Tropical rainforest of the Southeast Asia have always been fascinated to naturalists and scientists, even Alfred Russel Wallace came back here again and again. For the scientific concerns, the old world of Asian tropical forest offers so many things to see and study. In the 21st century, the chance of finding new species is still exist. Some friends of mine just published newly discovered white-eye from Togian islands close to Sulawesi, a small greenish bird with a white eye-ring. Endangered and endemic wildlife are also attractive to study.
The idea of working in tropical forest, conducting research sometimes makes us feel that we will deliver something meaningful to the conservation. But permits and bureaucracy delimit our scientific curiosity. I have to admit that going through this hassle has added to another pressure in my limited brain capacity. In Indonesia, research permits apply to both national and foreign scientists. For national students/scientists working in the protected area, at least 3 months should be spared to get a research permit from the central management authority and another entry permit from the head of the protected area. For foreign scientists, at least another additional 3 months are needed to find an Indonesian counterpart, and work on different more permits from the scientific authority, and the Police. We need to be in close relationship with telephone because keep contacting them is worth additional time for our research.
Being a scientist is not easy. Why do we have to do these kinds of hassle? Well, consider it as following another house’s rule. Just like visiting and staying at our friend’s house. We need to respect their rule, their way of treating their house. Our friends need to know that we follow their rule and not stealing their things. Wildlife is precious treasure to a country. Old time naturalists used to collect wildlife specimen for the sake of science or personal curiosity. How do we know that some of the specimens were probably the last individual of the whole population of an area? For a country, they probably need to know that you are existed and physically safe, you transfer adequate information or technology to local people, and you don’t steal and sell wildlife specimen.
I’ve been through the hassle and believe me, avoiding this will definitely affect our research, the schedule, the sampling design, and the data. So, here are some useful tips:
- Spare at least a year prior to field work to find information on research permits, prepare all the documents, and to work on the permits. Ask for the official regulations considering fees in particular.
- Find a good national counterpart. This is usually the local university. Try to establish a good collaboration. A scientist or a phd candidate is usually asked to bring a local undergraduate student to work as technician and shared the data for an undergraduate thesis. This will ensure that you transfer your knowledge to local people. A student can also help you communicate with local guides.
- Don’t hesitate to check the progress of your research permits. By doing this, you help people doing their jobs.
Anyway, don’t get discourage. Opportunities are in front of our eyes, waiting to be discovered.