Kinabatangan River, Borneo - July 2009

Current Location


S. Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo


31 December 2010

Selamat jalan 2010

I was thinking the other day about 2010 and how the year turned out for me. And I think by far, it has been one of my most interesting years, and definitely my most nomadic.

In terms of adventures and new experiences, this was the year for me (although I hope not the last for adventures and new experiences). Three months was the longest I was in one place at one time. I was on 3 different continents, 7 countries, 22 airplanes (at least, but i feel like I'm missing some...).

I was going to write about the past year and what it brought, so I started going through pictures, and then got distracted by one thing, so I’m going to sidetrack briefly to write briefly about ravens. They are huge! I had no idea, but I guess I technically saw my first real life raven this spring in Banff and was enthralled yet terrified of this massive creature which looks like it could feed on small dogs and babies. 

Speaking of babies, another wonderful thing in 2010 was I got to be there (well, basically there) for my lovely Adrienne to have her first baby, Lincoln! And I got to meet Lisa’s little Evan, who was born just after I left for England in 2008! I’m so proud to be able to call these wonderful mommy’s my girls, my friends.

I got to catch up with almost all my girls  all over the world in 2010…some of which I hadn’t seen in years, but felt just like a day had passed when we met up, just with a lot more stories. It was especially great to see all my = Primatology ladies in Calgary, where it all began. Who knows if I’ll ever be back in Calgary, (but K’s wedding?!!), but I know that no matter where this world takes us, and how long it is between seeing each other, it doesn’t really matter. It’ll be like no time passed, just with more stories to tell!  

I’ve also made some really great new friends in 2010, and I hope they know that they won’t be able to get rid of me easily!  Other friendships really solidified their place in my heart this year and for all of these friends, I am truly grateful. 

I’m looking forward to the new year, with more trips to new and excited countries! (the Philippines being the one starting it all off in a couple of weeks), and heading off the relatively unexplored areas of Indonesian Borneo, with the BRINCC expedition! And other than that, I have NO idea what 2011 has in store for me, but if 2010 is anything to go by, it’s sure to be an eventful one.

For ALL of you (and it’s a long list) who nurtured my nomadic ways this year, thank you for letting me sleep on your floor, couch, extra bed, wherever!!And I hope to be able to repay the favour at some point!

This time last year, I would have never thought that this is where I would be bringing in 2011 or who I would be spending it with, and who I would no longer be with. Selamat Datang 2011 - I can't wait.

2010: In memory of Jeff: my coffee, wine, stand-up, and music inspiration. 

17 November 2010

More from BRINCC!!

Just wanted to let you all know that there is another way you can support the BRINCC expedition, and just in time for the holidays!!! So far we've got 2011 Calendars (made by yours truely); T-shirts - which are organic, fair trade AND carbon neutral - how cool is that!; and wonderful cotton carrier bags so you don't have to use those plastic bags any more and you can proudly show off your support for BRINCC everywhere you go!
Just check out the website for pictures, sizes, details and to purchase to your hearts content!

Also, I'm just over half way to my goal for my personal fundraising...thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far, and thank you in advance for those of you who just haven't gotten to it yet but will soon!!
Every penny counts so please visit where you can make a tax-exempt or gift aid donation through the University of Oxford. Just click on the *BRINCC* option in the list provided, and the rest remains the same! Remember to also send an email to saying it is towards "Danicas personal fundrasing goal" <3
2011 Calendar - £7
Featuring 12 stunning photographs of wildlife.  Each page is kindly sponsored by a conservation organisation working to help conserve these precious species.

BRINCC Expedition T-Shirts -£17
Ladies' T-shirt - Organic, FairTrade and Carbon Neutral!
Priced £17, all proceeds going to Indonesian staff wages for the expedition.
Small, Medium and Large sizes available - green or grey
Please also check out the Men's t-shirts with the same design, available in green and dark red!
BRINCC Cotton Bag -£3 

01 November 2010

a short update and what - a new blog?! oh ya!


After spending 4 weeks back in England, I packed it all up and went on a long flight - however I didn't quite make it back to Canada, went the opposite direction in fact! After spending 2 cold-foot days in London finally catching up with one of my cousins and seeing my lovely friend Vicki from La bundo bundo, I got on a plane heading back to Southeast Asia, and I am now currently sitting back in the forests of the Kinabatangan River watching macaques wandering outside the window.

