Bionic Base Camp: Tiny Wildlife Reserve in Urban City of Yogyakarta

It was a nice afternoon when I get surprised by a picture on my Facebook feed. It was a picture of small, brown, ferret-like animal in a body of water, uploaded from my friend and mentor Imam Taufiqurahman. Suddenly, I realized that it was a picture of Small Clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea), a small carnivore that inhabit the river area of Java. Well, it is not weird to know he got the picture of it—even though it is an elusive and shy animal, we can still find it in a proper area for them to live. What made me surprised on that afternoon is when I know that he took that picture just behind his rent house, right in the middle of Yogyakarta’s urban area, which is not a very good habitat for any wild life.

Small-clawed Otter behind BBC by mas Imam T

Small-clawed Otter behind BBC by mas Imam T

Small-clawed Otter behind BBC by mas Imam T

Small-clawed Otter behind BBC by mas Imam T

Well, it is not just the only one strange wild life that known to live near the house, also called Bionic Base Camp. There are (or was) an Asian Palm Civet that inhabit the loft space of this home. A family of Blue-eared Kingfisher and its neighbor White-breasted Waterhen live in harmony on the river just behind the home, while a loving pair of Sunda Scops Owl inhabit the dense bamboo vegetation in front of it. We even got a short visit from 2-meters reticulated python one time, find an old moulted skin of Spitting Cobra at the backyard, and many kind of dangerous spider and scorpion. All of these animals were found only in a 10×20 meters rental home in Condongcatur village, right in the middle of crowded urban area of Yogyakarta.

Amorphophallus variabilis, a unique flower close to the gigantic rotten flower A. titanium

Amorphophallus variabilis, a unique flower close to the gigantic rotten flower A. titanium

Javan Mongoose, not sure where but it is still close to the home

Javan Mongoose, not sure where but it is still close to the home

White-breasted Waterhen, a common inhabitant behind the Bionic Base Camp

White-breasted Waterhen, a common inhabitant behind the Bionic Base Camp

Blue-eared Kingfisher, another common but shy inhabitant of the river

Blue-eared Kingfisher, another common but shy inhabitant of the river

When there is no animal around, there is nothing special about this old, creepy white-painted house—other than the big mango tree and the ‘Lore Lindu National Park’ board on the facade. For many years it has been used by the big family of Bionic Birdwatching Club from Yogyakarta State University as their official basecamp (other than the formal representative office at the campus), and house for 5-8 core members that paid the rent every year. Sometimes, you can hear the ‘cluck-cluck’ voice from a flock of turkey that being kept by the house member. In other time, you may a group of people with coffee, smoke and bird-themed book hanging around on its big terrace.

As I said above, what makes this home unique is because of the unique wildlife environment that lives just around this small area, with many big houses on the side of it. I don’t know why, but it seems like those animal feel safe to live near to this animal-loving group’s base camp, so they keep coming and coming. The inhabitant—the up to 10 biology college students—seems to lovely accept the existence of their animal neighbor. When a reticulated python crawled to the kitchen, they just simply took its picture and walk away—while other people may kill that huge snake instantly.

The living room of BBC, often used as conference room for Bionic member

The living room of BBC, often used as conference room for Bionic member

One of the absurd thing done by the inhabitant. mas Praja (right) and mas Raden (left), both of them loose their afro hair after a couple of time

One of the absurd thing done by the inhabitant. mas Praja (right) and mas Raden (left), both of them loose their afro hair after a couple of time

Bionic's Annual Meeting at Bionic Basecamp

Bionic’s Annual Meeting at Bionic Basecamp

Sometimes, I love to visit that place and talk to our friend who live there, sometimes until several night. Most birdwatcher from another city also likes to sleep in this basecamp when they are come around, who open-handedly love to welcome them. One of my birder friend from Jakarta, Khaleb Yordan, even love to visit this place annually and go birding with its inhabitant—particularly me or Waskito Kukuh Wibowo, a senior member of Bionic Bird Club. There is always something in this small home that makes me (and maybe those other people) love to stay in it, especially the friendly nature of every person who lives in it.

Khaleb Yordan in one of his annual visit to BBC

Khaleb Yordan in one of his annual visit to BBC

Every morning, a pair of collared kingfisher will perch on the roost of bamboo trees nearby, singing all the time. Sometimes you can hear the voice of Blue-eared Kingfisher and the White-breasted Waterhen mating on the river just next to the home’s backyard, that being used as Turkey’s enclosure. At the evening, some creepy voices start to take over, from the ‘whooping’ song of Sunda Scops Owl, the eerie scream of the otter, or the scrapping noise of the civet on the ceiling. After all, this place is always full of wild voice every day, something that you can’t find in other place in the middle of this busy city.

White-breasted Waterhen, a common inhabitant behind the Bionic Base Camp

White-breasted Waterhen, a common inhabitant behind the Bionic Base Camp

Sunda Scops Owl, easy to see at night

Sunda Scops Owl, easy to see at night

Elaphis flavolineata a.k.a Yellow-stripped Ratsnake, one of the guest in BBC. There were also other snake that being recorded, such as the Reticulated python--which i can't find the picture

Elaphis flavolineata a.k.a Yellow-stripped Ratsnake, one of the guest in BBC. There were also other snake that being recorded, such as the Reticulated python–which i can’t find the picture

Just like the location, the dwellers of this house are also not far from unique. Off course, there is mas Imam Taufiqurahman on the first place, the director of Kutilang Indonesia Foundation and the founding member of Bionic Bird Club—his room is the tidiest one, full of papers, bird books, and many more. There is also mas Waskito Kukuh Wibowo, the eerie bearded birdwatcher that is super friendly and open-handedly willing to take the guest on a short tour around the city. There are also mas Zulfikar ‘Aza’ Abdullah as the oldest member after mas Imam (also the owner of Lore Lindu Turkey Farm), the mas ‘ustad’ Helmy Zulfikar that becomes the spiritual teacher for the member, the turkey-lover mas Praja and his cat, the human map mas Abhe, the indigo man mas Fajri and many other member that I can’t describe one by one.

There is even a ghost, named ‘mbak Wulan’ by mas Fajri that believed to inhabit the bathroom and the kitchen area of this house. Only mas Fajri that is able to see her personally, while some of the member that has been tricked by her. I never personally (and never want to) meet her and her monstrous ape-like creature that inhabit the mango tree just in front of the home, but I believe that they are exist and watching us. Well, it is not wrong to respect them by keep the things tidy and not speaking any appropriate word in the area, isn’t it? Believe it or not, the creepy history of this home keeps the rental cost low, so we can still use it until now.

Well, at the end we can just say that this small home is a core member of my club, the big family who always laugh and cry at the same time. Those people are some of the best friend that I ever had, one of the friendliest people that I have in my life, and the best birding pal that I ever meet. Even though it is just small and creepy house, there is always something that makes me feel comfortable to visit it—and maybe those unique animals around. Let’s hope that we will still can enjoy it until the far future..

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