Category Archives: Uncategorized


SwaraOwa at the 8th Asian Primate Symposium, Vietnam

The first international primate conference held in Asia since the Covid-19 pandemic, the 8th edition of the Asian Primate Symposium took place at the Forestry Faculty of the Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

Word that the event was going to happen first went out in August 2022 and sparked some excitement on social media. The organisers hoped to attract a sizeable number of delegates from Indonesia, the single Asian country with the most primate species. I was therefore honoured to be able to represent Indonesia as a member of the scientific committee on this occasion. On behalf of SwaraOwa I and Aoliya will present and give talks in the symposium.

Vietnam has 24 species of primates, including a slow loris (Lorisidae), six species of crested gibbon belonging to the genus Nomascus, various monkeys (Cercopithecidae) and strikingly coloured langurs (Colobinae). Unfortunately, almost 90% of the primate species in Vietnam are on the verge of extinction, and 10 of these are already critically endangered.

The tragedy that was the Vietnam War has left an indelible mark on Vietnam’s culture and geopolitics that still has consequences for its biodiversity. Vietnam is one of the foremost biodiversity hotspots in Southeast Asia, but is at the same time a global centre for the illegal wildlife trade. Conservationists in Vietnam certainly have a lot on their plates as a result. Visiting Vietnam gave me an opportunity to observe first-hand how initiatives to protect nature, especially these primate species, are unfolding.

When we received the invitation to this symposium, we immediately started making plans for primate watching. Squeezing in a visit to Cat Tien National Park – or Cat Tien NP for short – before the conference was a very tempting prospect indeed. Located in southern Vietnam, it is famous for being home to the Yellow-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus gabrielle) and the Black-shanked douc (Pygathrix nigripes).

An interesting fact about Cat Tien NP is that its logo is a Javan rhinoceros. Indeed, the subspecies Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus once lived in Vietnam. Sadly though, the last known specimen was found dead by the authorities in 2010. The rhino is known to have been shot by poachers with its horn missing, rhino horn being one of the ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine.

From Ho Chi Minh airport, the taxi ride to Cat Tien National Park took approximately 4 hours. Entry to the national park cost only 60,000 VND (Rp. 38,000), very affordable in comparison to Indonesia. Along the way, we had to cross a river surrounded by wetlands on one of the boats on standby from 7 am to 7 pm. For gibbon observation, Cat Tien NP charges a separate fee of 200,000 VND, because you need to be accompanied by park staff and spend the night there in order to set off at 4.30am the next day, when the gibbons usually make their morning calls. Upon hearing the gibbons call, the guide will try and determine where they are calling from and lead you towards that location. It is very difficult to spot gibbons when it is light, as they would usually have retreated into the dense upper canopy by then and there are no ideal locations from which to observe them there.

The Black Shanked Douc Langur

Although hiring a guide made a lot of sense, we ultimately chose to explore the park on our own. The roads here are very good and easily traversible on a vehicle, with only tourists being allowed to use them.

Our first encounter with a Vietnamese primate was with the Black-shanked douc, a type of langur the size of our Proboscis monkey in Indonesia. Its pelage is a combination of black and white, and its thighs a glossy black. This species is critically endangered. Like langurs in general which eat leaves, when we encounter them they are usually at rest, digesting the leaves they had eaten. There were two troops that we saw that morning, and they seemed quite habituated to the visitors.

Macaca fascicularis

On the second day we got around using bicycles we rented at the park office. The bike paths were quite well kept, but the bikes not in top condition considering the route was more than 9 km long. Observing while riding a bicycle is also not like walking where you can listen out for every rustle in the trees. But on a bike you can cover huge distances and see the various types of habitats in Cat Tien. We managed to find one troop of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), one of macaques (Macaca leonina) and one of doucs on this day.

The symposium

There is a rather well developed culture of conservation and primate research in Vietnam, as seen from the many Vietnamese primatologists who were involved in organising the event, as well as the number of international conservation organisations supporting it. The symposium officially commenced on 14 November 2022, in the auditorium of the Vietnam National University’s Forestry Faculty. It opened with a plenary talk by Christian Roos about the diversity and genetic history of Asian primate species.

