Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 5 December 2011 • Opinion
Remember our trip to TanjungPuting National Park? That was the first time we encountered orangutan. We had such a great time that I didn’t think twice before agreeing to an offer for a ‘save orangutans’ trip in Kalimantan a few weeks ago. Considering trip invitation, I’m pretty ‘easy’. I ‘yes’ed it without knowing who organized it and blah, all I knew was that I got invited as a blogger (marching with Indohoy flag) along with our friend Uci, only for one whole day, for free! I mean, how could I resist a free trip? The total of about 40 people were departing from Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport and that was my first time flying on a chartered plane! It was also my first time flying back and forth between cities in just one day!
Later on, I found out that I was gonna attend the ceremony of reintroducing six orangutans back to the forest. There are 34 orangutans left to be reintroduced later, and a total of 330 orangutans before the year of 2015. And whaddya know, the event took place in Hanau forest, Seruyan district, the buffer zone ofTanjung Puting National Park. We had to reach the forest by car for 3 hours long of a bumpy ride from the Pangkalan Bun’s Iskandar airport, not to mention the ride back. Whew.. I could hear the sound of my bones crackling all over.
It’s been a government and public concern that orangutans are now extinct, mainly evicted due to deforestation. Much of the peat moss area, which is the natural habitat of orangutans, has been turned into palm oil plantations, eventually reducing the orangutans’ home. As a result, only 33,000 orangutans now exist in the forest that occupies 67% of the whole 15,3 million hectares of the province of Central Kalimantan. According to the Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan, in his speech before the reintroduction ceremony, this is a no no number.
There are several organizations that dedicate themselves to help restoring orangutans in the forest. They organize the saved orangutans, which were previously confiscated, found in black markets, or privately kept as pets, in several steps before finally reintroduce them into the wild. The steps are: quarantine, treatment, coaching, and then the final quarantine. One of the rehabilitation centers in Kalimantan, which I got to visit in this trip, was the Orangutan Care Center & Quarantine (very self-explanatory, innit?) that’s run by Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) .
Okay, I don’t think I’ve ever written something nearly as serious as the previous two paragraphs before on Indohoy. But how can I not, this whole trip was seriously organized by Indonesia’s Department of Forestry, with the minister himself and a lot of media covering the whole thing, as well as some ‘buzzers’ (they who tweet a lot and are followed by a large number of people – my god, the power of twitter!), and an activist slash business woman Fahira Idris who helped gather young people to be a part of this event.
Being a nation that has been let down too many times by our own government, I understand how rumors and accusations easily fly around amongst our people, especially those with critical thinking, or so they seem. Especially when some political issues seem to be involved, concerning the sensitive matter of Kalimantan deforestation and palm oil planting. Furtherore, recently an issue of orangutan killing had just started a while before this reintroduction ceremony took place. So was it all just a ‘save face’ event?
Toward the end of that day, Monday November 19, comments on the ceremonial event were sprouting on Twitter timelines. Both positive and negative, supporting and opposing. Building awareness through comments is one thing, but guys, making bad comments just doesn’t help. From my point of view, I don’t really care if it is political. I’m not the one that can tell if anyone did something wrong or not, but I’m a witness of them trying to make something right.
I was amazed to know that a Toronto born, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, has been working with and studying the orangutans for four decades and now is the president of OFI. Four decades, man! That’s older than you, me, and this whole network we’re talking in. We tip our trendy hats for her, despite her education, she left home to do something about what she believes in. She did more to preserve what we all call ‘just monkeys’.
So why should we save the orangutans? Well, because they’re cuddly 😀 Now hold on to your tomatoes there, there’s no crime of liking them ‘cause they’re cute. The important thing is that they’re big animals. Larger creatures, like orangutans, pandas, whales, tigers, etc hold an important role in the ecosystem. To keep things simple, they are the tips of a habitat iceberg. Behind one lovable big animal, there are a million more adorable microbes, huggable plants, and cute animals supporting its existence. Saving a big animal means saving a million more. Saving an orangutan means saving a whole peat moss neighborhood!
Vice versa, saving the ecosystem means saving a million organisms including the cuddly animals.
If you or somebody that you know happens to have a pet orangutan, please remember that it’s not domesticated and it belongs back in the forest. Having friendly discussion about it can increase awareness and enlight thoughts of having one or planning to have one. Returning them to its native habitat might be a better decision, which also means you helping a whole forest.
So what are you gonna do about it? Me? I’m blogging about it to let you know.
For more info and update on this trip you can search #saveorangutans in Twitter, though you’d probably find most of the tweets in Indonesian language.
* Like most of Indohoy’s entries, this particular one was discussed on and written by me and Mumun, eventhough it was only I, Vira, who was lucky to get a chance attending this orangutan reintroduction in Hanau forest.