seemingly pre-prepared spot that was totally out of site to us.

vlcsnap-2016-04-17-19h55m54s637

Ena first appearing through the Labu…

vlcsnap-2016-04-17-20h01m11s974

… and walking along the underside of the frame.

However illusive she was, the night was full of great moments and luckily we managed to get a lot of these on video too; Ena popping her head through a Labu frame and walking like Spiderman across roof of the plantation just a few meters away, Ena gouging for gum (something we have been trying to catch clearly on film for a while), being stalked by a leopard cat and discovering that actually, they are pretty scary, and finding Enas newly named baby Endor wide eyed perched on a little branch looking around expectantly for her mum to come home, and watching Ena and Endor settle down to bed together for the night.

vlcsnap-2016-04-17-20h03m22s364

The leopard cat stalking us.

I came back from the shift at 5.30am feeling totally refreshed as the night was the perfect reminder of why all of us come here in the first place, why we put up with being ill for weeks or months at a time, or spend months applying for permits before even arriving (as other blogs have mentioned recently)..; to ensure that lorises like Ena and Endor can continue to choose their favorite tree and go to sleep together at the end of the night.

vlcsnap-2016-04-17-15h43m37s334

Baby Endor waiting for Ena.

  • Laura Beasley, Field Station Coordinator

Once In a While, Life Gets So Good

Hello, everyone! This week was again full of many different and new things! To begin with, our researcher Priscillia (who happens to be one of my best friends!) and I spent last Sunday on a photo shoot in wedding dresses! As random as this sounds, this has actually become a tradition for LFP’s female volunteers and staff, and we were very happy to continue this tradition! We had an amazing time – having our hair and make-up done by award-winning professionals, and having our pictures taken by a professional photographer! While this wasn’t a first for either of us, it was completely amazing and a lot of fun! I was sick this week, and Priscillia left us to do another project in Brunei, so we haven’t had a chance to pick up our professional photos yet, but here is a quick look into how it all went! :)

Traditional wedding dresses from Bali and Yogyakarta!

9.4.16. Blog Photo 1

– Traditional wedding dresses from Bali and Yogyakarta!

Another amazing thing that happened this week was my visit to Aspinall’s Java Primate Project, where I continued my research on human-animal relationships! I had such an incredible time there, it was a dream come true for me to be able to visit them! Some days I enjoy my work so much that I feel like I will explode from happiness! This happens almost every time I am out observing lorises, but also when I’m around dogs! Or cats! Or pretty much any animal! Animals are really the best part of the world, and wild, pristine nature explains an additional part of the “life is amazing” variance! This week I was again lucky enough to experience both! I finally got to walk in the real jungle – twice! And both times in my jeans – that is just the level of casual that apparently I am now! In the said jungle, I saw a group of wild surilis – and these were my first ever wild monkeys!!!! What an incredible feeling it was to see them jumping around through the canopy!!!! Monkeys!! There are few things that compare to this kind of joy!!

In addition to monkeys and jungle, people working at Aspinall were the final piece of this week’s “I cannot believe how wonderful my life is” puzzle! They are some of the most inspiring people I have met since I’ve been in Indonesia. The way they think about their work and the animals, and the things they say about what their work means to them really resonates with me. In a way, they seem very similar to the people I met at the Cikananga Wildlife Center, who again really reminded me of the zoo keepers I used to work with at the Zagreb Zoo, as well as the ones I met at the Paignton Zoo. And all of them seem so similar to me! What a strange, but wonderful feeling to meet “your people” in a place so far from home! It is amazing how easy it was to talk to them. Different language, culture, and nationality, different gender and age – but somehow the same love for animals, the same feeling of connection to the nature, the same energy! They have been amazing to me, from letting me become a part of their world for a few days, to taking me on a proper field trip on my last day!

Kawa Putih (“the white crater”) – one of the amazing places the Aspinall keepers took me!

9.4.16. Blog Photo2

– Kawa Putih (“the white crater”) – one of the amazing places the Aspinall keepers took me!

All of this really got me thinking about all the differences between people who work with animals in different environments. I have already started planning my next project, which will focus on different professionals working with animals in captivity and in the wild, in sanctuaries and zoos, in habitat countries and in the western world (steal my idea and die 😉 ). I really want to get to the bottom of some things that have been itching my curiosity for a while now!!! I will start working on this as soon as my daily loris-loving life allows!

As exciting and incredible as this week was, I am very happy to be home in Cipaganti! Stevie the cat peacefully sleeps next to me, as I am finishing this post in my bed! Have a wonderful week, and appreciate the animals in your life! :)

  • Elena Racevska, Research Coordinator

Working in Locally Owned Forest

One of the more time consuming tasks of doing fieldwork of any kind, is getting permission for your research. Taking months to acquire my research permit and visa to stay in Indonesia for this year, I needed the approval of various authorities, both internationally and locally. I applied for my Visa and research permit in the United Kingdom, collected my visa from the USA, collected my research permit in Jakarta, followed by Tasik immigration to collect my KITAS and finally, get all this approved by the Kepala Desa (village chief) of Cipaganti, Indonesia. Collectively, this took maybe a total of 7 months – an exhausting process, but all the more rewarding to finally have everything in hand. And last but certainly not least, there is the permission required from local land owners, where you want to conduct research.

More and more every year, primate species are overlapping with human populated areas. This varies from cities to rural area and in our case, agricultural land. When you are doing research in a park you apply for that as a part of your visa, but when you want to work on local owned land, you need to get permission from each property owner that your study group ranges across. Fortunately, our conservation education and outreach programmes here have aided in this tremendously. Arriving to a village that has already learned to love both the Javan slow lorises and our project, permission had been given by farmers upon establishing our field site from the start, and we can freely follow lorises each night, wherever they decide to meander.

