Saturday, 23 July 2011

My Wonderful Tangkahan - Prelude 2

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme - SOCP

After having visited what was formerly the Botanic Gardens and which is now Ian Singleton's new project for conservation and education we moved on to the SOCP centre which as we are told is located kind of back to back to the Botanic Garden and hence protecting each other from unwanted visitors.

Now: The SOCP was an very emotional affair for me, and to introduce you to the matter with some facts and stories directly from Ian, please have a look at this video which is provided on YouTube by the centre.

I saw those animals. I saw those cages. One part of me wants to shout out: Oh how cute! the other part of me drives tears into my eyes because I should not see them there, I should not be able to find them cute.  

There we were at the SOCP
The cage in which dad, mum and the two babies live

Mum and one of the babies. We could not get too close, to avoid infections and to not make her too nervous.

Dad, in the adjacent cage

Ian Singleton and Jess McKelson from RAW discussing projects
RAW is supporting the SOCP whenever possible, e.g. part of our fee for the day trip was used as sponsorship for the programme. Jess now will be putting focus on helping to find a suitable site and funding for mum and her twins, so that she will be out of the cage and raise the little ones in a safe environment as naturally as possible.

Some might ask if all that money and all that effort is worth it. I have heard voices saying, that with the same amount of money so much more can be achieved in South America where land is cheaper and circumstances are less difficult; that the approach of rescuing individuals is not helping for the bigger picture.

Well, I have a few things to add. Firstly, if confronted with an individual - who would be able to put it down for cost reasons? Secondly, orangutans play a vital role in preserving rainforest as gardeners of the jungle, as they distribute seeds over far distances. And thirdly, this is what I found on Wikipedia about their conservation status - critically endangered:

from Wikipedia: distribution of orangutan in Sumatra

The Sumatran orangutan is endemic to Sumatra island and is particularly restricted to the north of the island. In the wild, Sumatran orangutans survive in the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), the northernmost tip of Sumatra.The primate was once more widespread, as they were found more to the south in the 19th century such as in Jambi and Padang.There are small populations in the North SumatraLake Toba forests. A survey in the Lake Toba region found only two inhabited areas, Bukit Lawang (defined as the animal sanctuary) and Gunung Leuser National Park The species has been assessed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2000. It is considered one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates." A survey in 2004 estimated that around 7,300 Sumatran orangutans still live in the wild. Some of them are being protected in five areas in Gunung Leuser National Park;

It is estimated that today only around 6000 Sumatran orangutans still exist. Not a lot! Every individual is important to enrich the gene pool. These 6000 do not live in one big area in which genes would be exchanged freely to maintain a healthy population. Roads and logging have cut the population into small groups already, some of them too small to avoid inbreeding. The fresh genes of those two babies are very much crucial for the bigger picture of orangutan survival in Sumatra. They need and deserve our help!
Socialisation cages
The resocialisation approach at the SOCP is pretty much hands-off. Although it appears a bit sad that those little ones are behind bars and don't get cuddles, it is their best chance for getting an ape lifestyle quickly. Humans might be good in cuddling, but they fail miserably in ape-ish skills. Research has shown that these little ones learn much faster from each other. In those cages they bond quickly and like street children they are able to survive in their environment at an earlier age then they would if getting used to a humanoid lifestyle.

Good luck, little fella!

 You can support the SOCP by donations via their website.

Friday, 22 July 2011

My Wonderful Tangkahan - Prelude 1

Now that the scene is set by the previous blog update, let's move on to the actual diary snippets. So there we were, starting our journeys from our homes in Germany and Ipswich to meet at London Heathrow.

I arrived early and the sensible thing to kill some time is with muffin and cappuccino. And then eventually, the trip felt real: Mum arrived!

