And the Oscar goes to …

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.

Filled with civets. Some were dead.

Filled with civets. Some were dead.

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?

About 50 baby macaques. No food or water.

About 50 baby macaques. No food or water.

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?

Francis

A Princess Enters Loris Land

Hi, my name is Francis and I’m the new research officer for the Little Fireface Project and also a PhD student. I’m a city boy in the middle of nowhere and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you about my research, the lorises and tales from the other side of the planet.

When you start a PhD you basically know what you want to do. Not what will happen. The loss and struggle for control is a hard thing to learn. I consider myself a very lucky person. I worked in reputable zoos as a keeper and then nutrition researcher and I was successful in enrolling in a PhD about primate conservation with the world’s expert on slow lorises as my supervisor. There go my plans of become a fancy rat breeder back in Canada (still plan B though).

We discussed and planned me doing my field work at the field station in Java, Indonesia and I knew it was going to happen but somehow I forgot to get ready and forgot to prepare myself mentally for it. Before I knew it, it was happeninnggg!!! Hopped on a giant double-decker bus with wings and I was off.
IMG1497
After a week in Jakarta getting all of the federal permits and visas I needed and another week in Yogyakarta taking an intensive Indonesian course, I was finally in Cipaganti ie. Loris Land. Driving up the steep rock road up a volcano to Cipaganti really made me think “what the hell did I get myself into…”

The team is very nice, including the native trackers that all thought my name was “Princess”. Plus they don’t laugh too much when I slip on the muddy slopes and end up doing the splits in the middle of the night looking for lorises so that’s also good. They do laugh when I smash my head against every low door frame in every building ever though. On my way out of the Kepala Desa’s office (Village head, very important man) … smashed my face against the wall above the door frame. I was almost beheaded. The tracker laughed so hard he farted. I’m off to a great start.
DSC_0127

Francis or “Princess”

Trying to make their lives better

In Cikananga Animal Rescue Centre everybody is worried about finding ways to make the life of the animals better as living in captivity is not the ideal situation for them. When Tara and I (Anna Zango) arrived at the animal rescue centre we decided that we wanted to contribute to this cause. Tara had the amazing idea of collecting some gum from trees in Cipaganti and to take it to Cikananga where the lorises had not eating gum for some months. We decided to make some paper rolls with gum inside and hang them in different places on the cages so the lorises had to move around to eat it.

Do you think they liked it? Well, they loved it!

They ate the gum of almost every single roll.

Infant loris learning to gauge gum in Cikananga

Infant loris learning to gauge gum in Cikananga

Loris playing with enrichment

Loris playing with enrichment

Anna Zango Cikananga 3

We also had the idea of making some holes in plastic bottles and put the food there so the lorises had to make an effort to obtain their food. It was very successful and they were very excited about the bottles: instead of the 5-10 min that they normally spend eating, they had at least 30min of entertainment with the bottles! We are very happy that we could help these amazing animals and contribute to help enrich their lives.

 

Anna Zango Cikananga 4

Anna Zango
volunteer Little Fireface Project

Reflections from Java: Part 1- Culture Shock

People often speak of culture shock when you go to visit, live or work in a new country. And accompanied come the warnings- don’t drink the water, don’t eat food from street stalls, watch your belongings very carefully… and so forth. Before coming to Java I assumed that my upbringing had made me immune to the shocks provided by a different culture, after all I’ve grown up in countries which few have ever visited such as Rwanda and Ivory Coast. But 9 months in Java has taught me otherwise.

Culture shock happens anywhere, any time and apparently to anyone.

One of the biggest shocks- Indonesian weddings:

1011413_469554429839104_1094421540_n

One of my favourite moments was in my second week. I had just unpacked my bags and started to settle in when my housemate said we were going to the salon for a makeover. Turns out we were modelling wedding dresses!

