A visit to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

Earlier this month, I paid a visit to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre. During the week I spent there, I was lucky enough to help the keepers look after their animals. They have some amazing animals, all with their own sad story on how they ended up there – from otters to sun bears, from leopards to crocodiles, from hornbills to lorises.

cat

For some of the animals at the centre, their story does have a happy ending and they are able to be released back into the wild. While I was there, some gibbons were taken away for release to Sumatra, some Javan warty pigs were relocated to an endangered species breeding centre for reintroductions, and long-tailed macaques were sterilised as preparation for release later that month. Papers have also been submitted for the release of some of the many slow lorises that they have at that facility. However, the sheer number of slow loris that they have there – over 80 – clearly shows the scale of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Just before I left, another 2 slow lorises were handed in to the centre, one of which required medical attention. Many of these lorises can’t be released either, because their teeth have been pulled out to prevent them from biting their previous owners
or traders so they will live in the centre for now at least.

release

After spending the previous 2 months observing slow lorises in the wild, it was a sad sight to see so many in cages that can never be released. But Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre is doing an amazing job in light of such a bad situation. Although, like many other rescue centres here, they are running out of space to house these poor animals. I hope, for the sake of all the wild animals here in Indonesia, that consumer demand for the exotic and the illegal trade in animals stops because it is neither sustainable nor ethical.cage

 

Rebecca Cresswell-Davies: Student Volunteer

How to Find a PhD

Many LFP volunteers are undergrad students or have just completed their degree/masters and many of them ask me “How can I find a PhD?” How did you get yours?” so I thought his was a topic worth discussing! Now I can’t promise you a PhD nor can I say there is a sure fire way to get one but below are my tips.

First I need to explain the difference between two different PhD’s: The studentship and the self-funded. Studentships are generally a PhD offered by a group of supervisors which have a research question or problem and they are effectively hiring a student to solve this issue/answer the question and get a PhD at the same time. These do pop up regularly but are fiercely competitive since they are already funded. However you will get little to no control over the project, depending on the Uni and supervisor. You may get open studentships if you are lucky, these are random and allow you to create a project with a supervisor. Usually field work is not funded with these. May force you to do some teaching but that I all very good experience!

The second is the self-funded. These are sometimes advertised, but mostly these are the PhDs you create yourself and “pitch” to a supervisor. You have lots of control and this is essentially YOUR project but … you need to find the dosh. You need to pay tuition, living costs and field costs. My PhD is this kind :S Basically these are relatively easy enough to find/make since money is often the limiting factor for PhDs.

  • Be Persistent

It won’t happen on its own and a fairy godmother won’t just hand it to you (well she may but she’ll be a supervisor and proposing something very unethical…). You know the websites like findaphd.com etc. well go on it every week. Find universities you are interested in and visit their websites every week. Write it in a diary and on this same day weekly you go through all of your websites. But what are you looking for? You are looking for studentships! University websites are all awfully designed and I see it as a personal challenge. If you can find the page where they keep the studentship information you are halfway there. It is a maze and EVERY uni is different but a page does exist. It may be general or each faculty may have its page. You need to have a huge coffee (or wine) and go through every uni that you are interested in.

 

This is Katie who did her MSc with LFP. She now has a funded PhD through sheer persistence! Say hit o trackers Dendi and YiYi!!

This is Katie who did her MSc with LFP. She now has a funded PhD through sheer persistence! Say hit o trackers Dendi and YiYi!!

  • Find Supervisors

While you are waiting for your *OMG THIS IS PERFECTTTT* PhD to appear, why not help that happen and send e-mails to ALL of the possible supervisors which are experts in the field of research you are interested in. You need to do more than just say “Hi, I’m looking for a PhD”. Hopefully you know the direction you want to go in and have some ideas of how to accomplish this. These should be mentioned. Be super polite and respectful but not a robot and do not write more than a paragraph (depending on the supervisor, if s/he needs to scroll he may not read it coming from a random). Let them know you have a proposal you would like to show them, this way you can filter out the ones that could not care less or can’t take on more students. This way if a studentship pops up, they may let you know to apply or if they love you may get into discussions about a self-funded. Just don’t send a full proposal to them because they *could* take it and do this amazing research themselves.

