My name is Hélène and I am “the French” member of the OuTrop primate research team for almost two years now! Everything started when my plane took off from Paris for the first time. And here I am: my home is a camp in the Sabangau Forest, surrounded by the jungle, wild macaques, red langurs, gibbons and orangutans, otters, pigs, sun bears, cats and more! My life here is an incredible peat-swamp forest adventure and an open jungle book, where each day is different and exciting!
I have always been fascinated by wild animals, behaviour and conservation. I studied for a Masters degree in animal behaviour and ecophysiology at the University of Strasbourg (France), focusing mainly on primates and other social animals as well as how to conserve them. During the last four years I tried to gain experience in wildlife conservation in the field. I have worked with birds, micro-mammals, sea turtles and even snails!
I started to work with OuTrop and primates because I didn’t want to disappoint someone: my younger self and my dreams of an adventurous life! So now, I have been granted my dream and I have definitely found my vocation: fieldwork, primates and behavioural research.
The peat-swamp forest is the place where I spend the majority of my time because it is my working place. I am not doing an “ordinary” or “boring” job. No, I am living in the wild and working principally with gibbons and red langurs. My work consists of searching for primates and following them until they choose a comfortable tree for the night. I work 10-14 hours each day, walking between lianas and trees, jumping over canals (most of the time falling into them!), avoiding spiders and other insects, and squashing mosquitos while following amazing and interesting endangered species! I collect a variety of data on their behaviour as well as what they eat and how they use their forest home. The second part of my work is to coordinate the data entry and train local and international team members.
I can never be bored in this forest because every day is different. I still laugh when the gibbons sing, am ecstatic at any wild primate sighting, and I am continuously amazed by the beauty and richness of this forest. On top of that, I am still learning something new almost every day. One of my proudest achievements is that I have learnt not one, but TWO new languages (English and Indonesian)!
But, the most amazing thing about this experience is not just the work, but the Indonesian culture, karaoke, Indonesian pop rock music, food, and the joyful, smiling attitude. Best of all, I now have a BIG SECOND FAMILY! So this is my story, I am both a forest and city dweller. I am French, English and Indonesian, and this is my jungle book!