Research plans, partner visits and even a spot of relaxing….

Another week in North Sulawesi, and time really is flying by! This last week or so has largely seen efforts focussed on preparations for completion of one of our research projects, a survey of villages in Minahasa. Previous research has identified that hunting is the greatest threat to the survival of the macaques and other endangered species, so we sought to identify villages that were living close to Yaki habitat, to deepen our understanding of the extent of forest resource use and of the attitudes and feelings towards these animals that people share the forests with. Back in 2007 we visited 19 villages and performed this survey on a large number of villagers. Now our job is to disseminate this information back to the villagers, whilst raising awareness of the severity of the threats these monkeys face and providing education materials such as posters, books and presentations. Last year visits were made to a total of 13 villages, with many a smile and warm welcome. Now I have moulded together a schedule for our final trip to the remaining 6 villages, and with the fabulous help of local members of the Nature Lovers Club arranged the logistics for what should be a very productive and enjoyable expedition beginning March. I am excited!

Amongst these arrangements nestled an impromptu small village tour this week, where between seeing some great beaches and heritage sites, I was able to discuss some of the issues with members of other communities. I visited one of our partners Tasikoki wildlife rescue centre run by the Masarang Foundation, where they care for a wide variety of species and work to curb the illegal trade of wildlife.

 As a special treat, last weekend found me floating around in the wondrous treasure hunt that is the world-renowned critter-diving of Lembeh Strait on the East coast, with the fantastic and very welcoming Ecodivers. If you find yourself visiting, this is a must for those interested in the small, rare and unique organisms, and Ecodivers is certainly the place to stay!

I am off to Tangkoko tomorrow, the Nature Reserve where the largest populations of Yaki reside; an incredibly important habitat not only for this but for many other species. I will be meeting with collaborators Macaca Nigra Project and Tangkoko Conservation Education to see how we can cooperate and maximise our efforts at protecting this area rich in biodiversity.

Let’s see if I run into any small black hairy chaps whilst I am there….certainly hope so!….

Some piccies from last week!

Some pics from the TV chatshow last week…. ‘ular lari lurus’ (‘snake runs straight’), which is a tricky way to practice the ‘l’ and ‘r’ tongue-rolling combinations in Indonesian, but which is also fits in with the snakey theme of the talkshow….

John expertly describes the biodiversity of Sulawesi and various wonders of the reptilian world.

I am not MCing but actually explaining about the project objectives and the threats that Yaki are facing, and ways we hope to make some changes…

This guy had a baby king cobra and was quite casually playing with it…gulp!

Smooth, yet the balmy forehead is a tad over-glistening I think.

Spreading the Yaki love (in English this time!).

All go in Manado!

Greetings!

So, it has indeed been an exciting week…meeting, greeting, tweeting and again, eating!

Wednesday saw a fruitful meeting between myself and members of the Pacific Institute (PI), the local organisation I am conducting the research through, where we discussed the SY strategy and how we would like to collaborate this year. An impromptu offer (think there may be many of these to come!) sprang up that evening to join John Tasirin (PI) on a chat show on Indonesian TV, blimey! So, there I was the following evening, on local TV channel TVRI, with the scaly theme of reptiles. This herpetepaunistic topic has something of a fondness with me, so being surrounded by beautiful snakes I was very pleased! So, what was this bule (white person) doing sitting in between a biodiversity specialist (John), snake owners/gropers and a rather charming and overly well-groomed host? Well, I was wondering that a little too, yet, despite my slight discordance with answering the questions asked, it was a splendid opportunity to get out the Selamatkan Yaki conservation message! Quite a test of my Indonesian, and I am yet to see the recording (as it was live) so I may well have been an incoherent furball, we shall see. 

Climax of the week was Friday, as I was invited to attend a meeting about developing an ‘Economic Centre’ in a city called Bitung over on the East coast of N. Sulawesi, with the big guy Mayor himself. Very grand, formal and indeed enlightening. Once again wondering a little about my presence there, but actually this was a fantastic opportunity to introduce myself to the man who is largely responsible for getting things tightened up in Tangkoko, the National Park within which are one of the last strongholds of macaques. So this will be followed up in the coming month with a meeting to discuss the potential of ecotourism in the region, as well as tightening up law enforcement and ranger training….

On a much lighter note, I am loving the Christmas trees here, an endlessly pleasing greeting in my homestay, as you can see!

Greetings from the Land of Smiling People…..

Selamat datang (welcome) to my first blog entry!

And welcome to Selamatkan Yaki (“Save Sulawesi crested black macaques”). Check out the other pages for info about this exciting and much needed conservation programme.

Just over a week ago Sulawesi, the “Land of smiling people”, was graced with my sweaty, yet excited presence. I initially spent some time at the fantastic primate rescue centre Ciapus in Bogor, West Java run by International Animal Rescue. Now, over a week in the capital city Manado and it has been a little crazy as I find my feet. I have been meeting with stakeholders, eating, organising finances and admin, eating, developing the strategy for the year, and, well eating. I have found a very nice room and have been dining with ambassadors, government officials and mayors of the region (seems we have friends in high places here in Northern Sulawesi!).

Manado has so far won me over; I am swept up in its alluring sights, sounds, smells (not all!) and smiling people. I have had a warm albeit sometimes erratic greeting from various charming locals and have seen some of the stunning surrounding regions already (see lovely green lake Sinow!). Sulawesi is home to incredible and unique biodiversity, with a quarter of its bird species and almost two thirds of it’s mammal species being endemic (only found here!) the highest endemism in Indonesia! The Northern region is known as one of the best dive sites in the world, so I am rather pleased at the prospect of plunging myself into the colourful world of the deep and see me some critters next weekend.

As I settle I realise how pleased I am to be here, and how keen I am to make the most of this year and commit to driving this project forward. It is an extremely important cause that urgently needs addressing.  By building on the excellent work of the team last year, I will do my utmost to maximise our efforts and gain the international and national support we need to help protect these charasmatic primates and their dwindling habitat.

Until we meet again…. sampai jumpa!

Check out the SY Facebook group and tweets for project info and progress updates 🙂