Monday, 9 July 2012
Thursday, 31 May 2012
This time of year is the end of the wet season, so the water level of the lakes is relatively high, and in some places can be up to 30 feet deep. These trees grow out of the water when the level is this high. It looks like a mix between a scene from The Lord of the Rings and The Woman in Black - eerie yet insanely stunning. This incredible photo was taken by Eco Warrior Paul Daley.
Local produce - Fish provide the main income for most of the locals in the National Park. Over 80% of the freshwater fish consumed in the Kapuas region of Borneo is caught sustainably from this area. For many generations, the locals have been developing their sustainable practises, and because they depend on the fish, they have to. One of the fundamental ways they do this is by banning any fishing in certain lakes.
So it's goodbye for now, Borneo. Sampai jumpa lagi.
Friday, 25 May 2012
The oldest lady in the area, supposedly 135, though from the age of her kids, that might be debated (can women have children when they are 79?). The tale goes that if you look at her teeth, she will steal a year from your life and use it herself.
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
From what I can see, the reason they are so strong is because losing their forest will be so devastating to them, and they know it. They have seen the villages in the surrounding areas lose everything after having been given empty promises of jobs and quick cash, and then ripped off, their lives and homes stolen from them. They all know this is what will happen to them if they sell their land. On top of this, with the free electricity coming from the hydropower, losing the forest around them will also stop the water flowing, so they will lose at gem too.
We went to a university in Sintang today to talk to undergraduates about the project, and one of the questions we asked them was whether their parents had sold their land to pay for their university degree. Many put their hands up, and it's not a surprise. Parents want the best for their children, and for them to be successful, rich, educated. If a palm oil baron comes along and offers the chance for an education in exchange for a bit of land, of course many will shake on that deal. What we need to do as foreigners is recognise and acknowledge this challenge, and try to help the locals to find ways of making the forest so valuable to locals that these deals coming from these barons are worthless, or at least not worth it. This is what has happened at Tembak. Tembak proves it is possible.
For this reason, we have been working on a few nurseries in Tembak which will supply the locals with valuable plants to grow on their own land - medicinal plants, sugar palms, trees which provide valuable building materials. We have strong connections with Tembak, and some of the locals in the area are so connected to their land that we trust the nursery will thrive. We also want to use these nurseries as templates to show villages in the local area that you CAN make your forest and land profitable, as well as maintain the natural ecosystem. We want to highlight to the world that a community CAN stand up in the face of big money and corruption. It's only a small step, and I'm learning so much about how to care for and encourage the natural world.
My Bahasa (the Indonesian language) is progressing at a steady rate. I'm already planning a month long course in Bali after the 80 days in Borneo, which is really exciting. I'm trying to delve as far into it as possible, studying whenever I can.
Anyway, here are some visual scenes from the world that I'm emersed in:
A local, Pak Apui, has offered to make us machete's for working in the plantation nursury. This guy has spent his life in the Tembak village, and is one of the few remaining elders with expert knowledge of local traditions, flora and fauna. He has an incredibly kind smile, though his teeth are always stained in red beetlenut seed - a local drug with effects similar to nicotine.
Working hard at the nursery. As you can see, there are polybags for planting seedlings all over the ground. Pak Nyau, the local who owns this land, was promised by a government official that he would receive funding and an environmental award if he started a nursery. He spent 3 months working 9 till 6 every day to establish the nursery, but the official never returned, and eventually he had to give up, and the nursery was left to become overgrown. It feels great to be able to give him a burst of energy, and make him proud of his work, and to ensure him that it wasn't all for waste.
This is what 4x4s are for. We are at the end of the wet season, but the ride to the village of Tembak is still ridiculous. Sometimes it is hard to tell where the road ends and the river begins.
Boy plays just outside our house in Tembak. Life is at a different pace in a place like this. At first, it's uncomfortable. It feels like there's too much sitting around, and things aren't moving quick enough. Eventually though, once you have accepted that things do just go move slower, you realise how rushed, hectic and stressful life in the west really is. I will never be able to fully accept it though, especially when I want to do so much whilst I'm out here.
Big ol' honey bee tree (or tualang). They can reach 250 feet, or 30 stories in height. They are a member of the legume family, and are related to peas. The reason bees build their nests in them in them is because they have a smooth surface and do not branch, making it hard for sunbears to reach the honey. Of course, humans climb up there, and there is a story in Tembak of a man getting trapped in this tree for days after reaching the prize at the top.