  • Find Funding

Okay so let’s say you get in discussions for a self-funded. You are thinking “Hoooooly moley, I just found a PhD this is amazing!” but then you get asked “How will you be funding this?” which pops your short lived bubble. Well there are many grants out there, all of them are competitive and very few of them will pay tuition. I will now tell you something that most supervisors will hate. JUST SAY YOU HAVE THE MONEY AND FIGURE IT OUT LATER. There is a problem in the system that you can’t apply for funding until you have a PhD but you can’t get a PhD until you have funding. Just smile and say yes it is all fine for tuition and field work will be taken through grants. At least after it is agreed, JUMP on the funding and grant applications because you got yourself a PhD baby! Don’t forget government or bank loans which are often essential for paying the large up front tuition costs which you can pay back.

Ex-LFP coordinator Denise also found a funded PhD in Mexico! She is LOVING it.

Ex-LFP coordinator Denise also found a funded PhD in Mexico! She is LOVING it.

  • Apply everywhere

Whether you want the self-funded or studentship, you should be applying to as many studentships as you can. Applications are hard. They make you think critically and nicely sell yourself all the while remaining humble and showing the supervisor how good you will make him look. See it as practice so when you see your “OMG this one is just so perfect for me!” you will be ready. Plus, look at it this way: you can never get a yes if you don’t ask so go apply.

  • Talk to everyone

It is true that it isn’t always what you know, it is who you know. Networking skills are a HUGE asset. Go to conferences to meet the head honchos of the field you want to get into, buy them coffee or a drink, give them a business card of yourself you created a week prior and SHOW them how keen, smart and fabulous you are. Get their cards and follow up a week later. The 2 years before my PhD I would ask my parents to pay conference fees as a Christmas present. Also, you never know who the funders are. You may be lucky to talk to a manager of an institution who is looking to fund a PhD in your area. Believe me, this DOES happen, people.

Stephanie did her MSc with LFP and how she is self funding her amazing PhD project!

Stephanie did her MSc with LFP and how she is self funding her amazing PhD project!

The last tip is you need a little luck. Being at the right place at the right time is lucky and magical and can change your life so how can you make this happen? Be at as many places as possible, talk to as many people a possible, do as many things as possible. Won’t happen if you just sit around ;)

This was a bit of tough love but you need to be pragmatic. If you aren’t, the ones that are will get YOUR PhD. Rise students, rise! It helps to come up with a battle cry when time are low, mine is “SECONDARY PLANT METABOLITES!!!!!!”.

If you found a PhD please post your story in the comments to share with everyone!

Good luck.

Love and Lorises,

Francis Cabana

LFP Research Coordinator/ PhD Student

Jungle Gremlins of Java BBC 2, 29 Nov

Jungle Gremlins email banner repeat

 

 

On 29 November, BBC2 will air the award winning Jungle Gremlins of Java. This compelling documentary follows the research of Oxford Brookes University’s Professor Anna Nekaris, director of the Little Fireface Project, as she seeks to understand the behaviour of the elusive slow loris and to conserve them in the wild.

If you would like to help the slow loris after viewing this film, there is so much you can do!

  • Donate to the Slow Loris Fund at Oxford Brookes University & help our conservation & research efforts
  • Volunteer for the Little Fireface Project
  • Read our advice to help to remove illegal slow loris videos from the Internet
  • Zoos & rescue centres can download our nutrition guide to improve their loris’ diets
  • Visit our Etsy shop or Adopt a Slow Loris for Christmas and help our conservation efforts
  • Write to your ambassador in loris range countries and let him or her know your feelings about illegal trade & its impact on your travel & consumer choices

 

 

Meeting the Gremlins

Having the opportunity to complete a placement year/year in industry was a key feature that I looked forJess Wise when deciding on my university course. After deciding on Conservation Biology at UWE, U.K., thinking of ideas for my placement was never far from my mind and early into my second year I looked to finalise the details. I’d been keeping my eyes open, scanning job sites as well as reading magazines and watching various documentaries for ideas trying not to get ahead of myself (‘trekking through rainforest with David Attenborough’ is not a commonly advertised job title – I’ve checked). I was mentally compiling a list of ideas and dreams and becoming familiar with organisations, and although I’d eventually come to terms with the fact I wouldn’t be setting off anywhere with Sir David, I was determined to make the absolute most of my year out.

