By Dr. Raffaella Commitante for the Orangutan Conservancy
The adventure begins…..
I met with Dr Mark Harrison of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OU Trop) upon my arrival in Jakarta. We talked about some new possibilities for continuing to work together which we will discuss further in the coming months. OU Trop is seeking to further their own collaboration with the local university in Palangkaraya and continue to establish a stronger presence in the area.
A few days later, I flew to Balikpapan from Jakarta to visit my friends at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Center in Samboja. I have not visited here for two years and I was shocked at the degradation of the local forests surrounding the center. Is the destruction from the oil palm? No – coal mining. I could not believe how many new roads have been cut into the landscape to accommodate the large equipment needed to take out the trees and dig out the land. An area that was once still green (even with a few oil palm plantations) is now mostly naked soil. As we approach the rainy season, this will really show the damage. With no trees to hold the soil, flooding from the rains with mud will be a real problem. In talking with some local people, they have already realized the danger with some areas already becoming flooded – and it seems it will only get worse. It is very sad to witness. This was a small village and now it is a bustling coal mining town.
Later on today I will begin a 7-hour car journey to Sengatta (northeast of Balikpapan) for the Orangutan Conservation and Reforestation workshop that is being facilitated by Dr. Anne Russon (one of our board members and founder of the Orangutan Kutai Project in the Sengatta area) and the Balai Taman Nasional Kutai (Kutai National Park). More soon…..
Orangutan Board member Dr. Raffaella Committante is in Indonesia this month to stage the fifth OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop in Bogor. Our blog will feature several posts written by her this month as she heads for the workshop.