living fossil

Indonesia Blog - Adventures in the Rainforests of Ujung Kulon!

These blogs will feature regular updates from Dr. Nia and our field team as they work in the forests of Ujung Kulon National Park and in the surrounding farmlands to learn about the infectious diseases of domestic livestock and their potential impact on the park's rare Javan rhinos.  Although, Dr. Nia has been in the field working for more than a year, we will pick up with her as she makes a discovery and meets with farmers from a park village who may be one key to saving the rhinos.

The Rain Won’t Stop Us!
March 14, 2013

If I can say, maybe the last 3 months (January, February and March) have been the hardest time for me in the field collecting the samples.  Why do I say this? - because it is the peak of the rainy season in Ujung Kulon National Park! 
There is no day without rain and to go from one village to another village is absolute chaos.  The biggest challenge is the road (if I can say road, because it is almost not a road at all).  Driving a motorcycle on the hilly “soil road” combined with rain maybe for some people seems impossible, but not for us. Fortunately we have a very great person that makes something impossible become possible.  The person is Pak Jaya! He is maybe an old person, but his energy is not old at all.  His experience in driving a motorcycle in that kind of environment makes all the sampling process in the field possible even when the rain comes and the road turns to mud.
Even to go from base-camp to one village target, we need to spend two or maybe three times the usual time. Yet, it won’t stop us!
Even if sometimes we need to walk and push the motorcycle on the road to reach another target village. It won’t stop us!
And sometimes we need to find a place where we can get help so we can change the tire. The road sometimes just makes the tire go flat but again it won’t stop us!
Even though the rain comes every single day, we never give up and continue to make it to each and every one of the 18 buffer villages every month to collect samples and train the local farmers who own the buffalo.  All the difficulty seems to just disappear when we meet the enthusiastic owners who help us collect samples from their buffalo and are very keen to hear our simple health message.

From the rainforest,

Practical Health Training for Villagers is One of the Best Moments
March 3, 2103

When people ask me, ”what is the best moment that I have experienced during this study?” My answer will always be the same: “talking with and sharing our health message with the villagers”!
Practical health training is part of our main activity in the field. The purpose of this activity is to improve animal health management and preventative medicine systems for water buffalo in the area surrounding the park through hands-on training about animal disease, diagnosis, husbandry, medical problems, and the like.  
It is always a delightful time for me to work very closely with the local community and help make their voices heard.  Training has focused on water buffalo health; however, we also assist by offering guidance on management of other livestock animals that are considered important to village agriculture and represent a potential threat to the Javan rhino program. We have helped to educate community villagers on common animal diseases, how to recognize disease, how to prevent it, what to do with sick animals to prevent spread of disease (i.e. basic quarantine principles), and whom villagers should contact or notify in the event of a disease outbreak.
The enthusiasm from the villagers as in the accompanying picture always makes me smile and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to build a lasting friendship with these simple, but strong people - from the place that perhaps most of the rest of Indonesia has almost forgot.
Maybe we can offer only a simple health training message for the villagers, but we do believe such small acts can add up to big change. Our work gives a little help and lots of hope for these rural people. And the resonance from the building of these unique relationships will come back in many positive ways in the future. One thing that we need to keep in our minds is that it often matters less how big one’s action is in the community, but more importantly, the consistency and focus on your action. The people of Banten Province hold the Javan rhino’s future in their hands!

More soon,

February 14 (Valentines Day 2013!)
Yesterday morning, I got called from Pak Jaya, he said an owner called him because his buffalo show signs of Pasteurella infection. I asked Pak Jaya to go first to the place and try to collect sample if he can. And I went to the field as soon as possible because for case control study we also need to take 3 control animals and collect the sample+questionner from controls.

Pak Jaya got both nasal swab and blood sample just before the buffalo died yesterday. I am so happy Robin, not only because finally we got + clinical sign but also because i see how the behavior changed from both pak jaya and the owner. Pak Jaya just explained to me, he never get any call from the owner if there is a sick buffalo. Now, he got a call quite frequent from the owner even though it's not always for SE sign, but the way the owner pay more attention on their animals and they want to give a report to Pak Jaya is something that really great. And pak jaya really happy because he can take a blood sample without me around :)..

Regard from the field..