So far I have been able to spend my mornings and evenings out on the river with the proboscis monkeys which has been a real treat! They are just so silly! We have been watching the same troop for a couple of days, but yesterday was great - there was this thin tree next to the big sleeping tree that these monkeys just love - there might not be much to it, but it apparently is a wonderful bed for at least 3 monkeys at a time. Anyways, after waking up and scratching and stretching for a bit, this one individual decided it was time for a little exercise and starting using her body to sway the tree back and forth multiple times before going for the big leap into the neighboring tree. Then she would climb back up to the small tree and leap again into the big one - this happened 7 times! hehe! gave us time to take some videos and attempt a picture, but leaping monkeys are hard to capture! I should have more chances as a bunch of monkeys were climbing it this morning and leaping off, but my camera was dead :( Here is my attempt thus far (its a bit blurry, sorry!)
I also wanted to let you all know (those of you who care i guess!) that my sister and I are joining up and doing a photo blog - I was inspired by her "take a picture a day for a year" mission she was on, and wanted to join in! We will be alternating days posting pics and following a theme for the week, kind of a comparison between city and jungle life! I'm very excited!  Plus it will be another way that I can keep in touch and update whoever wants an update, since I really do need all the help i can get to keep in touch! The site is called CitytoJungle and you can find it here: !

But I am still going to keep this blog as updated as possible!! Happy times!

Love D

21 October 2010

Sorry there hasn’t been an update post Indonesia as of yet! Japan (and now England) has kept me so busy  but I figure I should get this out there before a month has gone by!  Please excuse the length – although Japan was only 10 days, it was jammed packed and such an interesting place that I probably could just keep writing and writing. But I’m trying to keep it to the point…

We arrived 8 hours late in Kyoto – for some reason our plane decided not to come to pick us up from Kuala Lumpur, and I didn’t look at the schedule until just before the flight was meant to board, so I could’ve known this about 3 hours earlier, but nonetheless, Malaysian Airlines provided transportation and a room at a hotel for everyone on the flight. But if I would’ve checked the silly schedule I would’ve gotten more than 2 hours sleep. Boo! 

So we missed the welcoming banquet on the first night due to this delay, but just got right into it the following morning bright and early! I’ll just do a brief re-cap of the conference, since otherwise it would be way to much (and boring to read/write!). The days basically consisted of being so jammed packed that you barely got a chance to chat with the people you were running into and meeting. Talks were about 15-20 minutes long, and symposiums lasted for about 2 hours straight, then a 15 minute break, then another 2 hour symposium! On 2 of the mornings, in place of talks, there was poster presentations. Half the people were to stand by theirs on one day, and half on the second day. There were such a huge variety of topics being presented and personally knowing quite a number of people who were presenting meant that the days were so busy that it unfortunately didn’t leave much chance for me to see the city. But it was great to hear about everything going on all over the world in primatology and learn more about certain species and topics that I wasn’t too familiar in! Also, gave me ideas for future endeavours and how to improve in what I have already been doing. And it was also great to catch up with old friends, meet people I’ve only ever been in email contact with and to make new friends and future colleagues.