I myself gave a presentation at one of the sessions on ‘Human – Nonhuman primate interaction and conflict’ alongside four other presenters. An abstract of my presentation, entitled ‘The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: Learning from the story of Javan gibbon (Hylobates moloch) conservation’, can be found here[].

There was likewise an interesting session on the use of thermal drones to survey and monitor primate populations in Cat Tien National Park. Commercial drones available on the market are deployed at night, when primates are usually at rest and the surrounding temperatures are cooler as compared to during the day, so that the body heat of primates can be more easily detected by the camera sensor.

I chaired a session  on ‘Human – Nonhuman primate interactions and conflicts’ with four presenters, incidentally all representing Indonesian organisations. The first was Octaviana Sawitri from the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), who discussed human – orangutan conflict in East Kalimantan. then our team, SwaraOwa’s Nur Aoliya then presented a solution to primates in Petungkriyono accidentally getting electrocuted. The third presenter was Jochen Menner. From Germany, he is works for Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark, Taman Safari, and gave a talk about the online trade in Indonesian primates. And the last talk came from Indira Nurul Qomariah from COP, who also discussed the illegal primate trade in Indonesia.

Nomascus gabrielle

Day two, 15 November 2022, saw us go on a field trip to Chuc Phuong National Park, approximately four hours away by bus. All conference participants joined in. This was in fact my second time in Chuc Phuong. It was great to visit the primate rehabilitation center there again, and also to see various other endangered species. The EPRC was founded in 1993, with the aims to help rehabilitation and rescue center for the illegal primate traded. They will be released if the conditions in the wild are suitable. Among the primates at the EPRC are douc langurs and langurs, which are very attractive. You can imagine that they would stand out even more in their natural habitat, some of which are in inaccessible areas such as karst formations.

Nomascus siki

There is also a centre for the rehabilitation and conservation of reptiles such as turtles and other mammals like pangolins and small carnivores. Some of these facilities are used for visitor education, where the staff and keepers explain their efforts to save the lives of these native animals. Sadly however, as I said at the beginning, Vietnam is a global hub for the illegal animal trade, so releasing these animals back into the wild could cause their downfall because they will likely be caught again and eaten or traded.

The two species of gibbons that I encountered, the Yellow-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus gabrielle) and the Southern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus siki), were in forests near the rehabilitation centre. Because they were outside the cages, they looked like they were in their natural habitat.

After Chuc Phuong, we went to Van Long Nature Reserve to do primate watching in the iconic wetland karst area, where we hoped to find more doucs. Unfortunately, it was pouring when we arrived there and the event had to be cancelled. Quite a shame because this place was renowned as the most visited primate watching destination in Vietnam before the pandemic. This marked the end of my time at the symposium in Vietnam and I returned to Indonesia the next morning.

Our thanks go to the symposium committee, especially the Three Monkey Wildlife Sanctuary. I would also like to thank IUCN SSA  and Fortwayne Children’s Zoo for sponsoring my attendance in the symposium . The next edition of the Asian Primate Symposium in 2024 is likely to be held in Indonesia. See you there!

Written by Arif Setiawan, translated by T.T Chan



Fabric Scraps for Conservation

“This patchwork tote bag is made of fabric scraps from the garment industry in Pekalongan. Sokokembang is a hamlet in Pekalongan located right next to forests that are home to the Javan Gibbon. Some residents there sew at home for a living or work at a textile factory. SwaraOwa are currently helping several residents in Sokokembang to transform leftover fabrics and discarded materials from the garment industry into useful recycled products. Not only does this contribute to their livelihoods, it also reduces plastic waste and promotes the conservation of the Javan Gibbon.”

The garment industry is one of the foremost drivers of the local economy in Pekalongan. From the city, the textile supply chain stretches all the way to even the most remote villages near the forest. It all starts with cutting fabrics, sewing, attaching buttons and zips, then moves on to screen printing and colouring, sometimes using traditional batik-producing techniques that have been passed down through the generations.

