Toughbook notebooks in the wild.

Toughbook notebooks support primate conservation in Indonesia.

Simias concolor or Simakobu, endemic to the 7000 km² Mentawai Archipelago (W-Sumatra, Indonesia), is classified as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and currently considered as one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates. Habitat loss due to logging and land conversion for agriculture as well as excessive local hunting pressure pose the main threats to the species´ survival. Despite the conservation significance of the Simakobu however, relatively little is known about its habitat requirements, local distribution, population size and trends, demography, or the species’ adaptability to anthropogenic disturbance. Furthermore, no management and conservation plan for the Simakobu exists.

In an effort to contribute to the species’ long-term survival, I initiated a study in 2009, aiming to investigate key aspects of the population biology and ecology of Simias concolor and to generate a biological database needed for the implementation of effective conservation measures. The study’s main objectives are (1) to determine the current status of the Simakobu population on Siberut, the archipelago’s largest island (ca. 4000 km²), and (2) to identify the main factors affecting the species’ population size and distribution. 

Specifically this will involve a land-cover/land-use analysis of the Mentawai Archipelago in order to generate an up-to-date and reliable classification of the remaining primate habitat in the region (based on satellite remote sensing data), as well as a comprehensive series of surveys to determine the population size and density of the Simakobu on Siberut Island. These data will be compared with previous information (literature) to identify recent population trends. Furthermore, the species’ sensitivity to anthropogenic disturbance will be examined, in particular with regard to habitat destruction and hunting, and analyzes will be conducted to provide an quantitative estimate of how vulnerable the species is to extinction ( species population viability). The resulting information will help to generate specific conservation recommendations for the Mentawai region.

All data required for this project need to be collected in the course of separate field expeditions (2009 & 2010), under the rather adventurous conditions on the Mentawai Islands. Here, where tropical climate with high temperatures, high humidity and extensive rainfall prevails, and the rugged as well as muddy terrain hampers access to my various study sites (particularly in remote areas), a great deal is demanded from the equipment used for data collection, storage and manipulation. With this in mind I approached Panasonic, asking them to support the project by supplying one of their notebooks from the Toughbook series for the duration of the study. I figured that these shock & water resistant, relatively lightweight notebooks with a long battery life must be the best candidates for the job.

The Panasonic team responded swiftly, agreeing to support my conservation efforts in Indonesia, and finally a CF-19 was provided to me to be used during the first field period in 2009. With the Toughbook in my luggage, I flew to Indonesia in October ‘09 to collect the data needed in order to complete project phase no. 1 – the above-mentioned classification of regional land-cover & primate habitat. High-resolution imagery of Siberut, taken by the French SPOT satellite in 2008, forms the basis of the classification process which, in addition, heavily relies on the collection of reference information (i.e. ground control sites) in the field. These reference data were collected on the island, using a global positioning system (GPS), recording the exact size and geographic location of each control site.

Altogether, more than 300 sites were visited within the 9 physically quite demanding weeks I spent on Siberut, providing a representative overview of the local primate habitat (primary rainforest, mangrove forest, swamp forest, agricultural areas, etc.). The C-19 was an invaluable help during this time. I used it for regular backups of my GPS data after each trip, to assess the quality of the collected data, to conduct some pre-processing and also to plan my subsequent travels to other reference sites. The specialist software (ArcGIS, ENVI,…) I installed  for this purpose on the Toughbook’s Windows XP system worked perfectly fine, and I did not encounter any trouble at all. As electricity is only available at selected locations on the island, the C-19’s long battery life was one of its most valuable qualities. The battery usually lasted for approximately 7 hours, enough for 1 – 1.5 hours of daily work during a six-day working week. As week-ends were always spent in one of the larger villages at the east coast where electricity is available, recharging the Toughbook was regularly possible. Other than this, it seems that neither the long bursts of rain nor the constantly high humidity levels had any negative effect on the laptop at all. So, in conclusion, there was actually just one negative side to working with the Toughbook: As PANASONIC loaned it to us, we had to give it back after the first fieldwork phase was finished in early January!  The final analysis process takes place on a different computer (desktop PC) in Germany and is currently still ongoing. 

I’d like to conclude this short report by congratulating Panasonic on their great product, and by thanking the Toughbook team for providing the C-19 to the project. Thank you very much!