Day 7–Asian Turtle Program

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This morning was a similar routine of feed in the morning, I feed 2nd shift while John helps repair cages.

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It’s really humid today and we’re just dripping.

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There’s a new volunteer/researcher arrived and he’s staying for 6 months.

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After lunch we head down the road to the Asian Turtle Program to have a look around.

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They have some invasive species for education along with the turtles they are breeding to release. These guys seem tiny after the giant tortoise we saw in Galapagos.

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They had some really cool tshirts but unfortunately they were all too tiny for me so I settled on some turtle tape measures instead.

Day 6–Save Vietnam’s Wildlife

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Today was a busy work day. Overnight, on of the Gibbons had given birth so there’s a new baby at the centrey. It was hot and humid. What’s hotter than that? Being on burn duty! I got to stand in the hot sun and make a giant fire. By the time we were done I was absolutely drenched in sweat.

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This afternoon we got to visit the neighboring centre – Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. They have some carnivaores and pangolins.

At 5 we got a tour and then helped with the food preparation for the animals. Then we sat with the keeper who pulled up some chairs in front of the fans for us, made us a cuppa and fed us a few rice crackers before we feed the carnivores.

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We fed the Civets which were very timid. They are about house cat size with similar markings on their face but then spotty on the body with much larger eyes as they are nocturnal.

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Next was the binturongs, These guys look like a small bear with a tail. A bit like a big red panda. We hide the food around the enclosure for it to sniff out during the night.

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Back at 8 to feed the Pangolins. They are quite cute with their scaly little body.

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Day 5–Van Long

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Usual morning of feeding and clearing today. Had a slight miscommunication for the next session so we wandered around to grab some more pics.

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The babies are always so full of energy and inquisitive.

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While the adults are happy to watch the tourists walk on by.

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There’s heaps of stick insects in the centre and the gibbons like to reach out through their cage and grab them.

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We’ve been trying to work out what these big green fruit are – a kind of grapefruit.

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We wandered over to the hill to try and grab some pics of the gibbon in the semi-wild area.

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Fortunately the hung around long enough for us to grab a few shots.

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They are just a giant ball of fluffy muscle.

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In the afternoon Elke took all the volunteers for a trip to Van Long.

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We took pics of the rice paddies while we waited for it to cool down a little.

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Then Elke sorted out 3 boats to row us to the cliffs in search of the Langurs.

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The normal touristy route is to turn right – it has nice scenery but less chance of seeing wildlife…or left – less pretty but more chance of Langurs.

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We left it up to Elke to choose left…there was a bit of commotion when the first boat turned left.

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Her choice paid off – we spotted a family on the rocks with babies in tow.

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It’s cool watching them easily traverse what appear to us as sheer, impassible cliff faces.

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We sat and watched as they moved higher and higher. There’s 7 of them in this photo – not so easy to spot!

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It was getting dark so we headed back and our boat rowers were very happy when we tipped them.

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Back just in time for dinner and to hang with the local cat wanting to share our food.

Day 4–Night tour

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This morning I did the perimeter check. This was super tricky in the wet as it was a bit flooded and very slippery. On one hand I regretted wearing my gumboots as they are heavy and don’t bend and on the other hand with the amount of water my hiking shoes would have been filled with water.

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After breakfast I worked on enclosure repair. We must have replaced half the enclosure. New beams and fixed up all the swings.

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The itch to ride was too much for John so he tried out one of the hire bikes…loving the crazy coloured spoke upgrade.

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He went for a ride through the local area with Elke and a vet from the other rescue centre while I worked on Loris enrichment.

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The local kids joined in and followed.

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Checked out he local water buffalo.

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Then back into town to get some snacks.

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At night we met up with Elke to check out the Loris at night. First we found a sleeping lizard.

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Being nocturnal, these guys were much more active at nighttime.

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And they love insects! This one looks super happy at the insect we’ve presented to it through the wire.

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We also spotted a few grasshoppers.

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And a sleeping bird.

Day 3– Enrichment activities

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Today we ensured we arrived well before 6:30am. We spent the first session watching the Langur introduction between a male and female. They’d spent some time next to each other in the enclosure before the main door was opened. They spent a lot of time at opposite corners with their backs facing each other pretending they didn’t exist. There were a few tense moments where they chased each other around the pen but generally seemed to go well.

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After breakfast John was on enclosure repair while I prepared some enrichment items for the Loris. They eat a lot of tree sap so we make up a paste and mix it with other sap and place into the timber with holes for them to eat.

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After lunch we brought in the zoo toys we’d bought from Aussie Dog. we met Joe on our Thailand trip 11 years ago when he was making shoes for elephants. We love bringing along his creations for the animals to use.

