A land ethic…reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.
Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac

Miles, smiles and a lot of questions…

Safely back in the hustle and bustle of the big city Manado after our adventures around villages within the region, and what an enjoyable and most fruitful trip it has been! 🙂

After a mega-haggle session on the morning of leaving to purchase our new projector, we eventually set off, at a somewhat leisurely pace (our driver was very easy going!) beginning our 10 hour trundle down to the south of N. Sulawesi. We eventually arrived at Kombot, the first of 4 villages for this part of our survey, and despite it being late and us busting in on a funeral reception/party we were welcomed by the village head and provided food and accommodation whilst we explained our sweaty presence in their quiet village.

Let the surveys begin! Our team of 3 researchers set off around the quaint dusty streets, me in tow, popping into houses and gathering information primarily about the main earner, regarding their jobs, forest use, wild meat consumption, perceptions of change over time and attitudes to preserving the surrounding nature. After each questionnaire was complete we explained briefly the intentions of the project, the threats Yaki face and invited them to join us for more details later on. So once we had our fill of delicious information education materials were distributed – posters, books or an education presentation for the little ones, then we gave a general presentation to as many villagers as we could gather (not always so easy, especially in sheets of rain!). This was a chance to disseminate the results from our previous visit in 2007, describe the importance of the biodiversity in the region and our objectives. This was very well received with some stimulating questions and suggestions, generally giving an appearance of interest in our conservation work.

4 villages visited so far, a further 2 for our second trip next week and already quite a range of responses. 2 of the villages rarely visited the forest and consumed or sold very little, perhaps a rat or some firewood here or there. The other 2 by contrast appeared to rely heavily on forest resources, and consumed great variety of wild meat, most households ticking all the boxes for what they ate, including Yaki.

A moment that really struck me was a question which asked whether the respondent agreed, disagreed, uncertain etc., and stated that Yaki could feel sad, happy and scared. Some responded with a firm nod and chuff of agreement, whilst some individuals I observedreally had to think….fascinating to see their consideration of their lunch as a ‘little person’ with feelings.

I mixed my time up by peeling screaming children off my back (whilst promising them I would return with a horse for each) and entering the data from the questionnaires (less fun actually). I must say, my pale, bearded, incessantly smiling appearance in these villages caused quite a stir, as most aren’t often graced by such Western delights!

Some truly stunning landscapes, many endearing and welcoming individuals and a deepened insight into these people and their way of life have made this a marvellous experience, whilst bringing us closer to completing our dissemination and survey data set. Roll on the next trip!

Distant villages here we come!

Well hello all!

It has been a busy, busy couple of weeks here in the land of smiling people!

So where do we start? Well, how about the trip to Tangkoko Nature Reserve?… After several hours on the road, accompanied by a sweaty back and sore bum/legs (19 people and equivalent mass in rice and biscuits crammed into a pickup!) I arrived at Batu Putih (‘White Stone), the local gateway to Tangkoko, a place, as mentioned before which is alive with Biodiversity and quite possibly home to the last viable population of SCBMs. Therefore incredibly important habitat for this dwindling species, and a focus for our conservation efforts. Soon as I arrived and reassembled my limbs, the peaceful calm and gentle buzz of cicadas reminded me how much this was a welcome and refreshing break from the buzzing city mayhem.

Aside from being completely spoilt in terms of wildlife sighting, this was a good opportunity to discuss our plans for the year with collaborators Tangkoko Education Programme and Macaca Nigra Project and how we can synchronise and potentially support each other in our actions. And finally…a chance to see some monkeys! I was in my element to observe them frolic around, mischievous little ones tugging at adult’s Mohican hairdos, bundles of grooming individuals here and there; incredibly well-habituated. Sadly, Sunday morning MNP were attempting to catch a juvenile to remove a snare caught around his fingers – a stark reminder of the remaining conflict with people and threats even to this relatively well-protected population.

Nestled amongst some frantic grant application writing and preparations, and presentations for the enthusiastic and welcoming Nature Lover’s clubs of UNSRAT University, largely my time has been spent with preparations for the final stage of the village dissemination project (see previous post for more info…). I have had fantastic support for this from individuals joining the research team and others involved with Selamatkan Yaki, so thanks to all! 🙂 The field researchers are all lovely and have been briefed on their responsibilities; logisticsarranged; food and equipment bought (minus projector…still on the case with this!).It will be great to finally complete the dissemination of previous research and collection of the new data set in preparation for write up. Our current schedule runs from tomorrow until 16th March for first trip, visiting the four furthest away villages first (epic drive!), then a second trip last week of the month for final two villages. But, as with all projects of this nature, we are prepared for some potential changes to this schedule….we will see!

I’ve got to say, I am really looking forwards to the trip and to meet some interesting characters in the villages, and no doubt be swamped by small children grappling over each other at the excitement!

I look forward to reporting back on our return…for now, sampai nanti!