A Devon zoologist has returned from a month in South East Asia. And the trip was as much about high-level meetings and diplomacy as it was about rare species.
Dr Vicky Melfi, who works for the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, based at Paignton Zoo, is an authority on the Critically Endangered Sulawesi crested black macaque. She leads the Trust’s project called Selamatkan Yaki – Save Sulawesi Macaques – on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.
Vicky said: “This trip was all about getting our new field project manager, Helen Sampson, settled in and introducing her to the people she’ll need to work with in the next year. An important step forward was securing Helen an office in a government building.
“We gave a presentation to 40 Indonesian government officials – some of it in the local Bahasa language! More recently, Helen has also met the director general of the South-East Asian Countries Alliance, who has agreed that more awareness is required to ensure people realise how rare and endangered this monkey really is.”
Helen added: “We arrived in Sulawesi following a week of meetings in Jakarta with key contacts who work across Indonesia and Malaysia. We have attended numerous meetings with local stakeholders and government bodies to introduce the Selamatkan Yaki project and its objectives. The reception was positive and we are building a strong network of influential individuals who are supporting our programme, which is a good start.”
Helen’s priority is to write a Conservation Action Plan over the next few months and then look to start implementing initiatives as soon as possible.
Vicky said: “There are so many issues for these monkeys – land use, habitat destruction, hunting for food, the livelihoods of the local people. We have to weigh up what needs doing, what we are capable of doing, and where we can make the biggest difference in the shortest time. Visitors to Paignton Zoo have given us their hard-earned cash to invest in conservation. We have a duty to spend it wisely.”
Vicky is set to run the 2011 London Virgin Marathon on Sunday, April 17 to raise money for ape conservation. To sponsor her go to http://www.justgiving.com/Vicky-Melfi.