Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gibbons this Time

We can finally add gibbons to the list of sighted animals.  While we have heard them hooting (a very distinctive hoot), we haven't been able to spot them till today.

While out on patrol (he calls it patrolling but really he is just hiking), Ben heard a pair not too far away - heading in that direction, he then heard another pair hooting from the other direction.  Soon he was in the midst of them and less than 10 metres away, they came pretty low to the ground and were just really mad at him for invading their territory.  He saw a mother, father and two youngsters up higher swinging.  He was able to watch them for about 20 minutes.  Then he decided to hoot back - that scared them off right away.  He then walked for about 200 metres and right in front of him a little above eye level in the trail was another female - not sure if she was part of the family or from another group.

Also today, he saw another group of languars and more hornbills who were flushed out of their fruit tree.  Not a bad wildlife day.  It will be interesting to see what protection can do for these animals.  If we can keep the place safe enough from hunters and poachers, the wildlife which is obviously there, should start to feel safer and be more willing to come out.  It is really quite a balancing act because we want them safe and to feel safe but maintaining their wariness of humans is also not a bad thing for their own good if we cannot keep the place safe.  It would be ideal if they realised that a certain area was safe and they worked out where the boundaries were.  We really need to get some development and training going on in the village to educate about the impact of hunting and also find other livelihoods for them that can directly come out of their non-hunting. We need some development activities which impact them directly which is also contingent on their non-hunting.

No cameras today either.  I have his little compact here in Phnom Penh trying to get cleaned up - it is foggy and we were guessing that there was mould build up inside but no repair shop wants to attempt to open it up since it is not broken.  I did manage to find a guy who has repaired camera traps before - I hope he can fix ours - both will not power on.  It will be fun to see what what we can catch in these traps.

This wasn't taken by us but this is a female gibbon contemplating something... see for credit

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Hornbill Tree

The other day Ben was out hiking and he came across a wild fig tree loaded with fruit and birds.  On closer inspection he was able to make out that the tree was loaded with figs and he thought about 30 or so Pied Hornbills feasting.  After watching for a while, something spooked them and they all took off.  He then estimated that there were about 100 or so of the Pieds.  He also was able to identify a pair of Great Hornbills.  A really exciting spotting - these are huge birds-according to wikipaedia about 1 metre long, 1.5 metre wingspan and weighing 2-4 kgs.  They have the best personalities, if ever you get to meet a tame one - friendly and comical.  I imagine they are awesome to see flying.  Naturally, Ben didn't have the camera.

The same day he came across more troops of languars and some giant black squirrels.  Wild pigs have also been scuffling around the building site and digging up the garden attempt.  In general he has noticed that the languars are coming closer and closer to the building site - which is good meaning they are feeling more secure.  Lets hope we can protect them. He just told me today that he wants to fence in about 500 ha - the core of the core area to keep out hunters and their dogs.

They also have been trailing more banteng (the wild cows) in the last few days, but not sighted them.  They were very very close yesterday and found some big tracks - telling me they were from a wild bull. Of course I asked him how he knew it was a bull.  He asked me back why I always question him!?  He thinks I don't trust his tracking skills!  Anyway, the answer was that the bulls are significantly larger than the females.  Valid answer I suppose.

Ben's been out there for the last ten days.  He's had helpers from the local village and has been making trails and patrolling.  He gets a range of personalities helping him.  He has worked out that the older, ex-Khmer Rouge soldier men are much tougher and know how to work hard.  This one guy who is on the Community Forest Committee has been helping a lot and has stayed out a lot longer than the others, saying he feels bad leaving Ben out there on his own.  Some other guys are less active - one spending a lot of time during the day "conserving energy." Others are a bit free spirited.  Actually, mostly they are all very free spirited.  They are happy for a couple of days work then need to go and do their other jobs.  The soya bean harvest is starting and it is proving more difficult to get helpers from the local village.  And then soon after that they will start harvesting the rice which means everyone will be busy with that.  We will eventually need to be hiring people on a permanent basis which will be an interesting task.