I’d come across Prof Anna Nekaris’ Little Fireface Project on one of my many searches and added it to ‘The List’. Months previously I had seen “Jungle Gremlins of Java’ and my interest was sparked. I knew of slow lorises, but in little detail and it was while watching Jungle Gremlins that I fell in love with the slow loris and was horrified to learn of their plight. Watching scenes of them elegantly wiggle through the trees with that snake-like movement then switching to those same huge eyes but from a cage in animal market shots brought me to tears. FALCO_1431The documentary had opened my eyes not only to the magic of seeing these curious animals in the wild, but also to the horrors and realities of fieldwork conservation. It inspired me and fueled my desire to spend the year out at an in-situ conservation project. I often thought of the documentary but spending my placement in Java sounded too much like a dream; it had the traveling aspect I was looking for and I had a new found love for slow lorises; fascinated by the little we knew of them, their adorable appearance and was desperate to help in any way I could to reduce the trade and numbers in the markets. By this point I had looked into the project and was impressed by its diversity. Jungle Gremlins of Java had left a lasting impression!

SONY DSCIt all happened quite quickly after that, a couple of days after finding LFP on a search page a friend randomly talked about someone she knew who was working in Java with slow lorises – ‘Firefaces or something’ and had I heard of it? That same day while flicking through an old copy of BBC Wildlife Magazine I came across an article about slow lorises, including an interview with Prof Nekaris and discussing her project in Java… Later that week, probably while procrastinating from some important deadline, a link to the Little Fireface Project page popped up on my news-feed of some social media site, possibly the only time when knowing what a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend has ‘liked’ was actually useful! Finally unable to ignore these series of events I took the plunge and found Anna’s email from the project website and the rest is history. Now three months down the line and writing this from the volunteer room in the Javan field station I can honestly say that it was the most life-changing decision I’ve ever made.

Jess Wise – Student Volunteer

PROTECTING THE LORIS – OUR LOCAL TRACKERS’ POINT OF VIEW

Trackers 1My name is Aconk and I have been working with Little Fireface Project (LFP) for 2 ½ years.  Even though I am the youngest working here, I was the first to start working with this new project.  My father, Pak Ade Jaja taught me how to walk in the forest and taught me how to identify animals and plants, including plants for medical purposes.   There were many myths about the slow loris, but I was not scared of them.  I had never seen one in the forest before I started with LFP.

KIARAThe local myths about the slow loris probably helped save the loris from the pet trade here in our village.  We believe that if the blood of a slow loris touches the ground all of the ground will dry up and the crops will die.  So, we never touched the loris.  We also believe that if a slow loris is in your house, your family will have bad luck or someone could even die!   I don’t believe these stories, but many people do.   City people don’t believe these myths, so this is bad for the slow loris.

Little Fireface Project is like a miracle to me and our village.  It has really changed the mind of people about caring for the forest, all animals and the environment.  LFP volunteers and staff (including us trackers) show local people how to maintain balance in the eco-system.  ACONK NUGRAHA and ADIN NUNUR with 'TOYIB'We have learned and taught that the ecosystem is important and that we should keep our environment healthy for our children and grand-children.  We don’t want them to only hear stories of what was here.   We share our experience and ideas with our community by holding movie days, pride day weekend events, nature club lessons for children and other impromptu events. Not only is LFP helping protect the loris, it is also providing jobs and income for our small and remote village. Children and adults are also learning English, which would be impossible for many of us, as we are so far from the nearest city.  We are also protecting other animals in the forest, not onlt the loris.  During our rounds, which we do seven days a week, we see many civets, owls, frogs and leopard cats.  Our community respect them and are especially proud of the Javan slow loris.

I work with three other trackers and they have similar positive things to say about LFP too. Pak Adin and Yiyi are two of our trackers who also work their farms here in West Java.  From a farmer’s perspective, they have learned that slow lorises and other mammals, birds and reptiles help keep pests at lower numbers.  Slow lorises are wonderful at eating insects and are really helpful, as many farms do not use insecticides.

Pak Adin has children that regularly attend our Nature Club classes.  They learn English and about the environment and that is REALLY important, as the children don’t really learn that at school.  LFP allows the children to try crafts and games that our small village has never seen or even heard of.

KidsEven the children, who are too young to attend Nature Club or school  like to play games with the volunteers and staff at LFP.  It’s always nice to hear that the children are involved in fun games.  Their favourite thing to do is colour in.  Nazmi, Yiyi’s son loves visiting the field station coordinator and sit and do colouring with her.

sHOPThe local shop owners also had very positive things to say about LFP.  They really enjoy seeing the ‘bule’ (local name for white people), as they always stop for a chat, even if they can’t speak Indonesian.  LFP support the local shops and the volunteers like to eat Indonesian cakes!