For the first week, we stayed in a hostel which was traditional Japanese in style and set up. It consisted on tatami mats (which I think are the most wonderful things ever), and futon mattresses which fold open – so during the day, the mattresses are folded up along the wall, and at night there were 5 mattresses folded alongside each other on the floor. It was a nice place, with sake to serve in the evenings! They also had a kimono to try on, but unfortunately we forgot about it until it was too late :( During this week, we normally just went out for dinner following the conference, which I don’t know how we would have done without Richard. Finding a restaurant alone would be difficult enough, let alone choosing something to eat – ESPECIALLY for a vegetarian. I’m pretty sure I would’ve just eaten the same thing every day, at the same place, and would’ve missed out on so much of the experience. But the food was amazing...even the raw egg stirred into rice.
We had a couple of days after the conference that we could go visit a few sites for free or reduced rates with our conference passes – I decided to go to the Kyoto Zoo (which ended up being by myself, nooone else wanted to go), and I’m glad I did. I’ve never been to an Asian Zoo (which I know is a huge generalisation already) but wanted to see for myself what a zoo outside of North America or even the UK was like. Kyoto Univerisity has a major role in primatology, and I could definitely tell by looking at their zoo that there is more of a focus on the primate enclosures than any other ones. But even those were lacking. A few primate cages had interesting enrichment, but they were still all cement ground and wire box cage around. Except the African Great Apes (Chimps and Gorillas) which had relatively “large” natural outdoor enclosures. But then again, the Japanese primatologists study a lot on chimps and gorillas. However, once you moved away from the Primate enclosures (excluding the orang-utan), there were some pretty sad cages – the small cats and wild dogs, and elephants and bears and giraffes. Actually, I should clarify, I am saying elephants and bears and giraffes, but there was just one of each. So not only were they in extremely poor cages with hardly any enrichment or room to move, they were alone as well. I could go on and on about it, but I do want to say one good thing about this zoo – their education bit. It was VERY Japanese, and I loved it (even though I couldn’t read it). They had outside most cages/enclosures, signs teaching about the animals but they were all done in the typical Japanese animation style, which I think made it much easier and entertaining for the children to learn. I especially liked the ring-tailed lemur one which was showing cartoons of the tail stink wars by the  males! 
We also went to Arishiyama, a monkey park outside the centre of Kyoto. It was wonderful up there – it was on the top huge hill (small mountain? I have no idea) which overlooked the entire city. On this mountain, they have over 100 Japanese macaques which are free roaming. They feed them at the very top in a cleared area with an amazing view. And I have to admit that I love this type of macaque. Their faces are just soaked in character. The lines and wrinkles and different pigmentation on each of their faces seems to tell a story of a life time of experience. We spent a couple hours at this site and then wandered around the town for a bit and found a beautiful bamboo forest. I love bamboo too! It is such an amazing plant – the strength of them don’t seem to match their size and beauty. I need to learn more about them though (besides their super strength ability for being wonderful building materials), because there didn’t seem to be any undergrowth in the bamboo forest and I wonder if it has been naturally cleared for appearances, or if bamboo has a similar effect pine needles and many other trees have which kill everything around them to eliminate competition. Hmm.
The following day we did a quick visit to a buddist temple, which is the (or one of the) largest wooden structure in the world, then headed over to the Imperial Palace for a tour. However, being a national holiday (Day of the Aged I believe), it was closed and we couldn’t see anything L The palace yard is lovely though, so we wandered around there for a bit.

Next it was off to Osaka, as we were both flying out the next day. We met up with one of my old flat mates, Kengo and he showed us a bit around. It was very nice to catch up with him and see him in his home turf! Richard left early the following morning, but I had the whole day still, so I managed to get lost numerous times, in the true Danica fashion where I have no idea what I am looking at and probably think it is something that it really isn’t, but got to see a lot of the city. There is definitely a huge difference between Osaka and Kyoto – Kyoto being the traditional capital, and Osaka is a booming metropolitan. But I managed to stumble across some gems in the city which made it wonderful!  I headed over to a huge temple that the tourist information lady told me I probably wouldn’t want to go to if I had already been to Kyoto but since I really didn’t get a chance to see much in Kyoto because of the busy-ness of the conference, I decided to head there anyways and it was fabulous. It seemed to be quite a mish-mash of Buddhism and Shinto-ism (?) that I was having trouble telling them apart. I first stumbled into a cemetery which led me to a wonderful little market area full of stalls and hardly any tourists. I thought I had taken the wrong turn but just decided to go with it since I usually find pretty wonderful areas that way. There was one area in a particular (which I believe was Shinto) which had a bunch of statues that people were dropping coins in front of and saying little prayers. These areas were outdoors, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the market, but they were so calm and serene that you almost forgot where you were, like there were invisible sound-proof walls around them. What a difference between here and Indonesia/Malaysia, where the religion is loud, and at all hours of the day (and night). But in Japan it is so serene and no matter where you are in the city, there are areas you can go to and just be.
I’m so happy I made the (pricey) decision to go to Japan. Not sure if I’ll get another chance, but it is one of the weirdest and most unique places I have been too…and I don’t think I’ll find another place like it.

21 September 2010

Donating now made easier!!!!

It is now even easier to make a difference to BRINCC and help fund our expedition. Donations of any size will help buy equipment, fund an Indonesian student to join us, pay for local staff wages or pay for our food for a day!

Every penny counts so please visit where you can make a tax-exempt or gift aid donation through the University of Oxford. Just click on the *BRINCC* option in the list provided, and the rest remains the same! Remember to also send an email to saying it is towards "Danicas personal fundrasing goal"

Thank you again for all your support!!

