Fieldwork Journal: Getting the Word Out about Lorises
by AMNH on
Mary Blair, assistant director for research and strategic planning at the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, is blogging from the field during her spring expedition to Vietnam. Read other posts from this expedition here.
It’s the middle of the night, and it’s pitch black in a Vietnamese forest. You are armed with nothing but a headlamp and a camera. You see something shining back at you in the dark—what is it? How can you tell? Let me give you some tips.
My team is surveying for lorises (Nycticebus pygmaeus) in Vietnam's Bu Gia Map National Park.
In addition to searching for lorises, we are spreading awareness among local communities about loris conservation and threats to their survival, and we are also developing the skills of Vietnamese students and park rangers for nocturnal survey work.
When we spot a loris (or so we think), we shine a spotlight on the animal to get a good look, confirm the species, and hopefully take a photograph. Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s not foolproof—but it is fun, and once you know just a few facts, you can find them.
Here are some things to know about spotting lorises.
You will see other mammals—it’s not lorises but civets that are the most common mammals we see during night surveys.
Civets are small carnivores of the family Viverridae. We often see them in trees at night, and, because a civet’s eyes are smaller, at first it’s easy to think it’s a loris perching far away.
But a lorises’ eyes have the telltale red-orange eyeshine—a civet’s is a bit yellower.
Once caught in our headlamps’ lights, lorises act differently from civets.
Lorises exhibit “cryptic” anti-predator behavior: in order to avoid predators, they try to stay still and avoid being seen. When you spot them and they see the light of your headlamp, they often stay right where they are. And, if you wiggle your headlamp at them a bit, you can capture their attention and make sure they don’t look away, giving you time to hoot at your team member to shine a brighter spotlight and begin taking data.
Meanwhile, a civet will typically run away immediately.
So far, during the days, my team has seen some amazing animals as well, including yellow-cheeked gibbons, black-shanked doucs, and birds including hornbills, olive-backed sunbirds, and sooty-headed bulbuls. I hope to have some great loris photos to show you in the next post.
P.S. I’m happy to report I’ve had no leech encounters yet!
This work is supported in part by a grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund; for information on the DWCF, click here.
Working with partners around the globe, the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) transforms knowledge—from diverse sources and perspectives—into conservation action. By developing professional, institutional, and community capacity for conservation, and convening and connecting key actors, the CBC fosters the ongoing discovery, awareness, and conservation of life on this planet.