Adventure in Indonesia

Adventure in Indonesia

Oct 6, 2007

Notes from the Field

By Diane Sivas

When I tell people about my recent trip to Seram Island in Indonesia, many look at me like I’m crazy and say “Better you than me.” And while I agree that the trip is not for everyone, it is a trip that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Even before arriving in Bali, I had decided that my goal was to totally immerse myself in every aspect of the adventure. After all, the pre-trip literature had said that when traveling in Indonesia we needed to be flexible and ready for last minute changes. It was, they said, “part of the adventure.” And what an adventure it was.

From the start, we were treated very well. Tammy and I were the only official “guests’ on the trip so it truly was “all about us.” The IPP Team made us feel instantly comfortable and like members of the family. The porters and guides did everything from carrying our packs and duffle bags to washing the dirt off our feet after we had waded onto the beach from our longboat. They also became our friends.

The Villagers of Sawai and Masihulan treated us like royalty. They opened their homes and they opened their hearts. When we visited the school in Sawai, we were seated at the front of the classroom and enjoyed the kids as they sang to us and presented us with gifts. We gave them gifts in return and although none spoke English, each and every one of them smiled and said “thank you.”

The birds of Kembali Bebas warmed our hearts. Shortly after we arrived for our first visit, it began to rain. We sat at a table, under a shelter and out of the rain, and listened to their cries of joy as they frolicked. As we walked around and observed them, it was hard not to reach out to scratch a couple of heads along the way—but we understood the need to keep them as wild as possible to give them the very best chance for survival once they are released. For me, the highlight of the KB visit (and one of the high points of the trip) was watching one cockatoo being moved from a quarantine cage into a large socialization cage. Our patience paid off when the seemingly timid Cockatoo finally climbed out of his small transport cage and slowly made his way towards his new cage mates. He is now one step closer to freedom.

From sleeping on the platform to motoring up the river (where our faithful guides used a chainsaw to clear away trees that had fallen across the river and blocked our way) to the delicious food and the simple comfort of our guesthouse, this was a fantastic experience that continues to fills my dreams at night. The new friends made, the wonderful people we encountered wherever we went, the sense of adventure, and Indonesia’s natural beauty made this the trip of a lifetime. I think the key to success here is to understand up front that there will be discomforts at times (rain, mud, and cold showers to name a few) and unforeseen circumstances that will likely force a change of plans. But if you’re good at just letting go and accepting whatever may happen or come your way, you will enjoy this trip as much as I did. And, as they say, just remember that it is all part of the adventure.


Avian Release Program Set to Resume: Huge Obstacle has Been Overcome!

by Stewart Metz, M.D., Director, Indonesian Parrot Project and Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia

In any program wherein birds are released into the wild, it is critical to be certain that hidden diseases are not reintroduced with the birds. As I discussed in the last Notes from the Field (July, 2007), testing for some of these diseases, such as Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), requires the use of DNA testing. Such intricate tests for many of the key diseases of parrots do not currently exist in Indonesia. And the Indonesian government has steadfastly refused to grant permission for us to send new samples for testing out of the country. Consequently, our Release Program has lain fallow for nearly two years.

Enter the cavalry, in the persona of Drh. Wita (see Profile of Drh. Wita elsewhere in this NFTF). Wita recently introduced us to Prof. Dr. Ngurah Mahardika, Director of the Animal Molecular Biomedical and Genetics Research Center, and member of the Faculty of Udayana University in Bali. Dr. Mahardika already uses DNA testing to test for avian influenza and Newcastle Disease. Dr. Mahardika graciously agreed to collaborate with us and test for five critical diseases in his laboratory: PBFD; psittacid herpesvirus (cause of Pacheco’s Disease); polyoma; chlamydophila ( an intracellular bacterium and cause of chlamydiosis, previously called psittacosis);and the fungus aspergillus. Hopefully, these assays will be ready to run samples very soon.

