Rewards of working in the forest

You name it, line transect, point count, any work called surveys, or even just walking through the forest. All of them can bring you fatigue and boredom. If we have to walk at the same transects everyday, or go to the same points to do point count every couple of days, from Sumatra to Sulawesi we have to cross the rugged terrain of tropical forest, climb the hills, probably cross one or two rivers. Two to three kilometers transect can be such a pain compare to walking around at the mall for the same distance. We need to collect data on birds but we rarely seen them, we need to record primate encounters but they are reluctant to be seen. Then, how do we cope with this boredom-fatigue situation?

I will not say anything about how the observer’s fatigue may bias the data. There are many papers talking about that but how do we really cope with that in the field? The remote and difficult access of survey area, the long and heavy rains during the wet season, can be really broken us down. I guess each of us has their own way to cope with these situations. For me, at least my binocular and camera are my tools. I need to find my own rewards for being in the field and I get them through unpredictable encounters with wildlife. After a long walk in the field all day, seeing something rare is precious moment.

Someday in Morowali nature reserve, Central Sulawesi in 1995. I was drowned with my first 3 months in the field and here I was, taking a rest in my field hut when a group of Red junglefowl climbed down the rocky hill across my hut. One male and 7 females. The male walked in front and waited down the hill as if he was watching the females carefully climbed down the hill, making sure that nothing would happen to the his females. Red junglefowl although introduced in Sulawesi, as one of the pheasant family (Phasianidae) is very secretive. To be able to see one is great, but eight of them are a prize.

August, 2005, Lambusango forest, Buton, Southeast Sulawesi. I was at my fourth flying camp in Wabalamba area, eager to finish my overall 5 flying camps for that year. I left the camp at 5.30 AM to go to my point count stations. First point, birds seemed to lazy to fly. I then moved to my second stations, a bit frustrated of my almost empty datasheet for that morning. My local technician walked in front of me. We were approaching the third stations, when I saw two cow-like animals. Are they anoas (Bubalus depressicornis), the most interesting endemic mammals of Sulawesi? Without thinking far, I took out my digital camera and took several shots. We were the camp hero that day. There are many myths about this animal. People always consider it as fierce animal that will chase you whenever you encounter it. But many stories of this chasing were because the local people put snares in their gardens and the anoa was snared and got really angry. Who knows what this animal really think about human. I got my 10 minutes precious moments. I was still able to finish my point count at that station with an anoa watching me behind the bushes. My friend studies this animal and she got the chance to encounter them at the end of her field work in 2007. These are incredible rewards.

I still have many other rewards. From big and heavy reward such as watching a group of elephant at a quite close distance from a safe place in Sumatra, to smaller and simple rewards such as encountering a Sulawesi bear cuscus (Ailurops ursinus), or seeing a Sulawesi dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx fallax) sleeping peacefully like a fur ball on a branch near a river. All of them are my refreshing moments to start another day of long, boring, and busy day in the field.


One response to this post.

  1. […] If we have to walk at the same transects everyday, or go to the same points to do point count every Race draws to end, time for legacies Lexington Herald-LeaderThe Democratic presidential […]


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