Before I started with LFP I could only speak Sunda (Javan language) and Bahasa Indonesian.  I am now advanced in speaking in English and Yiyi and Pak Adin are slowly learning.  We feel very proud to work with Little Fireface Project.

 

I guess we are lucky that laughter is an international language, and that we all get along really well.

Aconk, Adin and Yiyi – LFP Trackers

Education – Not just for kids!

I was planning on coming to Little Fireface Project (LFP) with my husband Michael to lend a hand with Nature Club, the environmental education program here and assist with loris observation data, for just three months. 12 months later, we are still here and I have found my bliss.
Nature ClubNature Club had a very good foundation and children were coming along and doing crafts and learning about nature and the slow lorises. The classes were very casual and the 12 or so children that came regularly had lots of fun, but I saw more …
I could see Nature Club had real potential and I immediately put my hand up to assist with building on this program. I had worked at a sanctuary in Australia and I was the environmental education coordinator there, so I had a million ideas running in my head. The great thing about Little Fireface Project is that I was given free rein to be creative and brainstorm with others as to what was needed.
NatureSo, after a few weeks of putting together lesson plans which covered audible, visual and kinaesthetic learning styles, the new NATURE CLUB was born, with much more structure. LFP Nature Club now has monthly environmental themes and we have already worked our way through forests, mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and endangered species (time does fly when you are having fun!) and future lesson plans will cover; colours and camouflage, recycling, ocean life and ‘the night’.
With over 30 children attending regularly now, our lessons need to be quite broad and adaptable, as the age group is from 5-14 years old. Many children cannot read or write yet, so much of the younger children’s lessons include lots of colouring pictures and visual activities. The older children who can read and write have pre/post questionnaires each month to see if what we are doing is working. The learning improvement of each subject has been astounding and including lots of hands on, games and outdoor activities really work for these kids!
Nature Club goes to SchoolLittle Fireface Project has kindly supported and sponsored two brand NEW Nature Club Classrooms as part of a new school in our village. The first stage of the school is due for completion in January 2015, so Nature Club will be split into two groups. We will now have a 5-10 year class and 10 year plus class. This means the 10+ can really get serious (with lots of fun, of course!) and do more field trips and outdoor studies, with even more structured learning.
nATURE cLUBOne single event that sticks in my head about the Nature Club children and their attitude toward wildlife was when we got a call one night about a slow loris in someone’s garden. There was a loris in their tree at their house. When our LFP rescue team got to the loris, to capture and relocate it, we discovered that three of our Nature Club girls (10 year olds) had found a Kaliandra flower and tied it to a long stick and put it near (but not too close) to the loris. When I asked why they did what they did, their easy reply was “because we know Kaliandra is their favourite food and we know that we can’t put out hand near the loris, because they are venomous”. To me, that whole event was amazing for two reasons. The local people know that the lorises belong in the forest and they really respect them and the children had learned about what the loris needed and its habits.

KidaNature Club is forever evolving and I am now trying a few new ideas, and the new ideas are working.
Now each class has an ‘in disguise’ public speaking aspect to it and the children who would once run from the class crying are now proudly and LOUDLY standing up in class and sharing their knowledge and stories. We also now have homework each week, so the children take it home Pak Dendiand ask for help from their parents (remember, many children can’t write yet), so the parents are getting involved too!
So basically, Nature Club is a huge success and I could NOT do it without the much needed help of our local manager/teacher, Pak Dendi and our trainee teacher, Sri. I must admit, Nature Club is always the favourite activity of our volunteer students from overseas too! They always put their hand up to help, as Indonesian kids are truly amazing and way too much fun!
The whole Nature Club program is done on a very tight budget and we just get creative with how we do things. We make our own paints, play-dough and recycle our paper and bottles.
I found my bliss I tell you … Bliss!

Sharon Williams – Field Station Coordinator / Environmental Education Officer

Jungle Gremlins of….Francis!

by Francis Cabana, PhD Student and Research Coordinator, Little Fireface Project

I was working in a zoo with pygmy slow lorises when I saw the documentary Jungle Gremlins of Java for the first time. I knew about the biology of slow lorises but didn’t really know how bad their situation really was. I was moved and made it a point to always tell people the heavy implications involved with sharing the tickling slow loris video.

