Investigating the impacts of wildlife trade and agroforestry in West Java, Indonesia

When: 27 June – 27 August 2017

Where: West Java, Indonesia

What: Documenting the effects of the pet trade on slow loris conservation through film, and investigating the effects of agroforestry on the herpetofauna of West Java.

Who: Two bioscience undergraduates from the University of Exeter in collaboration with The Little Fireface Project

Status: Live

EXPEDITION SUMMARY

Operation Fireface is a two-month expedition by two bioscience undergraduates to the island of Java, Indonesia. We are collaborating with The Little Fireface Project, a charity based in the village of Cipaganti, West Java, that primarily specifies in the conservation of the critically endangered Javan slow loris, however they are looking to expand their knowledge to other taxa.

We have two main objectives; the first is to conduct herpetological surveys in an area of agroforest where reptiles and amphibians have not previously been studied. This is with the aim to publish a paper based on our findings, and we will also be creating a field guide on the reptiles and amphibians present in the local area for the project and for the local people, allowing them to connect more closely with the wildlife on their doorstep.

Our second objective is to make a short documentary on the vital work of The Little Fireface Project in protecting a species for which the pet trade is a major threat, which is partially thanks to viral videos of these animals in a captive household setting, causing public demand for them to skyrocket. We have a BBC producer who worked on Planet Earth II advising us on how to make this aspect of our expedition a success and we hope to enter the finished documentary into film festivals.

Operation Fireface 2017 Expedition Base Camp

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Little Fireface Project (LFP) is a charity researching the critically endangered Javan slow loris, the world’s only venomous primate. It was set up by Professor Anna Nekaris, of Oxford Brookes University as the first ever long-term study of a lorisoform primate in the wild. We are staying with the project for the duration of our expedition and they are providing us with the use of trackers and equipment, we will also be doing shifts of slow loris behavioural research with them.

Cipiganti is situated in an area of highly degraded rainforest, 1200m asl, with the land primarily being used for agriculture. Since there are still small “bridges” of forest separating agricultural plots, this area is known as an agroforest. Very little research has been done on the presence of reptiles and amphibians in agroforests, despite these being rapidly growing ecosystems and it is important that we investigate the effects of this type of forest degradation on the survival and diversity of herpetofauna. Consequently, our research will be comparing the presence of reptiles and amphibians in the plots of forest that are still intact and in open fields of crops.

EXPEDITION LOCATION

Main base (field station): S 07°16.693′ E 107°46.364′, Cipiganti, Garut regency, West Java, Indonesia.

AIMS & OBJECTIVES

  1. Film a documentary on slow loris conservation
  2. Get footage of slow lorises in the wild
  3. Get footage of the pet trade markets
  4. Conduct interviews with staff, trackers and local farmers
  5. Get footage of LFP outreach programmes (nature club)
  6. Conduct herpetological surveys in agroforestry
  7. Compare herpetofauna diversity in open fields with man made ponds Vs untouched primary rainforest patches
  8. Night and day surveys
  9. Aid LFP with their research by assisting in slow loris behavioural studies

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

The aim of our documentary is to highlight the vital work that LFP do, for conservation purposes and for the local community, as well as the effect of the pet trade on the survival of this beautiful species. By entering it into film festivals we hope to spread what we learn about a relatively unknown primate that is in such a dire situation, and what people can do to help.

Our herpetology research will pave the way for further investigation on the effects of agroforestry on Javan herpetofauna, also our guide of the area’s herpetofauna will help LFP in their own research and will be used to engage the local community in LFP’s outreach programmes. We hope our work will encourage other research teams to study agroforest ecosystems and the local people to appreciate the wildlife living on their doorstep.

Operation Fireface 2017 Expedition Base Camp

ABOUT THE TEAM

Francesca Aaskov (Documentary Director) – University of Exeter
Joshua Hope (Scientific Director) – Plymouth University

COLLABORATING INSTITUTIONS

Fxpedition Society

Little Fireface Project

EXPEDITION BUDGET

Costs

Accommodation, food, trackers and research equipment, e.g. quadrats, tape measures, terrariums (provided by the Little Fireface Project): £1200 (£300 per month, per person)
Food for breakfast and Sundays (not provided by the project): £100
Flights (return): £1200 (£600 per person)
Travel Insurance: £540
Film equipment: monopod, microphone, silicon beads – to protect equipment from moisture (cameras already purchased): £110
Total: £3150

Income
Members’ contributions
Fundraising quiz night: £120

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