- Our outreach programmes have made farmers very welcoming to us and our work!

– Our outreach programmes have made farmers very welcoming to us and our work!

The more difficult aspect of this has been getting permission for my ecology research. A large portion of the trees here have been planted by the farmers themselves. A common method used for long-term vegetation plots is to mark individual trees, so you can monitor any changes over time. Some methods include using small tin nails and tree tags, but often, farmers do not like this. They believe it will hurt their trees and so, we needed to find a compromise. Brain storming with the entire team – this is quite possibly my favourite thing about field research – new or modified methods, where creativity makes a guest appearance in science! As nerdy as this may sound, it’s ridiculously exciting to find solutions to these kind of obstacles, and more so if they are methods that can help someone else in similar scenarios. Discussing different methods we researched, the trackers thought up a modification using wooden stakes to mark the outer perimeter of each vegetation plot, using rain-proof paint and then biodegradable flagging tape that we would replace whenever necessary. Using randomly selected plots, this took time to find out who owned what land, but once we talked with each land owner, they were more than happy to allow us to use this alternative method. This took a total of 4 months to solidify, but would be worth it in the long-haul. On top of now being able to monitor the habitat and vegetation over the coming years, every time we hike up during the day for this, the farmers greet us with smiles and the friendliest of ‘hallos!’. It’s important to work and speak with people in your area about what you are studying, because at the end of the day it’s their support you need more than anything to protect any species. It’s not just lorises we are studying, but the coexistence of lorises and humans in the same habitat, how they cope, and how they can survive.

Farmland like this on the edge of the forest are the perfect example of why humans and wildlife are having to learn to coexist more and more

– Farmland like this on the edge of the forest are the perfect example of why humans and wildlife are having to learn to coexist more and more.

  • Kathleen Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

First Impressions and An Insight Into the Mind of Toyib…

Being newly arrived here, it has taken me some time to hit my own stride within the graceful arms of LFP. Ha! I say newly arrived, yet a check to the calendar indicates I have been steadily employed here for one day short of a full month! The time has flown by in a swirling brawl of new experiences, new studies, and a new schedule for life, work, and sleep.

My opening week was dedicated to the task of learning the intricacies and intimacies of slow loris behavior, as well as the detailed methodology of recording their minute subtleties in the dark, a complex compendium of codes and catalogs . All this mixed with juggling a new batch of alien equipment and observation aids on a borrowed hour of sleep and several all-night watches – as I found myself descending the mountain slope at daybreak. This, an awesome spectacle with powers to aright the pains of a taxed mind. Daylight hours have been spent digesting the copious literature on agroforestry and coming into step with a fledgling project already begun. I will be taking over the duties of caring for our infant flora from Marion, whose passion for the project left me with but a light load to bear. In addition to these large scale visions of conservation in Indonesia, I have also had my fingers in, to at least sample, many other Fireface pies. These include collecting data from the motion sensitive camera traps, mapping the agriculture of the mountain, and a part time study in the differences this dialect of Sundanese has from other regions previously travelled.

2014 Jun Reinhardt - Agroforestry

– An example of one local farm with some trees, and part of the mapping project area.

I would like to applaud this small company for their ability to execute in the present while keeping a mind on the future. Myself having been involved in the founding of a company back in the United States I know how easy it can be to get bogged down in minutia, financial worries, personal quibbles, and a fixation on the task at hand. The good people at LFP seem wonderful at remaining organized while successfully converting visions into goals, and goals into action steps, and action steps into tangible results despite a constant change in the characters playing the roles.

In the field I find it difficult to remain dispassionate regarding our subject matter, the slow loris. It is hard not to humanize the expressions on their face and assign complex emotional states to their activities. Case in point was a loris named Toyib whom we observed late in the night at a high altitude on the mountain slopes in a dense patch of tangled bamboo. He seemed perplexed by the predicament of being watched. He cast his eyes from us the observers, to the ground, and then around his wooded apartment, and back again to slowly repeat the process in a deeply thoughtful state of devising his next move. The portraiture of his face seemed to always say “If I move I will give myself away to these human meddlers, but if I stay I am surely a sitting duck, what to do, oh… what to do?” Like a tiny Hamlet in his mountain kingdom stronghold, he wrestled with first one side of the question, and then the other in a constant and costly battle of indecision. Consulting his court of moth and mouse, he seemed to settle on the insecure compromise of both holding still and seeking entertainment elsewhere. This resulted in terrifically animated slow motion, perhaps only a centimeter per minute of time. It was like watching a perfectly sculpted ballet set to the slowest possible tempo of unheard music from the stars. This first act concluded with a nap-ful intermission and the sound of applause from the rain striking the canopy high above. It truly gave confirmation to the name “slow” loris and it is a moment that has captured my imagination as striking experience here in West Java.

Toyib Oct_26_2013_LFP_Tarniwan (8)

– Toyib, checking out his observers!

I take pains in parrying those who criticize this anthropomorphized view of the wild kingdom. Are we too not animals, with the same deep origins to our minds somewhere in history. If we share these long sinews of common days past, can we not also share, in some sense, hope and fear, drama and disgrace, enthusiasm and quiet entertainment on a night’s mountainside?

2012 Nov Tarniwan - Cipaganti Landscape (8)

– The view from our research area at sunset.

The steps carefully taken here by LFP can truly put one instep with the natural world quickly. It is a peace that is seldom realized, or can be quickly overlooked. I look forward to further immersion, further peace, and further work here in Indonesia. As the agroforestry project unfolds we shall have new tales to share of proud tree trunks and beautiful flowers filling the Earth and air with treasured resources.

  • John Thompson, Volunteer