Animal chatter

Check out the newest page on the Wildlife Aid Education website – Animal Chatter:

click here

animal chat

It’s full of interesting animal facts from our regular contributors (myself included!) and opportunities for you to be a guest contributor too!

So find out the difference between couscous and cuscus and learn all about the tiny Indonesian tarsier. Look out  for badger fur and learn how to identify it. Ever wanted to know how to draw animals? There’s loads on there and it’s being added to all the time!

Check it out 🙂


Saving Harry

Ok so I know hedgehogs aren’t monkeys but they’re JUST as important!

In the 1950s there were 30 million hedgehogs in the UK.

Now there are 1 million.

By 2025 there will be possible urban extinction.

We can’t let that happen! What can you do about it? Well you can do something very simple and very quick. Help save Harry

Take a look at the wonderfully animated story of Harry. Then, if you like it and the theme music, you can buy the song (buy it here).




Gosh time flies doesn’t it!

So as you probably noticed this blog just tailed off in to nowhere last summer! Well don’t worry – I did make it out to the monkeys and I made it back too! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to update the blog from the field site though as the signal just wasn’t strong enough. I had so much I wanted to tell you all and thought I’d write all about it when I got back but… well.. suddenly it’s May and I haven’t! Oh dear! 🙂

But some exciting things have been happening. I’m delighted to be involved with the fantastic new project – Wildlife Aid Education. It’s a completely free, easy-to-access, curriculum-based teaching and learning resource for teachers, parents and children, provided by The Wildlife Aid Foundation. Check it out here and watch this space for more info in the not too distant future!



I also had the pleasure about a month ago of being asked to visit a local primary school and talk about my work with the monkeys. I was asked by one of the mum’s  to come and speak to the year 6 classes, as they were in the midst of a project all about Rainforests. She thought some first hand tales of the rainforest might inspire them. I jumped at the chance!

So just before the end of last term I headed down with my laptop in tow and talked to a load of  ten – eleven year olds all about what I do.


I had such fun and the children were amazing. So well behaved, articulate, enthusiastic and interested. They patiently listened to my tales of monkeys and forests, and gruesome details about the spiky plants, painful insect bites and  toilet and shower facilities out there (or lack of!!) .


They came up with some brilliant questions – including the obvious ones about what the most DANGEROUS animal I’d come in to contact in the forest was! 🙂 But also some really insightful questions and comments about conservation and wildlife.  It’s thoroughly restored my faith in the younger generation.


I talked to them about how I got in to this wildlife malarkey and how they can start doing things locally if that is what they are interested in.  A few of them came up to me afterwards and said they wanted to work in conservation and wildlife so I hope I was able to inspire them. They wrote a very sweet overview of the session in their newsletter too.

Newsletter 03-04-14_002

I’m looking forward  to doing more of this – it’s so lovely to talk about what I do to such an interested and enthusiastic audience. So watch this space!




Here we go again!

Gosh it’s been a while since I’ve been on here. Sorry! Life got a little bit crazy over the past year – in both bad and some very good ways! And now I find myself back in Indonesia, and heading back to the monkeys once more! It’s 2am and I’m about to check out of my hotel and head to the airport to start my journey from Jakarta to Buton.

I’ve spent the past week, as usual, sorting out my research permits and various letters required to work on the island. It seems things haven’t improved and in fact if anything the system is getting slower! It is the fasting month which doesn’t help matters but even so!

It’s a complicated process which, after years of doing it, am only just starting to get to grips with. Here’s a helpful diagram from the ministery of research and technology which should clear things up though…. (!?!)



I’ve spent most of my time waiting in offices while a multitude of staff seem to spend a long time doing absolutely nothing, oh apart from watching tv…



I’m sure removal of the tv’s would speed up the process! Or maybe not… There’s always a reason why a simple, standard letter needs to take several days to produce; the man that
needs to sign it (and of course there is only one person in the whole of that government office that can sign the thing) is at a meeting, or there’s a tiny typo in another letter so they have to ‘confirm’ things first, or they just seem to like to make you wait. I’ve been very grateful for my kindle this week!


The offices are dark, dank and cluttered and frankly it’s no wonder things take a while! They start work at 9, break from 12 – 1, and then finish at 3! Nice!





They seem to favour the retro form of interior design with an abundance of fabric flowers too…


They’re also full of incomprehensible notices in bad English (if they’re going to bother to translate them why not do it properly?!)


So you can see while several hours a day spent sitting and waiting in these places might start to wear a little!

The traffic has been even worse than usual this year too, and because it’s the fasting month traffic jams start earlier than usual. So I’ve taken to using ojek’s (motorbike taxis) to get around rather than normal taxis. It’s infinitely quicker, cheaper and just a weeney bit scarier!





My final port of call here was immigration, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. They’ve updated things a bit, have a proper queueing system and fewer tv’s!





So after having my fingerprints taken (the fingerprint scanner did work – after a few tries!) and another photo taken I’m done for now.


The visa and home affairs letter won’t be ready until next week (again, why it should take so long I don’t know – I actually saw the completed home affairs letter in the guys hand! But apparent I can’t collect it until Tuesday!) so I’m not waiting any longer! I’m going to start my journey and get the letters sent on before I lose my mind here!

So I leave clutching my police and research permits and hoping I get away without the others until they arrive!


So it’s goodbye Jakarta – for now!




Monkeys on the rampage!

I don’t know if you saw the news today but apparently a mob of monkeys went on the rampage through a village in South Sulawesi. They broke in to houses and attacked people; 7 people are injured, one critically. Locals claim they came from a local forest and are unsure why they attacked. This isn’t on the island I work on, though it is on the mainland and I know that in this area forest patches are small and the monkeys are under threat. Who knows why they raided the village but it’s quite probable it was for food and an angry, hungry monkey isn’t one I’d want to face! I feel sorry for the vilagers but you can’t really blame the monkeys though… I only hope this doesn’t impact too negatively on their protection and conservation in this area now. Here’s the news article


This is a chance for me to just say a big big thank you to everyone for their support this year! The monkeys  and I are very grateful 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful new year and 2013!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys  (note these monkeys are not affiliated to the Buton monkeys 😉 ) prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Every one assumes that monkeys or apes coming in to farmers’ fields and taking crops is automatically a bad thing.. but my research in Indonesia has thrown up some interesting perspectives on crop raiding from local farmers and it looks like it’s happening in other parts of the world too.

On the island of Buton farmers often tell me that they are happy when the monkeys raid their cashew crops – why? Because it means they don’t have to climb up the trees to harvest the nuts themselves. When the monkeys raid the trees they only take the fruit. The nut is held in a little capsule beneath the fruit so when the monkeys remove the fruit to eat it they discard the nut in it’s case. It then falls to the ground and can be collected by the farmers. All the farmers need to do is keep the area beneath the trees clear from too many shrubs and weeds and then they can simply scoop up the nuts, saving hours. The nuts are protected so are not damaged in the process. It’s a win-win situation! Monkeys get food, farmers get free labour!

Read more about the Buton macaques in one of my posts from when I was out in Indonesia this summer  here:  “Nuts to the monkeys”

Some work over in Guinea-Bissau has shown a similar pattern with Chimps. In a similar way to the Buton macaque, the chimps only raid the fruit, leaving the nut for the farmers to harvest, in fact reportedly the chimps actually pile the nuts – which makes it even easier still!

Just goes to show how humans and wildlife can co-exist in even the most unlikely of scenarios!

The full article is here:

 Kimberley J. Hockings and Claudia Sousa (2012). Differential utilization of cashew—a low-conflict crop—by sympatric humans and chimpanzees. Oryx, 46

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