We killed some more time together, so much to talk about, checked in our luggage, and then boarded the flight to Munich which should deliver us to an aircraft with nice and cosy business seats which had our names on them. So far so simple, so far so Heathrow... delayed by thunder, delayed by sick passenger, delayed by paramedics not arriving, delayed by paramedics not knowing what to do... there the nice and cosy business seats had lift off without us.

Arriving in Munich we moved into a good hotel and got re-booked to ... Singapore Airlines!... woohooo!

I can tell you, one day less Singapore yet travelling Singapore Airlines instead was worth it. Half of the time it was raining in Singapore anyway, Sentosa Island was a bit of a disappointment and a rip off as mum knew it from some years back mainly for a lovely place with butterflies and beaches, whereas now it basically is a kind of Disney World, and shopping was out of the question as we were overloaded anyway. 

So we were glad to move on to Medan the next day. Not that it was nicer there, in contrary, but it brought us closer to the actual adventure.
Medan, a vast area of houses, rich, poor, markets, dusty, hot, and hellish traffic ...

The Grand Swiss-Belhotel Medan is the best hotel in town and the place where one wants to stay. For taxis look for the blue ones, but even then be very vigilant and better get the tour operator or a hotel to pick you up, 50.000 IR is not cheap but a fair price. There is a modern mall accessible from the hotel with fantastic restaurants and coffee places so no need to go out into the hellish atmosphere of the city without a guide.

We had arrived a day early for contingency and to kill the additional time we had booked a trip to the centre of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. We got lucky that Ian Singleton the director of the program (and scientific advisor of Orangutan Land Trust, my main charity) was available to show us round. First stop was the botanic gardens, the latest part of the project where an education centre is to be established on a grand scale: This will be conservation live and close-up. I am hoping to be able to go back in a few years time and to see what he has achieved.

Education garden on a larger scale
First impressions of jungle greeneries...

... and the respective creepies.
 ... and tomorrow I will tell you about the orangutans at the SOCP.

Little fella in  quarantine... and he is one of the lucky ones!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

My Wonderful Tangkahan - A preview

My mum and I had planned this trip for more than a year; so much nerves spent on how to break it to our husbands, find good flights making the best use of mum's air miles to be able to travel business, and then the biggest question of all: What to pack!

We had to provide for three parts, none of which we were entirely sure what the requirements were.  

Step 1: Singapore

Due to business class we could carry 30kg, and we wanted to look a bit pretty in  a town like this.

Step 2: Green Lodge, the jungle home

Due to small airline between Singapore and Medan/Sumatra we had  23kg, and we would be mainly wet

We would only have a backpack each and had no idea what we would need.

We kinda did well, but my shorts were too thick material and didn't dry well, the cute shoes I only wore once in three weeks, and my leather hat, the one bulky thing I almost left at home, became my trusted friend and I feel a bit like Indiana Jones now.

I started collecting feathers and even a porcupine hair/pin to attach to it, unfortunately one is not allowed to take natural materials out of the country... so I left it back. Well, they let me through security with a pocket knife in my backpack... I could well have smuggled it in my suitcase I guess, but this is not the country to try the authorities, the more that I want to go back.

See, and that is the reason why I decided to be quite resourceful with the material I wrote during the trip. The initial plan was to do a big publication on this travel blog... until I met the children of the English School. 

English School in action: Quiz winners receiving books

This is not even a school as we know it. Twice a week they gather at the beach or whatever place they find to learn English, something that is so essential for them to get a good future. I would like to support them, and help them to find a proper room and to build a library, and hence I decided to produce a little booklet from my diary which I will sell for their benefit. Hopefully next summer I will go back, bring some stuff that they need, and see how things go.

So here I will tell you snippets of the trip and progress of my plans for the English School. I have befriended our guides and tour managers on Facebook, who are the supporters of the school on location, and they will keep me informed.


To wrap up for today: It was a fantastic trip, and it exceeded all my expectations! I did things I never thought I would do, I saw things only few people get to see, and I never felt better than in this heat and humidity. More snippets and background info to come soon, so stay tuned!