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The keepers had fun working out how we’re going to use some of the items and paired them with some home made enrichment.

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The langurs watched the excitement trying to work out what we were all up to.

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Then we were off with our wheelbarrow of fun.  Delivering toys to the varying groups of gibbons to try.

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They were excited to see a new toy. These tube feedballs are a bit more complicated. The food is placed in the red ball and they have to get it into a hole in the blue tube before it drops through the bottom.

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They were quite taken by the bungee. Inside the yellow ball is a marble that make the all rattle. It’s attached to a bungee that stretches when they pull and swing on it.

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They sniffed, licked, tugged and kicked at them.

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The went back to the homemade version that they knew well.

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But kept going back determined to work out these new toys.

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The even tried turning the feed tube upside down to investigate further.

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After all that fun it was back to bundling leaf for tomorrow.

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Day 2–Introduction to EPRC

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Up early to start our first day at EPRC (Endangered Primate Rescue Centre). We’re told to be there at 6:30am for the morning shift (if we were up to working). We arrived and started changing shoes and the keepers were already zooming off. 6:32 and we were the only ones left. Mental note for tomorrow – arrive at 6:20.

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They found us different keepers to follow for the morning. I looked after the gibbon feed which involved moving them to holding pens, then switching their bowls of food over and removing the leaf from the day before. Bowls are all carabineer’ed to the enclosure. The reason becomes obvious quickly when you see how much they bash on things.

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John was on pre-release duty – walking the fenceline and collecting all the stick insects who’d died on the electric fence during the night.

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Then off to breakfast for an hour. Our little restaurant had the choice of sandwich or soup.

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The pre-lunch shift I helped out preparing a few cages for Loris that are arriving soon in the quarantine area and John helped fix another area. Just before lunch we were on leaf bundling duty. I’m still not sure the right way to do this task as we were quality checked with conflicting instructions. I’m sure we’ll be much better at this by the end of the week.

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With so much food we basically skipped lunch and had a snooze for an hour or so. Our accommodation is this cool yellow house. We’re in one of the rooms on the ground floor

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The afternoon was a bit of a rush as the keepers were keen to knock off early are there was a big football final on. Lots more leaf bundling which was getting placed into buckets of water to make the next day’s job easier.

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We got to help out ie watch as they medicated the Loris that are getting ready for release and then the place was fairly empty. This worked out great for us as we got to spend some time with Elke, the head keeper, who could tell us all about the animals and meant we could get closer to some of the cages to shoot through the wire.

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In the evening we were treated to dinner at Elke’s house with Adam the director with a massive spread of food that was way too much to eat.

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Day 1–Off to Vietnam

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We had what seemed like an extra busy last couple of weeks so I think we felt extra relieved to get this break. We’ve not seen much of each other with me working late many nights and weekends full of activities in different locations. Before I’d even left the guys at work put a counter till I’m back. 

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As the flight drew closer we were faced with the inevitability of a very full flight, no status, no premium class, no exit row. “It’s only 9.5 hours” John says at lunch on Friday. When I think about it, it must be 10 years since we’ve had to do a flight with cattle class legroom for that long a leg.

With a smooth and efficient packing effort we’re off to the airport in time for the flight checkin to open. It’s already a really long queue. I eventually realise we get to skip ahead as I’ve done the online checking already. With dagger looks from people in the queue we shuffle over a line. While the lady at the checkin explains it’s really full and we’ve got someone in between I ask how much to upgrade. My heart sinks when it’s more than what I’d told myself was my limit. After a looking at each other and waivering a bit … it’s done… let’s just pay the money.  The advantages of course are skipping through the massive security line, lounge access etc.

As we are waiting to board I look across at the queue of families with infants and there must be over 20 babies. We get our seats in our cabin with 18 others and I think already it’s worth it. I barely make it through dinner … all I want is sleep and the curl up on the lay flat bed till we hit Bangkok.

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When we wake up in the morning I look across to John who has actually gotten sleep and he says “totally worth it”. We find our next gate and watch the sun rise over the plane. This next leg is less than 2 hours but it feels a lot longer. Getting into Hanoi, baggage, immigration etc are a breeze. Walk outside and bam! humidity hits you. I’m now wishing I’d packed my shorts in my carryon and changed into them.

We find our driver, who speaks no English, and fade in and out of sleep on the 3.5hour drive to EPRC.  We’re met by our co-ordinator who quickly shows us around before heading off for a few days. Back to our room to change into less sweltering clothes, a quick tour of the animals then a bit of a snooze before dinner.

We wander into town to or designated restaurant, and pick at the food then back to our room. Glad I took a torch or we could have stepped on this guy on our way back into our room.  Tomorrow we start bright and early at 6:30am.

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