11 September 2010

There is something unnerving about fireworks going off right next to the runway during take-off

Slow loris foot which I tried describing last posting. Notice the cute little finger nails and then the mean claw! (Photo: Rich)
Not too much to report for my final week in Java. I wasn’t feeling all that great, so didn’t get to do nearly as much as I had been planning to do. I did get the opportunity to help out with some enrichment for the macaques at the center though, which was interesting, since we basically only had one material to be creative with, bamboo.

A couple days after I arrived at the centre, there was a large number of primates that were brought in – 16 lorises and 15 long tail macaques. The macaques went into quarantine, where they will stay until all the tests come back (for diseases and such). So in the mean time, they are grouped 1-3 individuals to an enclosure. So we made up some bamboo tubes with holes and put their food in there so they had to work a bit more to get the fruit out. It wasn’t much, but it was better and more than what they had before.

2 of the permanent resident pig tails (Photo: Rich)
There are also 4 pig tail macaques that are permanent residents – due to certain physical conditions, these macaques will never be able to be released, so we attempted another enrichment device for them, to keep them more occupied, which required them to pull a piece of rubber tubing through a hole which would allow food to drop out. This ended up getting a bit too complicated with the lack of materials and needed to be refined, which it hadn’t yet by the time I left – hopefully it will though because I think it would be a good one!

Had to go into Bogor, the nearest big city, to print off my poster for the conference in Kyoto, which ended up being a bit of a wild goose chase. Due to Ramadan and Idul Fitri just a day away (those being the answer to basically every question of “why?” this month – why are there fireworks at 3am? Why is their music coming from the mosque allllll night long? Why is there nothing open during the day and why does everywhere close so early at night? Why is there NO FOOD!). Anyways, why was the print shop closed until mid-october? That’s right. There were 2 people sitting outside of it who told us all about it being closed and then directed us to a different one. But as we pulled away, we noticed a sign for another print shop – so we popped in there, but they have to send their printing to Jakarta, so that wouldn’t work. But he gave us the name of another, and called to make sure they were open. So we decided to go to that one instead. Took us awhile to find it (Bogor is a crazy city), and by the time we found it, the rain started. And turns out this print shop didn’t even print posters! Agh! We tried waiting a bit for the rain to die down, and when it wasn’t, we just decided to go to the print shop that this last shop told us about. Again, took us awhile to find, and when we got to the area it was supposed to be, nothing was open. So after about 3 hours of going from print shop to print shop, we ended up at the one that the people at the first shop told us about and it was open and they could do it in about 30 minutes! Oh boy. So we treated ourselves to some yummy pizza – we deserved it! But the rain didn’t stop, and was just getting heavier. Since we were going by motor bike we decided to station ourselves in a coffee shop with internet until it slowed or stopped. But by 2130h, the shop had closed so we decided to make a break for it. Needless to say, we were soaking wet and I have been sneezing ever since, even as I type this.

Ran into friends at the airport in Jakarta which made the hours waiting for my flight much more enjoyable. It’s always nice to see a familiar face or three! Unfortunately, Marie and Susan couldn’t get on the same flight as me, but we are on the same flight to Osaka together (from Kuala Lumpur) and then roomies for the next week so I’m looking forward to that!

Just a quick note about the flight – regarding the title of this posting – I know it is celebration time in Indonesia, but it really is unnerving when there are fireworks going off right next to us as we were taking off! However, by the time we were over the height of the fireworks, it was very pretty – all over the city there were fireworks – quite a sight!

Beng-Beng time with Malaysia Airlines!! Mmmm!

Next stop – Japan. I am so excited – I never ever thought I would be going to Japan, so it was kind of surreal when Rich left yesterday (we have different flights going there), that I could say “see you in Kyoto!” I am especially looking forward to seeing all my monkey people I haven’t seen in ages from my undergrad at the UofC and also to see Chrissy Campbell, my howler monkey supervisor from Panama! Plus all the proboscis monkey people there it will be fabulous! I just have to think about what I want to talk to them about so this quite expensive 10 day trip ends up being worth it! I have no idea what to expect, which seems to be the theme of my summer, and I like it!
Sampai jumpa nanti Indonesia! See you next year! 

Me and Jojo - the little orphaned slow loris. Cute little guy, but remember, not a pet! As soon as he can eat solid food on his own, he'll be out of our hair (literally)

03 September 2010

Loris? Lorisi? Lorises!

