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!….

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