Critically Reflecting at End of Trip
By Christine Zhang
‘In Indonesia, it seems like they play the philosophy of ‘no gain without (risk of) pain’. The people here love openly and deeply with dedication and loyalty which can also result in a beautiful interconnected mess of relationships where everybody knows each other. In contrast, I feel that in the U.S., people more easily pull away from relationships and are independent in their activities. In Indonesia, I experienced that human connection is not only formed through shared experiences by the majority, but by what we can do for each other. Everybody is looking for their source of happiness and purpose in life; and I think helping others, feeling wanted/needed, and receiving help in return is what makes me happy. No longer, does this kind of personal exchange seem as transactional as a capitalistic society makes relationships to be.
Upon reflection, I find myself much more motivated to get things done for others compared to tasks for myself. (The reason why I think I survived in Indonesia this long with nonstop activities and traveling.) Perhaps it’s also a sentiment of a growing generation as we move past building ourselves up, to building for the next generation and continuing a legacy. I feel more comfortable now in working towards my interests and investing in my own strengths so that I can be recognized for that and help people with my skills; instead of thinking I have to be good at everything and constantly working to improve my weaknesses or activities I am not innately interested in. However, I also recognize what I can keep working on to be better such as discipline, engagement, patience, consistency, thoroughness, and much more…
Overall, in my retreat to the jungle, I didn’t obtain enlightenment, but I definitely think I’ve catalyzed the process of becoming who I am meant to be in this world.
To immortalize the words of Ricky Danang Pratama (ALeRT, Way Kambas, 25):
“Perhaps you don’t have the life you dreamed of, but possibly you have the life many others dream of, so be grateful. Friends, family, health, money – not everyone has that. We hope that you have good days ahead of you.”’
Rivera anticipating the start of her summer experience
By Carol Newman
“We drove through the afternoon and into the night/early morning of the following day. The sunset over the hills of Kalimantan was stunning, but the beauty was also alarming. As far as the eye could see, endless crops of eucalyptus trees. It was hard for me to imagine that at one point, all of that land had been a forest full of hundreds – if not thousands – of different species of flora and fauna. Now it is just eucalyptus.
At about three in the morning, we arrived at the ALeRT offices about an hour outside of the Kelian Sanctuary, where we would be spending part of the day to get some blood tests done. On our drive back from the clinic, Doc Dedy said this: “Sometimes I think, maybe the forest will just be memories.” Seeing the patches of brown terrain from our flight in as well as the endless crops of eucalyptus and palms, saving the forest becomes starkly urgent. It is so different seeing these things firsthand, as opposed to seeing it in a documentary on TV. How easily the forest can become a memory. But also how hard people are fighting for it to stay.
The next morning, I awoke to the sounds of the jungle. It was a chorus of macaques, gibbons and many other animals and insects I have yet to learn. Christine and I stood out on the back porch of our homestay and we saw long-tailed macaques rustling around the canopy, jumping gracefully from tree to tree. I can’t explain how cool it was to see them in their natural habitat. Doc Dedy then took us on a walk around Pahu’s paddock in which we were attacked by many leeches (Christine became the first victim) and we watched from afar as Dr. Aidell and Doc Itha worked with Pahu.
At around 3 pm, Christine and I went on a walk with Doc Dedy and Ayok down the road and past the artificial lakes that were created from the Equatorial Mining Company when it was in use. Doc Dedy told us the water was contaminated with mercury, as mercury was used to clean gold after mining. Luckily, the contamination has gone down substantially since the company moved out some 20 years ago. It was a beautiful walk in which I learned of Ayok’s great bird and plant identification skills and we listened to Dr. Dedy and Ayok sing along to some popular Indonesian hits that Christine played from her Spotify. On the way back, I raced Doc Dedy up one of the large hills (and won!). We both denied feeling tired despite being completely out of breath and drenched in sweat.
Soon after, we bid goodbye to some of the team leaving the Kelian Sanctuary, and I couldn’t help but think about how hard it will be to say goodbye to all these people I have met when our two weeks here are done. It has been just under two days here at Kelian, and I already feel so attached to everyone. It amazes me that these people I have started to form friendships with are people that I probably never would have crossed paths with, not in a million years. Yet here we are, making new relationships that will hopefully last a lifetime.”