Guess it is about time for an update from Java! I have been here for a week already and it has been flying by. I can’t believe it is only one more week left until I head north to the land of cherry blossoms!
I am currently about 40 minutes away from the “City of Rain” – Bogor, in a small village (or near…not quite sure) called Ciapus. So needless to say, hujan lagi, more rain.

Flying back to Jakarta went seamlessly, and Richard was there at the airport to greet me and it was so wonderful that he had come in a car so we didn’t have to take public transportation back. Especially because the just over 2 hour journey ended up taking us about 4 because of heavy traffic. So we didn’t get to his site until after dark.

I was going to go up the mountain (Gunung Selak) with Richard the following night, as they have slow lorises that they are in the process of releasing. But true to the name of the area, it rained. And rained and rained. However, I am finding the rain here much more enjoyable than in La bundo bundo. Maybe that is because I don’t actually have to go out in the rain if I don’t want, but I think it is also because of the amazing lightning and thunderstorms that come along with the rain. That first night the thunder was so loud that all the dogs at the guest house except one (so 6!) ran into rich’s room and were hiding under the bed and desk and us.
The following night we made it out, after just a short storm. Basically the way it is set up is that there is a cage that has been put up in the forest on the mountain that just surrounds a bunch of trees and vegetation. They put the lorises that they think are suitable to be released in this enclosure (called the habituation cage), as kind of a half way house between their captive life and being back in the wild. They leave them there for however long until the lorises look as though they are ready to be released (not stressed, foraging and moving around naturally). This time, luckily for me, the cage was set up only about 30 minutes up the mountain, instead of the 4-5 hour walk it has been in the past! We got up to the camp around 9pm, had a cup of ABC Mocca (yum!) and then headed for the cage, which was another 10-15 minutes up. We stayed up there from 11pm to about 530am (although I have to admit I brought my sleeping bag and slept the last 2 hours next to the cage!). It was a full moon that night so it was so bright in the forest (well, relatively), but it was cold!

After leaving the mountain in the morning, I went almost straight out to Jakarta, to help give a presentation at an International School. We had been invited by a Grade 1 class who have had International Animal Rescue (IAR) come give talks in the past. They joined classes, so there were 40 grade 1 students which were full of comments! I did a talk on what Animal Welfare is and Animal Trade. They actually seemed quite interested in it, but I think it was mostly the cute pictures of cats and dogs and lorises that got them. Indri, who was the girl I was helping, who is the education officer at IAR, then showed a few videos of slow lorises and also on taking care of your pets at home (dogs and cats). The kids had so many questions and many more comments, and turns out that a couple of them had monkeys as pets before (one got rid of it because it peed on his head), or fathers had bought live croc’s (which I don’t really get). So basically we were just trying to get in their heads why they shouldn’t buy wild animals as pets and what to do if they saw one at the market.

I also helped out one afternoon when the vet and keepers were giving medication to all the lorises at the center (there are about 100 now – 16 new ones just arrived this last week). Rich is needing pictures of all the lorises to look at their facial patterns (and I don’t know what else), so I was his scribe for the photos he was taking. Not a very big help I was, but it gave me a chance to get really close looks of this funny little critters. Lorises are such strange animals, much different than I was expecting. They have tiny little finger nails on all fingers except one, on their feet, where there is a large claw. When they are a little scared, they clasp their hands together and put them over their face, which I thought looked like hiding from fear, but it might actually be (I’ve been told) that they are getting their poison ready – lorises are poisonous! I love it! They have little glands around their inner upper arms that they lick and when it mixes with their saliva it become a toxin. They hiss and strike like snakes, and they have this black stripe on their back that makes them look like snakes when they are moving. I also had a loris grab onto my finger with his foot – and then his other, and ended up hanging onto my arm with his feet while the loris keeper was trying to get it back into where it was supposed to be going – and what a grip it has!!!! Their hands seem to be structured differently that makes them serious grabbers.

Since then I have mostly been helping Richard with his data – since he is out on the mountain (especially now that they release one of the lorises that was up in the cage when I went out) from about 6pm until 5am, he needs to sleep during the day. He is giving a talk at the big conference in Kyoto in 2 weeks, so I am helping as much as I can with making sure he has all his stuff ready for that. I have also been working on my poster presentation for Kyoto and next step is finally get the article I have been trying to write for the last 6 months out and off my plate! And I’m going to get out and help with the enrichment for the macaques and hopefully lorises for the last week!