Firstly, they put on layers and layers of makeup- I felt like I was wearing a mask and when I thought they could not put on anything more, out came the fake eyelashes. I ended up with 4 pairs on each eye and one eye glued shut. After boiling in a white “western” style wedding dress we were asked to model Indonesian wedding dresses. Mine was red and from Nothern Sumatra with a beautiful and very extensive headdress, making me feel like a real princess.

In Indonesia, the bride gets married in any colour she wants and he groom has an outfit to match. I soon learned after attending a range of weddings that on the big day it is normal for the newlyweds to wear 2 or 3 different coloured outfits so that they have a range of different photos. And one is more beautiful than the next.

An Indonesian wedding is quite an experience! The couple sits on a stage and welcomes all the guests. You are then pushed towards the buffet and unless you hold on to your plate a little old lady (usually one of the parents) will continuously ask you if you have eaten and try and get you to eat even more! The problem: the food is always very spicy and my Dutch palate cannot handle it. So if you go to Indonesia make sure you remember how to say “I am full thank you.”

And then comes the dancing! There is always an additional stage with a band or traditional instrumental music. Dancing will only occur on the stage and everyone wants to see you dance. So when the little old lady is finished asking if you have eaten, she will come round another 10 times to ask you to go and dance… on the stage. But you soon learn to go with the flow and if you dance one song she stops coming by and has the biggest smile on her face. The wedding usually goes on for several hours with the bride and groom sitting on one stage and the guests dancing on the other.

Greetings from Java,

Denise

The Little Travellers

In every family there is someone that is a little different. The one who doesn’t quite fit in and likes to spend time doing their own thing and taking the road (or tree) less travelled. You know, the traveller of the family, the vagabond. Well, we have not one, but two loris family members just like that!

Several nights a week here at the Little Fireface Project field site we take GPS locations of our radio-collared lorises.  Most of our lorises have an area that they favour and we usually know which region we will locate them.

I say usually, because, just like most families, there is always one (or two)

As we continue monitoring lorises as part of our ‘Javan slow loris’ dispersal study, we find the odd loris doing odd things. Take Api, our ‘Fire Girl’, for example; she was happily foraging and sleeping in an area located at 1350 metres above sea level, until one day we could not track her signal very well at all. We went up and down the mountain for what felt like 100 kilometres (probably more like five) with the ‘pings’ of the radio tracking receiver becoming weak, then strong and then weak again. We could NOT find her anywhere, which is always a little bit of a worry to us, as we like to know the lorises are safe and well. The very next day, during the day, our tracker Dendi and a volunteer went out to see if they could find Api whilst she slept. After a steep climb through the agroforest, and the radio receiver signal getting stronger and stronger, they had success! There she was, sound asleep, on the top of the hill oblivious to the worry she had caused. Api had travelled so far up the hill that it was a surprise to all of us. The following week she had moved even further up to 1584m above sea level, covering a total distance of at least 2.6km to get from the football field to her new home.

Mo_2014_JAN_M Williams (1) A few weeks later, our handsome boy, Mo, decided he might like to try a vacation too!

So why did the lorises move so far up the hill? Was there too much food competition, were the single lorises down the hill just not ‘cutting it’ in the looks stakes or were our travellers being pushed out by other individuals?

Studying the dispersal of the Javan slow loris will hopefully shed some more light on why, how and when the lorises do disperse.

We will monitor Api and Mo closely to see if their relocation is a permanent one or whether they were just checking out a new area for future reference. We have also welcomed many new animals to our dispersal study;

KIARA

 

Kiara- the risky lady- found wandering on the ground of someones farm in the day!

 

 

 

 

 

DEVON_6836

 

Maya- the quiet beauty- named by our friends at Shaldon Wildlife Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JAVAN SLOW LORIS - Nycticebus javanicus 'WINGKI'

 

 

Cabe- the aggressive boy- possibly the son of Sibau, will he travel far? or is he a mommas boy?