By Claire Glover & Madison Rosario
Over the past two weeks, Madison and I have tapped into many of JGI Uganda’s community health and sustainability projects, shadowing staff as they visit local schools, farmers, and women’s groups to unwrap the layers that surround JGI’s primary focus: chimpanzee conservation via improving the health and livelihood of rural community members. We have been warned about snakes as we trudge through waist high grass and shrubs with local forest monitors whose job is to geotag each native tree planted by farmers. These trees will help reforest essential wildlife corridors while providing farmers with sustainable sources of fruit and firewood, so they no longer venture into chimpanzee habitat to feed and cook for their families. On the drive in between forest monitoring sites, we passed a sugar factory that refines the sugarcane from surrounding fields, and the smell was almost unbearable. Our host for the day Pese explained that the relationship between big factory owners and the president of Uganda means that they can get away with poor waste practices and pollution of local water and air. I cannot imagine living close to the factory, where trails of industrial sludge line the red dirt roads.
During two days in a remote village in Kasongoire, we participated in a workshop for farmers to learn how to graft fruit tree seedlings. Instead of taking seven years to begin fruiting, a grafted mango hybrid can produce larger fruit in only four years. Later, the entire village stood spaced out in an empty field to demonstrate how much space a growing avocado tree needs for adequate nutrients, water, and sunlight.
We have traveled to primary schools in Masindi and Kagadi to meet Roots and Shoots club members aged 11-17 who are fulfilling Jane’s dream of educating and inspiring the next generation to take care of the environment and each other. The programs for school children span everything from planting nurseries of native trees on school grounds to educating young girls on menstrual health and STDs. It has been particularly gratifying to have kids begin to open up to us and connect through shared stories, experiences, and so many questions. It turns out everyone has an embarrassing period story they can laugh about, Ugandans and Americans alike! One women’s group danced and sang to welcome us to their meeting, where we provided them with a sewing machine not only to create their own reusable sanitary pads, but to continue producing them and distributing them as a new source of income completely independent of their husbands. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to realize that I actually know how to sew, which I suppose is a compliment?
Of course, our time with these projects has not been seamless, and we have faced a few challenges unique to our situation here. Field work means long hours driving on bumpy, flooded, or crowded roads and a schedule dictated by so many factors outside of our control. Frequently, my habit of packing cliff bars has been my only access to lunch, and the sun exposure this close to the equator can feel oppressive and tiring. We also face a significant language barrier in more rural communities, where hyper specific local languages sometimes mean even the JGI staff need a local translator to step in. It can be challenging to tell that villagers are laughing and talking about us without being in on the joke, but I am sure we do look and act hilarious, so I let it wash over me. These are all manageable, and Madison and I continue to get used to navigating our place here and our role in the work JGI is doing.
Monkey health checks!
The keeper used nets to trap the monkeys and then brought them into the treatment room. Alejandra then sedated them with medetomidine and ketamine. Once the drugs took effect in about 5 minutes we did everything as fast as we could. We microchipped them and placed a PPD TB test in the eyelid, drew blood from the femoral artery to run a CBC, Chemistry, and virology test where we put several drops of blood on a special paper to be sent to Spain. We also took radiographs of the thorax to screen for tuberculosis and did an abdominal and thoracic ultrasound to check for any effusions.
It was such a fun experience for me to work this close with primates for the first time and be able to practice skills like drawing blood!
With Maria and Alejandra in Pointe Noire, we went with Mathilde and her family who was visiting to check a camera in the forest of the sanctuary. We had to walk though the muddy savanna and an even muddier forest. Luckily only mid ankle deep, unlike our last adventure with Mathilde!
The next day was time for the health checks on 36 parrots Maria and Alejandra had rescued in Pointe-Noire and returned to the sanctuary
We prepared microchips, blood tubes, swabs, syringes and other supplies. Once everything was ready we split into two teams, it was much better to be one on one with the veterinarians for better clinical experience. I got to microchip them in the pectoral muscles, swab the crop and cloaca to test for bacterial infections, draw blood from the jugular vein or brachial artery for a CBC and chemistry, give antibiotic injections, and pluck out the cut feathers to promote regrowth so they can fly again.
We learned that poachers catch the parrots by placing glue traps in trees which get glue all over the birds legs and wings. They also cut the primary flying feathers to prevent them from flying and then the poachers stuff many birds in small containers to be shipped to Europe and sold as pets.