Now, two years after the film first aired, and that I am making slow loris conservation and welfare my PhD thesis subject, I exaggeratedly think it is one of the most important problems in the world. I am not so sure if I would be in the same position had this documentary not been made.

Thanks to this documentary, which has educated hundreds of thousands of people about the plight of the slow loris, the Little Fireface Project has picked up many supporters. Thanks to these enthusiasts, LFP is able to conduct important research, conservation and education activities in Southeast Asia. I am based in Java and study wild javan slow lorises to understand exactly what and how much they eat and why. I will collect samples of every food item that they consume and analyse their nutrition content to then create a nutrient intake which hopefully I can transform into nutrient recommendations for captive lorises. Not only will these recommendations impact zoos but more importantly rescue and rehabilitation centres. LFP supports my decision to take things one step further and create the ideal diet for captive lorises. For western zoos and Asian centres, they must be appropriate, healthy and affordable. Current diets at rescue centres are mostly fruit. If they are lucky enough to receive lorises that still have all of their teeth, then the high fruit diet will slowly create dental issues requiring some teeth to be removed. Can’t blame them though, centres have no funding and no access to the scientific literature. It is a good thing I have a big mouth then, isn’t it? I am very passionate about my research and working with organisations to promote conservation and animal welfare, all of these values are clearly reflected in the Jungle Gremlins of Java.

Hopefully thanks to LFP and my research, we will print out posters and little manuals and send them to all of the centres we can find that detail how to make healthy diets.

With LFP’s research, I will also be able to come up with a list of most important plants for lorises. The children in our nature club will grow these selected plants from seeds and give the saplings to farmers to plant around their plots. This will increase useable habitat and hopefully bridge currently used areas. The saplings will be grown in our newly built Nature Club House and sapling nursery! One thing I miss the most from home is gardening, so I’m definitely excited!

Maybe I owe this entire experience to the BBC documentary that inspired me and slowly led me to the dark path of nocturnal research and rescue centre welfare. One thing is for sure, if Paignton Zoo’s Matt Webb didn’t say “Can you look at our loris diets? It needs a lot of work” to me, I wouldn’t have gotten here as quickly as I did. Maybe he saw the documentary too?

If you would like to help LFP and I with our research through donations, we are in desperate need of the following - adopting one of our lorises for Christmas will help in their purchase!=

  • AAA and AA batteries
  • Gum Arabic (can be purchased from Amazon)
  • Whatman Number 1 filter paper wicks
  • microcapillary tubes

Love and Lorises,

Francis Cabana

The journey to save Java’s Jungle Gremlins

By Anna Nekaris

The slow loris of Java is one of the most distinct of all of Asia’s lorises. Its large eyes are surrounded by deep and dark forks that stretch down to the tips of its cheeks, and meet at the crown of its head to form a long stripe down its back. These beautiful stripes are so characteristic that it is no wonder that in 2003, after its initial discovery in the 18th century, that Javan slow lorises were confirmed as a distinct species.

I always knew that the Javan slow loris was beautiful. I knew also that many researchers encountered them in the pet trade. At the same time, I also knew that all of Asia’s lorises needed to be studied, counted in the wild, and even identified as species. Since the early 1990s, I had focussed on the slow lorises smaller cousins – the slender lorises. But the call to work on the larger slow loirs was great and I soon found myself journeying to study these remarkable creatures throughout SE Asia – from India to China…to Thailand to Singapore to Malaysia…to Sumatra, to Borneo and Vietnam…so many problems to identify – medicinal trade, bushmeat, black magic, photo props and pets…the lorises of Asia seemed to be exploited for just about everything…

With every colleague that travelled to Java and witnessed the loris’ plight there, the cry from that particular place became louder. Where were the wild lorises? So many in markets but none in forests…and worse yet, those that were rescued inevitably had their teeth cut out…so in 2006 I ventured to Java for the first time to see the illegal wildlife trade there and to help start the first major rescue centre for Indonesia’s slow lorises. In simply measuring these lorises, we affirmed that Javan slow lorises were indeed a distinct species, and found evidence for two new species as well.