In Sokokembang, one of the hamlets closest to the gibbon forests in the area, activities powering the garment economy are very much present, and have been at least since we first visited in 2006. Such activities form the main source of livelihood for 45% of families here, who contribute to the apparel supply chain by sewing parts of clothing. Other villagers grow various crops or rear livestock in their gardens and the forest. From when we started our projects in Sokokembang up until 2014, villagers engaged in sewing did not do this work at home, instead using the sewing machines and materials at their employer’s place. They worked most days, only having Fridays off.

Garment workers are crucial to the local economy, sustaining those who live around the forest. However, because of the nature of their work, they are generally not as intimately familiar with forest trees and animals as those villagers who enter the forest more frequently. They sometimes even describe Javan Gibbons as having tails! Gibbons, after all, are rarely seen. What these workers do know well is how gibbon calls sound, because these can be heard loud and clear every morning.

Noticing this, the Indonesian wildgibbon team braved the pandemic and tried to find ways of connecting gibbons to garment manufacturing, the sector that provides much of the jobs in Pekalongan. Seeing leftover scraps of fabric everywhere, mostly wasted, the team tried to bring Sokokembang hamlet a solution to this problem.

The solution came in the form of cloth bags. Making them involves villagers who already sew for a living. They form patterns using unwanted fabric scraps and connect them into a highly practical multi-purpose bag. This process is relatively uncomplicated and can be done on the sidelines of everyday sewing. To get the younger generation involved in Sokokembang, they were briefly trained by residents who were already proficient in sewing. After being given the finishing touches by the wildgibbon team, the bags look as illustrated, bearing the logos of Owa Coffee and Sokokembang.

At SwaraOwa, we firmly believe that conservation projects cannot succeed without being made to benefit local communities. Although not without its challenges, this project is just such an attempt to marry conservation activities with fostering an entrepreneurial spirit among locals — all proceeds will go towards supporting forests and livelihoods. By closely collaborating with the locals, we aim to make protecting nature and boosting the local economy one and the same cause, and hope that making conservation pay will encourage further conservation activities in the region and beyond.


written by : Elna Novitasari Br.Ginting dan Arif Setiawan, translated by TT Chan


Primate Survey Method Training Program : Building capacity for young primatologist

written by Arif Setiawan, translated by TT Chan

The Primate Survey Methods Training Programme was held for the eighth time in May 2021, after having been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. As in previous years, this was a collaboration with the Primate Study Group of Gadjah Mada University’s Faculty of Forestry. The Primate Survey Methods Training Programme, which we will refer to as PTP for short, aims to revitalise primate research, introduce basic primate survey techniques and create a network of primate conservation activists, all with a special focus on gibbon conservation.

The first PTP was held in 2013, with the initial goal of increasing the number of researchers and conservationists in Central Java. Between 2013 and 2019, 146 participants successfully completed the programme (see Table 1). Today, these PTP alumni are spread across different regions. Several of them are currently pursuing careers in primate and gibbon-related fields. They have started primate conservation projects encompassing tracts of gibbon habitat which had previously not been protected.

The training given in the PTP focusses primarily on a method of estimating the population  density of Javan gibbons using triangulation sistem, line transects and vocal counts. The programme usually lasts three days, with one day for classes and two for field practice. All editions of the PTP so far have taken place in Sokokembang hamlet (Kayupuring Village, Petungkriyono District).

Training sessions are complemented by presentations by guest speakers, who share their experience doing research or primate conservation. Among the speakers invited during previous rounds of the PTP is Dr Bosco Chan (Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, Hong Kong), who has done fieldwork on the Hainan gibbon – the rarest in the world – and visited in 2018. We  also invited researcher Dwi Yandhi Febrianti, who works on the Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi. In 2017 we have invited Dr. Andie Ang, raffle’s banded langur working group and Indonesian javan gibbon researcher, Rahayu Oktaviani as guest lecturer. We hope that the experiences of our invited researchers will inspire participants to embark on careers involving researching or conserving primates in Indonesia.