It was an interesting experience to work with parrots, as I had only worked with large birds of prey and most work was done with the birds in face masks and thick leather gloves to protect the assistant. At the sanctuary the workers had simple work gloves that were easily taken by claws. While most birds were awake and well restrained, some of the more feisty birds got a cotton ball covered in isoflourane to the nose, so that they could be sedated for a blood draw. At the end, we separated two birds that looked sickly for closer observation and isolation from the others.
One of the parrots had ectoparasites, and Maria removed a few for us to identify later under the microscope. I mounted the slide and determined that it was an avian chewing louse due to the rounded head! I learned something from parasitology!
Two days later it was Mandrill health check day! We got to work on 9 mandrills from a group that we will release into the wild next week; as long as everyone’s results come back normal and they are healthy. The keepers worked hard to lure the smaller mandrills into the enclosure and catch them with a net one by one as we moved through the group. Although, Suzo and Tyson the two males were sedated with a blow dart by the nurse Hughe. Once a mandrill was sedated, we took them to the treatment room and got to work as we only wanted to keep them sedated for 20 minutes. We microchipped them and placed a PPD tuberculosis test in the eyelid, drew blood from the femoral artery to run a CBC and chemistry. We also took radiographs of the thorax to screen for tuberculosis and did an abdominal and thoracic ultrasound to check for any effusions.
One of the females who will not be released next week was also given an nexplanon implant because she is prone to polycystic ovaries and going through heat causes her a lot of pain. It was a crazy afternoon of 5 hours non stop, with keepers bringing in one mandrill after another! It was a great clinical experience to practice drawing blood, calculating injection dosages, and monitoring under anesthesia. I also really enjoyed seeing the process of sedating wild animals with a blow dart, which was something I looked forward to the whole trip!
The photographer, Fernando, also came to visit while we did the health check on Suzo, the dominant male. He took some photos of us working, and interviewed Maria for the documentary he’s making in the JGI Congo institute.
The next day, we finished the mandrill health checks on the last two females and their babies.
While the one female was slow to wake up from anesthesia, I stayed with her to monitor her heart rate and oxygen levels with the pulse oximeter. While in the enclosure, Suzo, the dominant male, was very upset that we were messing with his females. He was pacing behind us in the second enclosure and producing a high pitch noise by grinding his teeth. He was displaying his discontent with us being there but it’s all in their best interest to be released to the wild in the best and healthiest condition possible. While it can be risky to do anesthesia, the health screening will ensure their greatest chance of survival in the wild!
We finished up early and had an integration to do in the afternoon. We introduced two females of group 1 to a dominant male of group 2. The Integration was off to a violent start, when as soon as the gate was open the females rushed the male chasing him around and cornered him on the raised platform. The more dominant female rushed him and was trying to bite his testicles to prove her dominance as she didn’t want to accept a new male. She chased him around and at one point in trying to get away, the male slipped and fell about 10 feet to the ground. We were all in shock as he hit the concrete floor, but then he got right back up and went after the female completely unscathed. After a few minutes of chasing and biting and screaming, the female was increasingly tired and surrendered to him. The three soon settled down and began to eat a little. The less dominant female decided to settle in the corner as she made herself a nest and the other two had small squabbles but seemed to have figured out who was in charge.
The next morning We went out with Maria to the forest to look for a group of two released monkeys that Maria hand-raised last year. She released them where she knew there were wild monkeys, but the two didn’t assimilate and came back close to live in the forest surrounding the sanctuary. It’s not an issue because they have clearly found enough food to survive and they have each other. It’s just unfortunate they did not join the big group.
Later in the afternoon we went to the canine unit to check on two EcoGaurd dogs that were limping. Happy was sore on her hind paw likely due to a previous injury and deformity of the paw. Maria said that at her initial health check the bone of P3 showed signs of lysis. It’s possible that it is progressing and with increasing pain we were sure to do an orthopedic exam. Alejandra flexed and extended her joints, hips and knee and toes and found pain in her toes. We watched her walk and she would weight bear for a few steps and then hike up her knee and put it down a few steps later. With her spay scheduled in two weeks, the plan was to give her some meloxicam and rest. At that time they will X-ray her foot again and determine if there is continued osteolysis, and potentially amputate the non weight bearing digit.
