Attending the 8th Asian Primate Symposium in Vietnam

By Erik Sulidra, Animal Protection Manager & Ishma Fatiha, Field Laboratory Assistant

This past month, staff members of Yayasan Palung/GPOCP attended the 8th Asian Primate Symposium which was held in Hanoi, Vietnam from November 13th – 16th. This event is the largest primate symposium in Asia, where experts and stakeholders in the field of primate research and conservation meet and discuss various topics. Primate behavior, ecology, genetics, taxonomy, and conservation were the main themes discussed this year by 190 forum participants. Yayasan Palung/GPOCP sent two representatives, Erik Sulidra (Animal Protection Manager) and Ishma Fatiha Karimah (Field Laboratory Assistant at Cabang Panti Research Station) to present on our orangutan research and conservation work at the forum. Erik’s travel was generously supported by Forum Orangutan Indonesia (FORINA).

Ishma (center, wearing black and gold) and Erik (far right) stand alongside the other Indonesian attendees at the 8th Asian Primate Symposium in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The plenary talk on the first day was delivered by Dr. Christian Roos from the German Primate Center, on the topic of genomics of Asian primates. After that, participants were free to attend presentations from a variety of subjects, based on interest. Ishma was particularly interested in listening to a presentation on a method of using drones to survey primates, because for the last 3 months she has helped use a drone to search for orangutans at Cabang Panti. It was fascinating to see the same method used on primates other than orangutans, and also how to most effectively use this drone method. Meanwhile, Erik was also interested in attending talks on the topics of conservation and education. Speakers presented on a method to approach the community starting from an early age, encouraging them to observe simple phenomena from nature in order to foster curiosity in children and allow them to continue learning and understanding.

The symposium participants later had the opportunity to visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC), to gain insight into both in-situ and ex-situ conservation work, as well as the richness of Vietnam’s unique primate fauna. It was here that Erik and Ishma saw the world’s rarest monkey, the Cat Ba langur. There are only an estimated 70 individuals left in the world! After that, the participants were invited to visit the Van Long Nature Reserve, one of the langur’s natural habitats, but unfortunately this adventure was cut short due to heavy rain.

Erik presents on biodiversity survey results from Customary Forests surrounding Gunung Palung National Park.

On the final day of the conference, Erik and Ishma each gave their presentations. Erik’s talk was entitled “Assessment of Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) Habitat and Populations Within Hutan Desa in West Kalimantan, Indonesia”. This presentation focused on the estimation of orangutan populations in two Customary Forest landscapes (Sungai Paduan Peat Protection Forest and Sungai Purang Production Forest), assessment of forest composition and identification of orangutan food trees, recording of the presence of other biodiversity (mammals and birds), identification of potential disturbance to orangutans and other animals, and forest protection efforts. Ishma gave a presentation entitled “Soil-transmitted Helminths in Wild Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii)”, which discussed the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths and the relationship between the height of orangutans in the canopy and the number of these parasitic worms found in orangutan fecal samples. The presentations were dynamic, many participants attended and interesting questions were asked to trigger discussion.

Ishma presents her data on parasite prevalence at Cabang Panti and the correlation with orangutan height in the rainforest canopy.

Erik Sulidra and Ishma Fatiha were among a handful of Indonesian representatives at this international conference, and they were so delighted to be part of it! On the sidelines of the formal event, participants from various countries had informal discussions about the conservation challenges they face, as well as possibilities for collaborating on primate conservation in the future.

Ishma and Erik give a thumbs up while enjoying their trip to Vietnam!

Management of Cabang Panti Research Station is conducted by the Gunung Palung National Park Office (BTN-GP) in collaboration with GPOCP/YP. Scientific research is carried out in conjunction with the Universitas Nasional (UNAS) and Boston University.