 

NINA_0580

 

 

Dali- the little ladies man- often seen with Tereh and a very handsome little boy

 

 

 

Stay tuned for more vagabond adventures!

 

The Path to Freedom – A volunteer’s experience with rescued lorises

There are many jobs to be done at the Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Center, and all of them are rewarding. But for me, nothing was as rewarding as working with the slow lorises. It was love at first sight when I first saw one ten years ago, and my experience working with them was a dream come true.

I was lucky enough to feed them and clean their cages almost every day. I also helped them get weighed, helped Little Fireface Project’s postdoctoral researcher Grace Fuller film them eating insects as part of her venom study, helped build furniture for two outdoor habitats, had a delightful late night (or rather, midday) rendezvous with them and even saw three wild lorises!

Although the reason the slow lorises arrived at the Centre is sad and devastating, it was wonderful to meet and get to know so many lorises as individuals. And Cikananga is taking excellent care of them. My favorite was one who had a blind eye. I was calling him Captain Kukang, or the Captain, as he needed a tough name to make up for his eye, and, well, he looked like a pirate. He’s such a delightful little guy, curious but cautious, and so sweet.


Although I already knew these animals were beautiful, it was such an excellent experience to be able to work with them on a daily basis. I am already looking forward to helping with their release and setting all my new little loves free.

Nadia Muqaddam

Special thanks to Bradley The Tanner’s who have supplied LFP with gloves for handling these venomous yet adorable animals!

A world of creactivity

Making a special place

I love drawing and colouring, but I normally don’t have enough time to do it. So could it be more perfect if a task for the project involves working with colouring pencils?

Therefore, when Densie asked me about helping her with making a poster about nature for decorating a space for the children I immediately answered: of course! With the concept of nature-poster in mind, we decided that it would be a good idea drawing a huge tree, with long branches and deep roots, big enough to cover the entire wall. But we wanted the place to be dynamic and fun, so we came up with an amazing idea: drawing some animals separately from the poster and, by adding some Velcro to the back, the children have to place the animals according with the place they live.
So I drew some animals and Tara helped me colour them, here you can see some examples, I hope you like them!

Once the place is finished I will let you know the result. Be patient!

education blog photo Anna Zango

 

Drama Club:

The Little Fireface Project is not only concerned about conservation but also about helping the local community in many ways. In order to make it possible, the LFP team has implemented different programmes that involve education with children, and I am going to talk about the newest one. Sharon Forest had the amazing idea of doing a project with children in order to inspire and strengthen their creativity, and that is how the Drama Club was born!

The first session we decided to tell the children to make some instruments using their imagination. They made guitars, drums, cymbals, harps… by using just cardboard boxes and elastic bands! Quite impressive, isn’t it? After that they dressed up and had some fun performing different characters, trying their best to express sadness, happiness, annoyance among many different feelings. They did it very well and it was a lot of fun!

The first session was an absolutely success and I can’t wait to do the next one. Let’s see with what these amazing children surprise us this time!

Nature Club:

Nature Club is a small club for the children of Cipaganti here at Little Fireface Project’s Indonesian field site.  We are fortunate enough to have much to do with local people, especially the children.

Although Nature Club has been running for some time now, things have now been structured a little bit different, to ensure that every child can learn in the unique way that they learn best.  We all know that everybody learns differently and the children here in Cipaganti are no exception!  Some children are in awe when they learn English, others really do prefer the ‘hands on’ learning and others learn through play.  So the ‘new’ Nature Club is encompassing all of those ways of learning.

April was “FOREST” month and each lesson starts off with an English lesson; words associated with the forest.  The children love it and they seem to pick up the language really well (better than my Indonesian I must say).

Apart from English lessons, children are encouraged to answer questions which revolve around the forest near their village.  Learning about what animals live there and why the animals and their forest homes are important.  We did craft activities and forest walks to make sure our kinesthetic learners are covered, provided animal and tree photographs for our visual learners and lots of questions and answers to assist our audible learners; above everything else … we make it fun!