The PTP this year has had to be modified a little due to the pandemic. In addition to reducing the number of participants, we added a webinar before the main event at Sokokembang. This webinar, held on 22 May 2021, gave our guest speakers the opportunity to remotely address our 60 participants on various issues, which would normally have been presented live. Our first speaker, Dr Joe Smith, works as director of the animal programme at Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. He talked about some activities at the zoo that contributed to ex-situ conservation initiatives and the role of Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in gibbon conservation in particular. Our second guest speaker was Nur Aoliya, a primate researcher from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) who is researching the bioacoustics of Javan gibbons in the Dieng Mountains. For those of you who did not have time to attend this webinar, you can watch the recording on YouTube.

After the webinar, the PTP commenced in the Sokokembang forest, with 15 participants who had previously been selected based on a letter of motivation and their involvement in past and future projects relating to gibbons or other primates. In addition to those selected, there were three invited participants at this year’s PTP from Siberut. They represent a project on the Dwarf siamang, endemic to the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra.

This year’s PTP focused on training participants in the vocal count triangulation method, which we had two days to try out in the Sokokembang Forest. This is a method commonly used to survey gibbon populations. Nur Aoliya, the gibbon researcher from IPB we mentioned above, was in charge of introducing participants to the vocal count method. She had previously also received SwaraOwa’s Kopi Owa scholarship.

On our first day in the field, we selected sites called listening point from where we intended to listen out for gibbon calls the next day.  We also did primate watching tours on the forest road that have been used regular monitoring. Its easy to spot all primates species that have been habituated to humans. In choosing our sites, we took into account how well we could hear forest sounds at each place and the topography of the Sokokembang Forest. In total, we settled on three listening points spaced around 500 m apart. On the same day, we also gave participants a feel of the primate diversity in Sokokembang, teaching them how to identify the different species and quickly estimate the number of individuals in each group they come across.

On the second day, we did a vocal count using the three listening points we had chosen the day before. Based on the loudness and direction of the calls, we estimated the positions of the gibbons. Each of the three sites was manned by one team of participants from 6.30 to 11.00am. All gibbon calls were recorded on specially prepared observation sheets. The data from each observation point was later analyzed to estimate gibbon abundance in the area covered. The advantage of using three listening points (triangulation) was that we could more accurately determine where each gibbon was calling from.

Over the three days of the programme, our participants managed to record the highest number of direct encounters (during priamate watching trip)  with primates in the Sokokembang Forest so far compared to previous years: 30 individuals belonging to four species (Javan gibbon, Javan surili, Javan lutung and Long-tailed macaque). Towards the end of the programme, each team also presented the observational data they collected from the vocal count and an analysis of gibbon density.

We hope that the PTP 2021 has given all participants a good assortment of experiences in the field and a basic understanding of the methods used in gibbon surveys, as well as reached out to those in the younger generation interested in primate research, especially that relating to gibbons.

The Primate Survey Methods Training Programme 2021 was made possible by support from Mandai Nature, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Ostrava Zoo. Our thanks are also due to Perhutani Pekalongan Timur and the Kayupuring Village Government, Petungkriyono District, Pekalongan Regency.


Semangat Baru dari Sipora, Menjaga Alam dan Budaya

Oleh : Damianus Tateburuk ( Malinggai Uma Mentawai)

Kebudayaan dan keanekaragaman hayati daerah di Indonesia terwujud dalam beragam bentuk kegiatan dan aktivitas dalam kelompok masyarakat di berbagai daerah di Indonesia, dan ini ditandai dengan beragam hasil karya dari berbagai kelompok masyarakat budaya yang menunjukkan ciri khas kebudayaanya masing-masing, sebagai contohnya antara lain jenis rumah adat, tarian, musik, seni ukir, pakaian adat, dan bersamaan dengan keanekaragam hayati contohnya antra lain jenis alam, hutan, primata, burung, herpetofouna dan sebagainya, dan secara keseluruhannya kekayaan alamnya masih asli dan bahasa dan lain-lainnya. Seperti yang ada di Mentawai ini, bahwa kebudayaan hidup didalam  jiwa masyarakat bangsa Indonesia dan perlu dilihat sebagai suatu aset negara melalui pemahaman dan lingkungan, tradisi serta potensi-potensi kebudayaan yang dimiliki untuk dapat diberdayakan untuk dapat mencapai tujuan pembangunan nasional.