However, setting up these tests requires critical reagents, knowledge, and experience. And the DNA reagents are not shared cavalierly, since they are the proprietary backbone of the laboratory which develops them. Enter Ernie Colaizzi, President of Research Associates Laboratory (RAL), Inc, Dallas Tx. ( to visit their site click on the link at the end of the newsletter). Through his knowledge and extraordinary generosity, Ernie has allowed us to overcome this last hurdle. Critical materials from Mr. Colaizzi were hand-carried with us to Indonesia and delivered to Dr. Mahardika. As soon as the assays are up and running, we can start testing birds again and, if they test negative and are otherwise appropriate candidates, resume our Release Program. We are deeply grateful to Ernie for this extraordinary contribution. (Parenthetically it was Mr. Colaizzi at RAL who measured our intial samples for 60 birds, permitting us to release 3 Seram cockatoos back into the wild last year.) For those of you who may need to test your birds for the diseases mentioned, among others, you might consider sending the samples to RAL.

The importance of this to our overall program does not stop there. Having such assays will allow us to add formal testing to our routine quarantine procedures and care at Kembali Bebas, and thereby to decrease the chance of undetected disease spreading through our Center. Additionally, this progress will in essence provide the first opportunity for veterinarians in Indonesia to test for these critical avian diseases anywhere in Indonesia– both those in private practice and those associated with other conservation programs. This will represent a quantum step forward .

Meet Drh. Wita

Drh. Wahyu Widyayandani (aka Doctor Wita) has been our Guardian Angel for several years, helping us (ie, the birds) in many ways. She is Medical Director and Chief Veterinarian for the entire network of Wild Animal Rescue Centers in Indonesia.

It was Wita (along with her colleague Dr. Resit Sozer, of the Cikananga Wild Animal Rescue Center) who made it possible to acquire for care, our first confiscated parrots in October of 2004. It was that fact that marked, in fact, the beginning of the Kembali Bebas Rehabilitation Center. As you know, three of those first cockatoos were released back into the wild (see Update elsewhere in this Notes from the Field). Wita has come to Seram from Bali on a number of occasions to examine and provide specialized care for the Kembali Bebas birds.

She also has been our staunch ally, helping us to navigate through the maze of Indonesian bureaucracy. Wita’s expertise is not limited to parrots–she also provides expert care for primates, reptiles, raptors, and rare mammals such as sun bears and golden cats, among others. Wita and we in IPP have always referred to the mission of improving the welfare of parrots in Indonesia as our mutual “dream.” It is Wita who often has been our Dream-maker.


Visit our NEW Cafépress Store!

For fine art, batik, fun and something for everyone visit our new Cafepress store.

With original designs by Joan Tilke, Lorraine Otto and John Terrell, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your holiday list.

Or just shop for yourself—you’re worth it.

Posters, clothing, home items, even boxer shorts! Visit today and help conserve and protect the native birds of Indonesia!


Birds from Bali Arrive at Kembali Bebas!

The Birds from Bali Wild Animal Rescue Center Finally Arrive at Kembali Bebas in Early October

As you know, there has been a large number of parrots and cockatoos housed in the Bali Wild Animal Rescue Center, for the past two years, awaiting transfer to Kembali Bebas. These birds have been under the care of Drh. Wita (see Profile, in this issue) and Drh. Made and colleagues.

The long delay was a result of numerous bureaucratic hurdles. In September, the last of these hurdles was overcome and in the first week of October, 63 psittacines were successfully transferred to Seram.

For those of us who worry about the transportation of a single companion bird of ours, it is interesting to note that this transfer involved moving 63 wild birds from almost one end of the huge archipelago to another.

First, placement into transport cages; two commercial air flights; a ferry ride; and several long and arduous ground trips—yet amazingly, under the care of Drh. Wita and friends, working together with Yayasan Wallacea, not a single bird was lost!

The new birds include:

39 Moluccan (Seram) cockatoos
1 Umbrella cockatoo
3 Lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos
1 Goffin’s cockatoo
13 Medium sulfur-crested cockatoos
6 Eclectus parrots

All birds received medical examinations and were de- wormed. The entire event was documented in video and photographs by our colleague Leonardo Sahbarua. This event would not have been possible without the generous contributions of many of you in response to our recent APPEAL.

We thank you deeply for your generosity!

Now, we must turn our attention to 27 additional birds whom we will shortly receive from the Wild Animal Rescue Center in Jakarta. Sadly, the needs of Indonesian birds seems endless….

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