Web art. Fascinating and beautiful unless you get too close. That's the way I feel about lots of the creepies here.
The birth of 4 kittens has warmed up the feeling at our longhouse. The mother, colloquially known as "skank" is pregnant again we think. I have to admit a little fondness to her. She's a good mum, if a little gnarled and infected.
Painted steps - as part of our project to liven up and refurbish the Sintang Orangutan Rescue Centre, some of the others have spent time giving the place a lick o' paint. This centre is only a place to bring rescued orangutans. It is not close enough to a release site, and so is not suitable for soft releases which allow orangutans to safely spend time during the day in the trees and learn climbing and foraging, so that they can one day be released into the wild for good. We are currently working on trying to set up a suitable soft release environment in Tembak village for this purpose.
This is a bird-winged butterfly - named after the fact that it looks like a bird when it flies. It is one of the largest butterflies in the world, and is also the most astounding creature that I have ever been lucky enough to see. It looks like it has been created in a UV rave. Check out the flourescent green spots covering the entirety of its wings and body.
That's all for now everyone, I'm off to Tembak again in the next few days, armed with fresh shovels, wheelbarrows and a new bed. We have just bought a antennae to help the reception situation whilst we are there, and have just received a bunch of computers and phones from Samsung, so hopefully (HOPEFULLY) it will be possible to continue to update from the ground.
For now, here's a video from our trip to Tembak called "Welcome to Tembak" recorded by the amazing Paul Daley.
Love from the jungle to you all.
Thursday, 29 March 2012
"The only thing you can be certain of in Indonesia is that nothing is certain"
The last 10 days (since I met up with the other Eco Warriors, the film crew and Dr. Willie Smits) have, just like the roads, been bumpy, uncertain and covered in pot-holes. It has been a great disappointment to us all that no large companies have stepped up to give the financial foundations that this project really needs. On top of this, we have not yet received the laptops we were promised from Samsung, which has left us with only 5 computers between us all, limiting our ability to communicate with our networks and work on fundraising. We have lost 4 of our Eco Warriors to personal issues, including the 2 competent Bahasa Indonesia speakers, which has left some communication problems! On the plus side, my Bahasa is improving exponentially!
Nevertheless, I love being back.
On the journey to a town in the centre of Pontianak, we spotted this guy precariously driving his top-heavy van on the windy, bumpy roads. At one point the wheels on one side lifted off the road.
The most exciting part of returning - the bit that we had all been curling our toes in anticipation for - was meeting up with baby orangutan JoJo and her new playmate Juvi. Whilst we have to respect a 20 day quarantine period before we can go close to them, it was so great to see them play. Click Here is a video that Eco Warrior Paul Daley made of them playing with their care-worker.
Setting up for the first early morning webinar with thousands of kids from around the world (including schools from Pakistan, Brazil, America, Australia, India, Canada, Croatia and the UK). We spoke about ourselves, our plans, our aims, and our new campaign, orangutaNation, which involves young people from around the globe in rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned orangutans. It was so amazing to engage with these stake-holders, and to answer their questions. One girl asked Willie Smits if he, like her, had already decided at the tender age of 6 to spend his life saving orangutans.
Shadrack's Throne - Eco Warrior Shadrack Kalasa napping on his huge bed whilst the final midnight webinar is recorded behind him.
An exciting new toy for the EarthWatchers programme. Earthwatchers is a ground breaking new software tool to enable young people across the planet to monitor the forests and provide usable intelligence to stop deforestation. It provides a new approach for education by actually involving the students directly in the conservation effort by allowing them to monitor real data. This photo was taken from a GoPro camera which will be attached to a drone - a 6 foot remote controlled plane (bottom centre of the picture) - in order to take photos from a birds eye view of illegal deforestation.
With a small budget, we have managed to rejuvenate the enclosures within and security surrounding the Orangutan Centre which houses Juvi and JoJo, and which will soon house dozens more rescued orangutans. Click Here to see a video of this process by Paul Daley.
Bugs, bugs, everywhere. On your face and in your hair.
This little dude needed a paracetamol after crashing head first into a spinning ceiling fan. We healed his wound with a cotton bud, and he was soon ready to be re-released.
Sunset on the red bark. It's great to be back in the Beating Heart of Borneo.