Seni Kebudayaan Dan Konservasi Keanekaragam Hayati yang merupakan salah satu bentuk kearifan lokal di Sumatra Barat, khususnya di Kepulauan Mentawai dikembangakan dalam satu wadah atau perkumpulan dengan menejemen yang sederhana, Wadah atau tempat berkumpulnya pelaku seni kebudayaan dan konservasi keanekaragam hayati biasanya dinamakan perkumpulan, Dari sekian banyaknya organisasi, yayasan, lembaga, pemerintahan dan organisasi ini yang berada di Sumatra Barat, salah satunya adalah Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai.

Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai pusat bersekretariat di Dusun Puro II Desa Muntei Kecamatan Siberut Selatan Kabupaten Kepulauan Mentawai–Sumatra Barat. Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai ini merupakan sarana bagi berkembangnya  dan pelestarian kebudayaan dan konservasi keanekaragam hayati khususnya, Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai dibentuk pada tanggal  05 September 2014 dan untuk memberikan fasilitasi kepada masyarakat umum dalam hal di bidang seni kebudayaan  Konservasi keanekaragam hayati dan satwa liar dan primata mentawai, Adat Istiadat Mentawai, semoga Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai dapat menjadi tempat / wadah untuk menggali tentang Kebudayaan dan keanekaragam hayati, yang mulai memudar khususnya dikalangan remaja dikarenakan ketidak pedulian masyarakat itu sendiri untuk memperkenalkan kebudayaan dan keanekaragam hayati mentawai tersebut kepada generasi penerus mereka dan pengaruh budaya asing serta kurangnya wadah bagi mereka untuk mengetahui budaya asli mereka sendiri dan ini sangat memprihatinkan sekali, bagi kami sehingga organisasi atas nama Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai sangat berharap dan berkeinginan penuh dengan berdirinya organisasi ini dapat membantu masyarakat untuk mengetahui, menggali serta memahami tentang nilai-nilai seni dan kebudayaan dan serta keanekaragam hayati mentawai dan serta perlindungan satwa dari jenis-jenis primata (Bilou, Simakobu, Simakubu simabulau, Joja, Bokkoi, herpetofouna dan burung-burung mentawai dan sebagainya) yang sekarang ini sudah mulai dilupakan. Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai juga tidak menutup bagi masyarakat diluar mentawai ataupun dari mancanegara untuk mendapatkan informasi tentang kebudayaan dan keanekaragam hayati yang ada di mentawai. Selain itu Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai juga akan terus mengadakan kegiatan seminar-seminar dan pelatihan tentang Kebudayaan dan keanekaragam hayati kedepannya, kegiatan yang telah kami lakukan sebelumnya yaitu “Seminar Pangureijat” (Pernikahan Adat Mentawai), (Pergelaran Seni Budaya Mentawai) (dan Turuk Laggai di Padang), (Pelatihan Guru Dan Fasilitator Sekolah Budaya Mentawai).

Bulan April tanggal 7-8, 2021 yang lalu kami juga telah berhasil melaksanakan sebuah acara pelatihan untuk anak-anak sekolah usia sekolah menengah atas di Dusun Goisooinan, Sipora. Berjudul “ Pelatihan Pengamatan Satwaliar dan Penggunaan Smartphone untuk Promosi Konservasi”.  Kegiatan yang didukung oleh SWARAOWA dari Yogyakarta dan Fortwayne Children’s Zoo dari Indiana Amerika Serikat. Latar belakang acara ini adalah semakin susahnya kita menjumpai satwa-satwa asli mentawai dan generasi muda semakin jauh dari rasa memiliki kekayaan alam mentawai, beberapa daerah khususnya di Mentawai juga sudah bagus sinyal telekomunikasi, dan anak-anak ini hampir setiap hari menggunakan gawai. Oleh karena itu potensi generasi muda mentawai ini perlu di dorong dengan pengalaman-pengalaman lapangan yang memang tidak dapat di sekolah, bagaimana mendokumentasikan alam sekitar mereka dan membuat cerita untuk oranglain supaya lebih tertarik, ataupun mengenalkan diri mereka dan budaya mentawai. Peserta acara ini adalah 15 orang  anak-anak usia SMA, 10 Orang darai Sipora dan 5 orang dari Siberut, terdiri dari 7 anak perempuan dan 8 anak laki-laki. Acara dilaksanakan 2 hari, dengan susunan acara 1 hari materi kelas dan 1 hari ke hutan. Pemateri yang di undang dalam acara ini adalah dari Birdpacker indonesia, organisasi konservasi burung dari Malang Jawa timur, ada mas Waskito Kukuh dan mbak Devi Ayumandasari, yang akan menyampaikan materi tentang pengamatan burung dan penggunaan smarphone untuk fotografi dan promosi konservasi melalui sosial media. dan tentang primata disampaikan oleh mbak Eka Cahayningrum dari SwaraOwa organisasi konservasi primata dari Yogyakarta yang berkerja untuk konservasi Owa Indonesia.