So this week, they have a finished trail to the temple on the mountain (both terms, temple and mountain are used freely here - temple being a pretty small construction and mountain being about 300 m elevation, maybe).  But a trail to this place is progress.

Here are some pictures of the temple and cave taken in 2012 when we bush-bashed our way through.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Loggers and Logos

It has been quiet on here lately.  Ben has had a frustrating time with the weather.  We went to Phnom Penh in September for a supposed few days however it was raining and raining, making return to the forest difficult to say the least.  In the last posting he had roofed the building, and then left it for about 10 days.  They hadn’t been able to build a lock-up-able shed yet and was having fun trying to remotely manage guarding responsibilities.  After that first stretch away, he did return and quickly (half a day!) was able to put together a little shed that now has a padlock on it to store tools etc.  Alleviating the need for a 24/7 guard.  Deep breath of relief. 
Patrolling the site has been fun and frustrating also.  He has been struggling with the ever present loggers.  This time, there has been demand from purchasers for rosewood – these middlemen have permission from unidentified powers to transport the wood and also to protect the logger and so there was quite a bit of activity going on for a while – and from the local villagers which is sad.  There seems to be a little more will from the authorities to curb this activity as of this week and they just caught a couple of ox-carts of wood and sent it to the Wat.
Last month, they had a little bonfire per compliments of the Forestry Administration who came to supervise.  These particular items belonged to loggers from Siem Reap or Kompong Thom.
One of the nights when Ben was sleeping out there, they heard a hard at work.  He and his workers quickly got up and went out in the direction of the sound.  They managed to creep up on the logger and caught his attention with a picture (below)
He managed to escape with his chainsaw leaving his backpack of other equipment which they confiscated.  After which, Ben and his team looked around them and found they were in the dark without a compass and without the GPS.  No sky to speak of due to pouring rain.  Ben had his thongs on.  One of his workers was carrying Ben’s boots intending to wear them himself (Ben didn’t want to get them muddy so he himself didn’t wear them).  They tromped back to their worksite – finally finding a road they knew and following it in the wrong direction for a bit before turning around the right way.  Ben has learned to take his GPS on night time raids.
Here was another find – a tree that they are so desperate to down that they are digging up the roots.  It is a Tnong (a type of rosewood) that is full of holes but they want it so bad they are digging the roots.  Ben told them not to cut it down and it is still there – for the present.
And finally here is a picture of the jumping caterpillar who I was referring to in a previous post.  It hatched or transformed I should say into a moth.  There has been all sorts of gossip going around about these guys.  I head a story in Rovieng that they are living in Umbrella trees and that if they fall on you, you die.  And so the Umbrella trees should not be played under, if not cut down.  Amazing the stories that go around. 
On the business front, we found someone to design a logo for us.  Here are the options that she came up with for the first draft.  We have chosen the name beTreed – meaning get treed – i.e. as in like a racoon stuck up a tree with dogs chasing it.  But a slightly more positive connotation – get up in the trees.  Stay in a treehouse.  Fly through the trees on ziplines etc.  That is the idea.  We like the first design.  Stay tuned in for the website although it may be a little while!  But I hope not too long.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Updated Bird List and Other Bits and Pieces

In April, Ben and our bird watcher friend Lisa went to Phnom Tnout to do a bird survey and to see if they could find a White Winged Duck.  They found a pair of White Winged Ducks and also documented 37 other species of birds, increasing our bird list by about four times.
It was a good day out.  I finally got around to writing up the list to post here so you can look over at The Birds page for an updated list.

Lately, Ben has either been rained in or rained out.  He finished up roofing the building and realised he was short of the tin roofing caps, he finished up a storage shed which is lockable.  Very important.  Then it started to rain and so he came home.  He came with us to Phnom Penh for a week sorting out various vehicle issues. And so we returned home for it only to start raining again.  It has cleared up now, just in time for Pchum Ben holiday where we get hundreds of visitors to our house - so maybe we'll go out to the forest for a break soon.

That is about it for now.  I do have some pictures to put up but alas my battery has run out as I sit here at the bank (where there is fast internet).

Signing off for now.