I spent 6 weeks on Buton island, east of Sulawesi as a volunteer staff member for Operation Wallacea. In between collecting data for a REDD+ funding application, trying to inspire students by teaching them the ways of field science and having an overall awesome time with the other staff, I walked around trying to photograph some of the iconic species found on the island.
The journey to the island of Pulau Buton, east of mainland Sulawesi was quite a long one but provided some amazing sights.
PHOTOGRAPHING THE PULAU BUTON WILDLIFE – SULAWESI
— Nicolas Rakotopare (@rqko) July 23, 2016
A toad calling at night. This was a familiar sound at the central camp every night, this dude was one of the biggest and best looking individuals on the riverside.
Another stunning frog (Rhacophorus georgii) that was only found 2 or 3 times in our 6weeks surveying on the island. We were in the forest flagging tracks and re-opening transects when I saw this one. You can see the skin flaps along the limbs that help this species glide from tree to tree!
One of the amazing nocturnal animals that we got to see. The spectral tarsier has huge eyes giving him good night vision, despite lacking the reflective layer, or ‘tapetum’, typical of most other nocturnal primates and thus they have no traditional eye shine. I was able to find some just by following their calls at night, they were extremely vocal!
Cyriopagopus sp. Not much is known about this rather large tarantula in the wild and most information I could find came from pet owners in the united states… They won’t move far from their web-nest and we were sure to see them at night if we waited long enough, this one was eye level with me and gave me a great opportunity to take some photographs.
Knobbed Hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix). This endemic and absolutely stunning bird was high on my “to-see” list for this trip. Wildlife being wildlife I kept on missing them or only getting glimpses through the canopy until the very last day on the island when keen-eyed Lupi, our mammal scientist, spotted a pair on our way back from searching for Cuscus! They were eye level but very far so I had to use both extenders at some point to get the frames I wanted. We watched a pair forage for a while and everyone had massive grins on their face. Being able to observe such an amazing bird at good range for binoculars was spectacular.
I love spending weeks on end in research centres, jungle camps or simply on jungle adventures. You get to meet awesome fellow biologists and being able to exchange on our love for the natural world and travels is priceless. We do learn a lot from talking to each other around the table at night or while taking breaks from the deadly hills.
Kati (left) and Rachel during our weekly Indonesian lessons which proved extremely handy to record data and for us as there are a lot of similarities with Malaysian and we were headed to Borneo again after Sulawesi! Kati was an awesome teacher :) !
Being able to give talks to students about wildlife, photography and conservation were an excellent experience. Jungle amphitheatres like this one were the perfect context to talk about the rainforest species and my adventures documenting them!
Overall, discovering Indonesia through this first trip to Sulawesi was an amazing experience and after talking to many of the local scientists, and making countless new friends, I have added a dozen places in this part of the world I want to go to and photograph! The crazy humidity and wetness of the climate were very tough on the gear, clothes and mind but this is what science in tropical environments is about.