Hari pertama acara kelas di buka oleh Ketua Malinggai atau  yang mewakili ( Bapak Vincent) dan sambutan-sambutan dari dinas Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Kab.KepMentawai, dari dinas Pariwisata,  dan dari Desa Goisooinan. Acara hari pertama pengenalan dasar-dasar teknik pengamatan alam khususnya untuk satwaliar burung dan primata, dan menggunakan nya sebagai bahan publikasi di media sosial, sperti instagram, facebook, dan whatsapp. Hari kedua acara dilakukan di hutan yang di bagi menjadi 3 kelompok, pengamatan-pengamatan di dokumentasikan di selesai pengamatan di lalukan presentasi hasil dari masing-masing kelompok.  Dalam menyampaikan presentasi ini peserta juga di perkenalkan oleh para pemateri tetang bagaimana menyajikan data dalam presentasi menggunakan power point yang sederhana dan menarik.

Antusias  peserta yang juga di dampingi para pendamping dari Malinggai Uma, telah berhasil mendokumentasikan foto-foto yang di jumpai selama pengamatan dan beberapa diantaranya juga sudah di upload di sosial media. Harapannya kegiatan ini dapat memberikan wawasan baru dan pengalaman untuk generasi muda mentawai untuk lebih mengenal apa yang ada di sekitar mereka dan melestarikan identitas budaya asli mentawai.


2020 in review: Humming optimism amidst adversity


In January 2020, against the backdrop of a nascent pandemic, work continued unabated to organize conservation activities targeted at primates, gibbons in particular. The gibbons in Central Java and the Mentawai Islands form the twin foci of our conservation activities and have provided us strong motivation to step up conservation at the site level.

Javan gibbon landscape

Mentawai – Education & ecotourism

In South Siberut, we initiated a campaign centered on wildlife photography in collaboration with Uma Mentawai Malinggai (UMM), an organization dedicated to preserving local folk art. The campaign aimed to promote photography as a means of preserving culture and biodiversity, and to equip UMM members with new skills. We armed two UMM members with cameras that they used to document local fauna and natural history, and encourage the local community to part with non-traditional hunting practices.

This program has delivered some tangible results, with a book on the birds of Mentawai and another on Mentawai primates having been published. Active collaboration with local residents has also encouraged them to take ownership of their natural environment by serving as ‘paraconservationists’[read report here]. As such, the message we spread emphasized the importance not only of primates, but also of other components of Mentawai’s biodiversity and the value of indigenous culture.

The activities scheduled for January were intended to promote the conservation of primates in Mentawai through primate-watching tours. A promotion had in fact already been launched on a dedicated website ( and a test run had likewise been conducted blending endemic primate species with highlights of local culture. Read the trip report here. However, after a promising start, progress has slowed since March 2020 owing to the pandemic. Being mainly targeted at tourists from abroad, the project has been affected by cancellations of all tours booked at the end of 2019.

Central Java – Cancelled visits

In March 2020, we had been due to receive staff from the Ostrava Zoo and a representative of the Czech ambassador to Indonesia at our project activities in Sokokembang and the village of Mendolo. Both sites play a crucial role in our Coffee and Primate Conservation Project. However, shortly before the event was due to start, an official notice came in from the Regent of Pekalongan that gatherings were to be banned to halt the transmission of coronavirus. We were of course very disappointed, but are glad that we did the right thing by calling the activities off. In the end, we only managed a brief meeting with representatives of the Ostrava Zoo in Pekalongan, who immediately thereafter returned to Jakarta.