This was the start of intensive research on Asia’s slow loris. There was just so much to know – and that included radio tracking them in Cambodia with Carly Star, mapping their distribution in Borneo, measuring every museum specimen I could to work out where they should occur in the wild and what species we would find there, studying their wild ecology in Northeast India with Nabajit Das, and finally, sending Javan slow lorises back to the wild for the first time with radio tracking with Richard Moore.  Despite our knowledge of other lorises, however, it was not enough…and our reintroduced lorises and those awaiting their fight in rescue centres were dying…

So in 2010, we started our wild studies of Javan slow lorises. In 2011, we attracted the attention of the BBC who decided to make a film about our research – the Jungle Gremlins of Java. This film served several remarkable purposes. From 2009 onwards, the world got to know slow lorises through a series of viral videos that were cute at first glance but revealed the tip of the iceberg of a cruel and illegal pet trade. It had been hard to convince the viewing pubic why it was cruel to keep nocturnal animals awake in the day; tree dwelling animals with no branch to touch; exudate specialists made obese and diabetic on a diet of sugar rich fruit; social primates kept alone and apart from their own kind….the list goes on…

Jungle Gremlins of Java changed that – the story, developed by award winning director Stephen Gooder, and championed by Icon Film’s Harry Marshall, was able to convey my own quest to research and conserve these amazing primates, but to tell it to an audience that was apt to care, but needed to know the facts in a thoughtful way. So many people who loved lorises because they were cute now loved them because they were amazing and realised that these special rare primates belonged in the wild.

The trade has not stopped. The YouTube videos go on. People still want one as a pet…and sadly the teeth of slow loris’ are still being ripped out in the hope that they will not bite their owners with their unique venom. Jungle Gremlins of Java has made the rounds now in more than 52 countries, but has only aired once back in January 2012 here in the UK. We hope that the many new people introduced to slow lorises from those cute but cruel videos will get a chance to see the truth behind their story and help support the Little Fireface Project in the their efforts to save them.

 

Survey by the Seaside

DSC02879The pretty beach resort town of Pangandaran on West Java’s southern coast is comparable, in the busy season, to parts of Bali. However during our trip last weekend, many of the sandy beaches, clear seas and row after row of beachfront hotels and restaurants stood empty. Despite the current lack of crowds, the seasonal tourist flow in Pangandaran has resulted in a year round array of  ‘traditional batik’ clothing shops, banana boat rides, and unique souvenir stalls selling a myriad of goods ranging from hand-made leather bracelets to hand-stuffed animals. Sited amongst the typical gift options sit stuffed turtles, monitor lizards, dried inflated puffer fish and a range of huge and magnificent – and illegal – sea shells.

It was to be me along with two other representatives of the Little Fireface Project (for whom I am currently volunteering with) that would be travelling the six hour journey from our field station to Pangandaran in order to survey these illegal gifts.

DSC02919DSC02904Katy, Katherine and I struggled through the intense heat, surviving only with the help of several ice-cream breaks. We made our way through the town and beachfront shops photographing and subtly noting numbers of these distasteful souvenirs as we went. The sheer volume of illegal shells was staggering. The vendors here were keen to show off their wares and would assist in arranging them in order for me to take the photos. With us playing the role of unaware casual tourists we were told we could get a large stuffed monitor lizard for Rp150,000 (about £7.50) and a nautilius shell for Rp180,000 (about £9) – and that was without any attempt at haggling the price. We saw seven sea turtles; adults and small juveniles. The casual attitude and cheap asking price that accompanied the carcasses of these once wonderfully docile and majestic animals was increasingly hard to bear. The chest and edge of the turtle’s underside had been closed with heavy, haphazard stitching which just added to the morbidity of the situation.

DSC02930Amongst the other delicately decorated trinkets, the reality behind these larger souvenirs can be overlooked. Tourists on a ‘holiday high’ can easily forget that the unusual gift they just purchased was a living sentient being that was slaughtered and sold on for a price not at all reflective of that animal’s worth, nor of the ecosystem in which it was living. There are so many reasons not to buy this type of memento; not only are some of the goods for sale illegal and carry the real risk of heavy fines (or even incarceration) if discovered, but the purchase of them creates a demand which further threatens already declining populations and their remaining habitats.

Photographing a surfacing sea turtle; a wild monitor lizard or the lucky find of a rare seashell, will all come with longer lasting memories that will indeed be much easier to pack in your suitcase at the end of your experience. But also, in addition to your beautiful and unique photographs, the clear conscience you will be rewarded with is something that you could never put a price on.

