Day 2 started with greeting Agoeng’s welcoming and friendly parents. We had breakfast – cassava leaves in spicy yellow coconut sauce, fish, tempeh, and rice – and I took a bucket shower to wash the dust and diesel out of my hair from the previous day’s journey.
We packed day packs and headed out into the field – 2 cars and 7 crew members.
On the way to the field site, we stopped at the village school. I was asked to talk to the students, introducing myself to let them hear a native English speaker. The students gathered around in either blue activity uniforms or orange, many of the girls with jilbabs and some of the boys with gelled hair, and most of them with curious, nervous smiles. Laughter would break out while I was speaking and giving answers to questions posed by the students (especially to “Are you a Miss or a Mrs.?”). After hand shakes and photos, we continued to the field site.
The road got progressively narrower and muddier as we continued. The trucks started sliding sideways and spinning up mud in some of the deeper areas. I saw how the drivers’ skills with fixing the trucks and maneuvering through the mud earns them a specialized and important place on the team. Eventually, when one truck got mired and the other truck had to haul it out (there is a reason two trucks are brought to the field), we continued on foot. We surprised a wild pig and her offspring, who ran off with a grunt and a squeal.
The rubber boots offered protection from the mud as well as the leeches, but the heat and humidity in the open areas we crossed to get to the forest were oppressive. I drank water constantly but felt my dehydrated pulse in my head within an hour. Sweat dripped off my chin. I could feel my body heat trapped under my long sleeve t-shirt. The first day is always the hardest, the team said. I hoped I wouldn’t have to be carried back out.
The trail guides, Agoeng – a former logger – and Fendy, worked ahead of us with machetes. We stopped to rest several times before we reached the area with the previously installed camera trap. This was my first real view of “tropical deforestation”:
It reminded me again the importance of this work. The buzzing in the background was not from insects.
The tiger team’s tech guys took the cameras down. Logging encroachment had placed these cameras very close to the forest edge, and the team wanted to move them to a more critical place at the end of the corridor. We brought the cameras and ourselves back down to the trucks and made our way back to the house, where a quick bucket shower cooled me off and I began to recover from the heat.
When the electricity came on at 6 pm, the team flipped through the cameras’ videos, and there was disappointment that there were no tigers. One of the team discussed whether the heat sensors that trigger the cameras were reacting too slowly. I was dumbfounded to discover that the technology to detect body heat was sensitive enough to pick up changes in ambient temperature caused by the presence of a mammal – especially given the already high ambient tropical heat. There were some images of posing bush hunters, however, and a couple local farmers, cigarettes and machetes in hand. There was also a golden cat, a bird, and the back half of a porcupine.