Of all our shade coffee and primate conservation projects in 2020, the most badly hit by the pandemic was our collaboration with the Singapore Zoo. Sales of our forest-friendly coffee had ground to a halt there because the zoo café, which carried the product, was forced to close by COVID-19. Our stock of coffee beans piled up in warehouses in Yogyakarta and in the Petungkriyono homes of the growers near the gibbon forests.

the swinging javan gibbon

 Research & networking

May 2020 marked a milestone in the conservation of the Kloss’s gibbon  (Hylobates klossii), with a survey of this Mentawai endemic having been published in the journal Biodiversitas – Journal of Biological Diversity. Findings were first presented at the Indonesian Primate Congress in September 2019, organized by Indonesian Primatological Society.

June 2020 saw the commencement of two important research projects in Sokokembang. Both were spearheaded by tough and dedicated women who feel more at home in the forest and among the communities who live off it than as homemakers without a voice of their own. Pressing on despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the first is Nur Aoliya from Bogor Agricultural University who studies the Silvery gibbon’s  vocalisation behaviours in the mountainous landscape of the Dieng region. You can find Aoliya’s story here, recounting her search for the diva of the rainforest in the districts of Batang and Pekalongan. The second, Yenni Rachmawati from Airlangga University, researches the Blue-banded kingfisher, one of the world’s most endangered birds  which the SwaraOwa team had found as new record in 2018. Both these research projects are funded by the annual Kopi Owa scholarship program as part of the Coffee and Primate Conservation Project in Central Java. As of early 2021, these projects are still ongoing.


Starting where we left off

As we lament no longer being able to travel as we please or meet whoever we want to, perhaps the most important lesson to learn from this global pandemic is that not coexisting with the natural world will only lead to severe socio-economic problems in the long run. Promoting cultural practices that emphasise sustainable consumption and production must be made a topmost priority, even if only on a small scale at first. After all, big things usually have humble beginnings.

Initially beset by numerous delays due to the pandemic, November 2020 saw our work in Mentawai slowly being resumed, targeted at conserving the endemic Kloss’s gibbon. As the erosion of local culture has led to unsustainable hunting practices and the loss of much forest, this work crucially includes providing local teachers training and content on nature conservation and Mentawai traditions.

Not all our activities were publicized on the SwaraOwa website or blog due to limited time for writing. One of the most important achievements for gibbon conservation in Pekalongan Regency was marked by the provincial government initiating a multi-stakeholder forum centered on the management of the Petungkriyono forest area [the initiation was started by this writing]. Although relevant work had already started in 2019, it was only with this forum that a concrete plan emerged, proposing around 5,173.80 ha to be managed collaboratively as an Essential Ecosystem Area.

Looking towards the future: strengthen economy, culture and nature conservation 

stingless bee honey harvesting

The pandemic, giving experience of livelihood program activities with one priority commodity to influence sustainable production and consumption in gibbon habitat’s  is very risky. and now there is also other potential commodity that SwaraOwa is developing in the habitat of gibbons, i.e stingless bee and it’s product development, we started in 2017 and now honey production has begun to stabilize even though it is limited, and motivate the community to involved in wildlife friendly farming practice, colony replication not only multiplied bee hive boxes but also became the start of a social, economic and ecological movement  around the forest.

We closed 2020 with the launch of Owa Bilou Coffee, a commercial project named after the Kloss’s gibbon endemic to Mentawai. It aims to further conservation work on primates, to involve local community on sustainable economic activities, especially the gibbon which is its namesake, its to trigger promoting local commodities and team in Mentawai that can be benefit for community and nature it’s self.

Thanks to all people, agency, local government in Central java and Mentawai,  who involved during 2020 activities, special thank you to our donors Fortwayne Children Zoo, Wildlife Reserve Singapore, Ostrava Zoo, and Arcus Foundation.

Having bade 2020 a bittersweet goodbye, we welcome 2021 with renewed optimism and resolve.