 

Activities so far include:

  1. How plants grow – Including a competition to see who can grow the biggest plant from some green pea seeds
  2. Tree Identification – A walk in the forest to see who can find the trees listed on a tree photo sheet
  3. Poster Making – Who lives where in the forest?
  4.  Learning to identify animals living in the forest in West Java.

With over 20 children attending each class, Nature Club is a valuable tool to teach children about the environment and the animals we share it with.

I have also learned that the children here in Cipaganti are extremely analytical.  They love problem solving and the activities that encompass this.

Nature Club is a wonderful platform for sharing and I have learned as much from these children as they have from me.

Next month … MAMMALS.

Nature Club - Forest (small)

2014 Race Against Extinction

race medal

On 11 April 2014, the 2014 Race Against Extinction…Footprints for the Future was held at Hitchcock Nature CenterAmerican Association of Zoo keepers, Omaha Chapter, host this annual event to raise funds for conservation.  This year they had over 100 runners and walkers come out and support the Little Fireface Project.  Not only did they raise funds to support a project, they also raised awareness for an elusive species that many people in the middle of the United States have never heard of.  The sun was shining, shoes were laced, and the event was a tremendous success.

Lorises, tigers and bears –Oh my!

by Grace Fuller
Lately my work with lorises in Java has led me to spend a lot of time with the other residents of Cikananga Wildlife Center. One of the possible functions of slow loris venom is to repel predators, and I have been testing this hypothesis by observing behavioural reactions of potential loris predators to samples of venom collected from the Little Firefaces. So far, I have conducted tests with Malayan sun bears, orangutans, and three species of eagles: Javan hawk eagles, changeable hawk eagles, and crested serpent eagles. There are confirmed cases of orangutans and changeable hawk eagles predating on slow lorises in the literature, so the lorises have reason to be wary of these species!

saliva-collection-bears
To conduct these tests, I offer a sample of the venom with a piece of food, which ensures that the predator is motivated to explore the test item. For the bears, this means wrapping a venom sample collected on a tissue around a piece of rambutan (a tasty local fruit) and sealing it with a drop of honey. In the future, I will be testing Javan leopards and other felid species at Cikananga, and I am hoping to venture outside the rescue center to conduct further tests with other potential predators including tigers, civets, and snakes. I have also been working with the sun bears to collect saliva samples (see photo) which I plan to use to measure hormones to determine if the loris venom elicits a stress response in the bears. Stay tuned for what I hope will be some interesting results!

Why do lorises produce toxic compound

One of the most interesting facts about the slow loris is that it is the only venomous primate. Slow lorises produce a toxic compound from their brachial glands (a patch of bare skin from their inside elbow up to their armpits), which they lick to combine with their saliva and “activate” the venom. The reason why slow lorises are venomous is still somewhat of an unsolved mystery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As part of my postdoctoral research with the Little Fireface Project, I am exploring some of the hypotheses for why slow lorises produce such toxic compounds. Is it to ward off ectoparasites, tiny bugs that live in their fur and potentially could transmit diseases to them? Is it to deter predators of the night, including owls, hawks, and eagles? Could the venom serve multiple purposes?

In order to answer these questions, myself and LFP volunteer Anna Zango have been conducting two separate phases of research. First, we have been conducting a series of experiments testing the responses of various insects to the venom of slow lorises, using a combination of saliva and brachial gland secretions. Second, we have been playing the sounds of predators to the lorises as they forage at night, to see if they have any interesting behaviors that might be related to using their venom. We have to carefully study their reactions, and some of the lorises actually move quite fast! Good thing Anna has such sharp eyes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This project has been incredibly interesting. I never imagined to see such specific responses. So far, the data suggest that slow lorises are a lot more complicated, unique, and special than many people realize. So, I am really excited to continue this research exploring how slow lorises use venom as an adaptation.