After our return to the sanctuary, the keepers found one of the isolated parrots dead. Alejandra and I performed a necropsy to try and determine the cause of death, other than stress or malnourishment from poor treatment. I opened the body cavity by cutting around the breast plate and found that the pectoral muscles were severely thin. Inside we first examined the heart and liver which are not separated by a diaphragm. We found yellow spots on the right liver lobes. Alejandra suspected hepatic lipidosis due to malnutrition. We next examined the lungs which are behind the heart and liver closely associated with the vertebrae. The lungs were pink and fluffy and looked quite normal. We also examined the intestines and found the proventriculus somewhat enlarged and Alejandra said the rest of the small and large intestines seemed small compared to normal. But not having taken comparative anatomy I wasn’t sure what normal would look like other than the limited knowledge I had on chicken anatomy. However, I was able to use my knowledge of other dissections from gross lab to correctly identify organs! We then examined the kidneys which are tucked behind the aorta and very long and lobular. I also found small adrenal glands and ovaries which identified the bird as a female. We then examined the trachea with its complete cartilage rings and the crop that had some food in it. What I didn’t know was that the crop is outside of the thoraco-abdominal cavity. Unfortunately, this parrot died despite best attempts to help her. We were very respectful and glad to have been able to learn a little more about avian anatomy from Alejandra.
We finally ventured to Pumbo to release mandrills Afande, Tyson, and BamBam. The keepers had the task of catching all three this morning, and the mandrills certainly knew something was up when the car, several keepers, and the 4 of us were staring and watching. It took a little while but at last they caught Tyson and BamBam and put them in a crate together and Afande got her own crate. We loaded up the car and headed out on the four hour bumpy car ride through the forest.
Once we got to the camp, it was time to unload the mandrills and onto the boat we went. We traveled about 20 minutes up the river to the mandrill dormitory. The rest of the 13 mandrills from the previously released group had been brought there earlier today and settled in. There was one section left for the three new mandrills where we let them out of their crates. While not everyone in the group has radio collars, Maria also put one on Tyson so he can be tracked along with Afande who already has one because she was previously in the wild with this group. The group of now 16 mandrills will stay here for a week to get acquainted with each other through the fence. The keepers will sleep at the camp to monitor and feed them and then next week, sadly after we are gone, they’ll be let out all together to head back to the forest all together!
The next morning we checked the mandrills at the dormitory and one female Miari had a bite wound. You could see that her fur was matted with blood around her shoulders. The keepers caught her and Maria clipped the hair away and we could see punctures from the teeth of another mandrill. She palpated for depth and explained that it was common for fly larvae to be found in wounds! Lucky since the flight likely occurred overnight, there were no maggots and Maria flushed the wounds with saline and betadine. She then covered them with antibiotic ointment and gave the mandrill oral augmentation and ibuprofen.
Afterwards, we introduced the group of three we brought with 5 of the main group by opening one of the connecting gates between two enclosures. The 5 mandrills ran in to see the new arrivals and were much friendlier than the chimpanzee introductions we have done. All the mandrills grappled food and greeted each other by smiling and nodding their heads. They began to play around on the hammock and swing across the bamboo beaches in the enclosure. We spent about an hour observing the mandrills and making sure they got along well. In the time we were there occasionally the play got a little rough and turned into fights that lasted seconds long. Overall Tyson was a little shy around the new mandrills and often stayed in the hammock looking down on the others. BamBam was a bit aggressive when playing but we were happy to see that when Tysons old friend Rajhine entered, the three of them began to play fight. Tyson and Rajhine had been living at the sanctuary since last year before Rajhine had been released.
We visited the mandrills one last time before heading back to the sanctuary.
A crazy development as Maria, Alej, and Alina are all sick with a cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and overall not feeling good! I managed to avoid getting sick and was at the sanctuary out on rounds to check on the animals when Mathilde arrived with two sick EcoGaurd dogs. One who was constipated and one had bloody diarrhea. They both just came back from a three day mission and refused to eat anything. Since the nurses are human nurses, they were not used to treating the dogs and many people here are scared of large dogs. So as the interim vet for the day with everyone sick 😅 I helped take temperatures, check fecal samples, and pill the one dog with metronidazole.
I spent the day with Mathilde as she worked on uploading data from the EcoGuard survey and I watched the dogs at our house. Later in the afternoon we took the dogs for a nice walk and convinced them to eat dinner! I made them a bland diet with rice and very smelly sardines.
Alina had returned from the doctor with a negative covid test and some cough medicine, after she was told she just had the common cold. Hopefully that’s all it is, but tomorrow we will all get tested for tuberculosis because a worker here tested positive on his annual PPD test and was sent home, but became ill several days later!
With less than one week left we will spend a few days at the chimp islands before flying home.