Jess Wise – Student Volunteer

How to Cure Homesickness

It has been 6 months since I first got to Indonesia to work at the Little Fireface Project (LFP) and conduct my PhD field work. Before this my serious experiences away from home (every post I make I seem to include that I am from Canada but I want to be SURE you all know I am Canadian) included a two month research volunteer position in Honduras and when I moved to the UK to pursue my Master’s degree. All of those times I suffered from homesickness, why did I think this time would be any different? Turns out some people do, some people don’t. I do.

I was super busy when I first got to Indonesia and I was with my supervisor, it just felt like a cool exotic trip. Learning lots of stuff, visiting different cities and staying in hotels while I get my permits and learned Indonesian, so far so good. Little did I know I hadn’t actually done anything yet. It first happened before the long journey to an intensive week long Indonesian course. We were sitting in a Pizza Hut in Bandung oddly enough, with some friends of the LFP station coordinator. I was chatting away with Anna, my supervisor, and she mentions how reclusive the area is, and how I will have to live with an Indonesian family to immerse myself and how there will be no internet. No internet. N-O I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T. Well that was it, the beast was unleashed. My face could not stop my tears and my sobs. I felt so bad for the 4 Aussies I had just met. Talk about awkward. Plus, a white person crying his eyes out in Pizza Hut in Indonesia. More awkward. Sitting on a bench being sandwiched in by 2 people on each side and not being able to escape. Utterly, mortifying.

When the beast takes over (I will henceforth refer to homesickness as the beast) all rationality goes out the window. Nothing matters except this very moment of suffering. Knowing the course is just a week. Doesn’t matter. Knowing that at this second I DO have internet connection. Doesn’t matter. All the beast cares about is making you focus on that awful feeling in your gut and keeping it that way.

When I moved to the UK it took me 3 months to tame the beast (I know … I know). Crying alone in my room like a 6 year old for 3 months and waiting for anyone I know to log onto skype so I can cry to their faces has its perks but having a fun time (or keeping my dignity) is not one of them.

Things can seem much lonelier than they really are

Things can seem much lonelier than they really are

Fighting off the beast is actually possible but incredibly difficult but here are my top tips:

  1. Always say YES!

You will want to recluse yourself and you will say “I just want to be alone right now”. Worst decision you can do. The beast can feast on you if you are alone. You’ll have nothing to do but focus on how sad you are. Even if you barely know your housemates, go out with them for a pint. It will lessen your pain I promise you and help you establish a friend network in your new area.

  1. Exercise

As quote from one of my favourite films “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands”. Again, you won’t feel like it but get off your ass and go jogging. It is for the good of your brain chemistry which is out of whack right now.

  1. Keep busy

I am now obsessed with insect trapping. Most fail miserably but it gives me something else to focus on besides the seething pit of despair in my heart. I joke but you understand what I mean. In the UK it became my studies and going on as many dates as possible (don’t judge me). Although that is a good point, many hormones are produces when you flirt, which makes you very happy and banishes the beast for a while anyway.

Francis fiddling with a malaise trap.

Francis fiddling with a malaise trap.

  1. Establish yourself in your new area

You need to feel like you belong. One way to do this is by making friends, joining a club, getting a part time job etc. In the field these are less likely to be options but you must try to integrate yourself somewhat. Anything that makes you connected to this part of the world. Visiting and exploring also does this.

  1. Forget about the past

That may seem harsh but let me tell you a little story. I used to be in a serious relationship when I moved to the UK. Long distance sucked. I left my entire being back in Canada which stopped me from enjoying myself in the UK. Thankfully the relationship was toxic and soon ended. As soon as it did … I started having a blast and fell in love with the UK. I’m not saying dump whoever you are with, but you need to be allowed to enjoy yourself in your area, you need to be 100% present in the now. No part of you can remain back home during this period or the beast will always have the jump on you and make you wish you weren’t where you are now. Have fun with your friends here and now.

And lastly 6. Find a safe place

For me it was Starbucks (they all look the same worldwide, quelled the beast). Now any café with wifi will do. Don’t wait until you feel awful to go, make it a weekly treat if possible. I trek to the nearest town every Sunday for a cup of coffee, air conditioning and wifi and it is glorious.If you are remote and alone doing fieldwork, write letters and keep a diary. It will keep you from going crazy and take it one day at a time.

It may feel like it will last forever and you are better of at home but … just think how jealous your friends are of you right now. Milk it! The beast is never slayed, only put to rest and it does routinely come back. Just remember how powerful you are and how powerful you’ll be after you live through this experience. Wordly, even?

Francis Cabana