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In the footsteps of Dr Birute Galdikas - An orangutan escapade


Kitsafari

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Kitsafari

Orangutan care center and quarantine facility (OCCQ)

 

Back in Kumai, we travelled to the centre in the village of Pasir Panjang where we spent the entire afternoon after lunch. DrB brought us around the facilities. I’ve been requested not to write about our activities there. So I can’t say much except to share that it was an enlightening and moving experience. The centre was set up in 1998 as a halfway house for rescued/confiscated ex-captive orang-utans who either needed medical care or needed rehabilitation to be returned to the forests. It houses an operating theatre and quarantine areas. There are some 300 OUs waiting to be released.

 

More information can be found here: https://orangutan.org/our-projects/rehabilitation/orangutan-care-center/

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Proboscis monkeys or nasalis larvatus were already roosting in the trees ready for the night. The primates are endemic to Borneo and although I couldn’t find any info on their numbers (http://pin.prim

so i'll keep this report short. it's only 5 days after all! so it'll be more of a pictorial kind of report (of course knowing my rambling way, I don't know if it will keep to what I said!) and then t

What both special tours offer is time spent with Dr Birute Mary Galdikas.   Dr Birute (I’m lazy so I’ll call her DrB with the utmost respect for her), or Dr G as some affectionately calls her, is no

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Kitsafari

DrB and her work

It was such an honour to meet the primatologist and the person of Dr Birute. She spent many hours with us. She was with us when we were at the feeding station, then when we had tea twice at her residence, at 2 dinners at Camp Leakey, and the entire day at the OFI care centre. We took turns sitting next to her or in front of her, and chatted about a lot of things, but especially of OUs. She’s opened to any question. I also had a separate opportunity to spend half a morning with her in Singapore when the NatGeo Lindbald ship docked for a day.

 

The following notes are based on DrB’s chats.

 

The outlook for orangutans is very bleak. The apes are pressured from habitat loss to illegal logging and agricultural and palm oil activities, pet trade, bush meat poaching and forest fires. The park is constantly at siege from the plantations, and DrB says the borders have been moved down to cover the coast and seas to maintain the size but accomodate new plantations.

The rise in population – the elephant in the room that no one talks about – is a significant factor pressurising the wildlife. It’s the same challenge facing the wildlife all over the world as the number of humans increase sharply and need more land for homes, farms, business activities whether they be mining, plantations or timber. Indonesia has the world’s fourth largest population at 252.8m (behind China, India and the US). The population will reach 288m by 2050, which means more land will be needed.

 

 

The succession to OFI is critical at this stage. DrB tirelessly takes on projects that give her opportunities to educate and promote the rescue and rehabilitation of the apes. Her schedule is full such that she laments she can’t spend more time with the OUs and with her husband. She’s on the Natgeo cruises, volunteering without pay to push the cause of OUs but the cruises are a fund-raising opportunity. Then she spends time hosting tours like ours, and VIP tours like Clinton Foundation’s, she gives talks abroad and attends conferences. Then she spends a few months lecturing as Professor at Simon Fraser University where she specializes in studies of primate behavior, ecology, and evolution.

 

Deep down, you can sense her commitment to the OUs. In her book, she said when she set out for Borneo she knew that she would spend her life studying OUs there. And she did.

She faces a daunting task even to this day. Keeping OUs is illegal in the country but it has long been a tradition to keep baby OUs as pets, so demand continues to this day. The national government signed the CITES agreement and has its own laws giving OUs protected status. Enforcement and the desire to enforce is lacking. Officials on the ground often close an eye when baby OUs are sold as pets.

 

 

Her goal, and of OFI which she heads and founded with a couple of people, is to release every orangutan they have rescued. Her legacy will be the global publicity for orang-utans and their plight. She was the first to do an indepth study on OUs despite huge physical and regulatory challenges and thanks to her efforts to maintain awareness of OUs, a wake of OU rescue centres has sprouted up in the rest of Indonesia.

 

DrB and Siswi

 

double-4.jpg

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michael-ibk

Ohhhh, that´s secretive. Some Orang-Utan-superspy-undercover-project going on? ;) I´m shocked you´re at your last day already, you just started! Very much enjoy all the Pictures and the extra Information you´re giving us, thanks!

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Kitsafari

@@michael-ibk hahaaa one of my shortest TRs. shocking!

 

I have to end it before the next trip. 1.5 day more before i leave. Can't wait!

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TonyQ

@@Kitsafari

Thank you for posting this - I have really enjoyed reading it and looking at your lovely photos. It can be depressing but it is good to see the work that DrB and her team are doing.

 

Have a great next trip!

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Thursday's Child

@@Kitsafari A really interesting and enjoyable report and some great photos, thanks for posting.

 

Looking forward to your next TR!

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Kitsafari

just putting in an addendum - a Reuters article I had written

 

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/07/31/environment-orangutan-idUKL3N10A2BW20150731

 

"The bushes shook violently and the female orangutan froze. Her baby clutched her tightly before the two quickly disappeared into the Borneo undergrowth. As the bushes parted, a broad-shouldered male orangutan strutted to the feeding platform.

Dominating the fruit on offer, the male great ape dared the other orangutan in the trees to challenge him for the food."

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Sangeeta

Thank you for a lovely evening with the most beautiful faces, Kit. These are some of the finest and most expressive OU portraits I have seen. Actually not just OU but the other tight close ups are very expressive too & you have captured attitude with the big male too. Dr. B is an inspiration and her commitment worthy of a great deal of respect - I find it so depressing that all these passionate people have to work so hard at fundraising all the time. It's the same thing with Jane Goodall too. I wish they could just be ambassadors without having to worry so much about money! Wonderful TR and getting ready now to read the upcoming one :)

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Kitsafari

@@Sangeeta sadly I share your sentiments and how I hope these two amazing people can inspire more wildlife leaders. But DrB and Jane Goodall can rally the funds. I just hope that the plight of Cecil the lion will open up more awareness of people to how much our wildlife is disappearing and help do what they can to support the great efforts by conservationists like DrB and Jane Goodall.

 

By the way, I had spelt Siswi's name wrongly as Siswe. Sorry, Siswi.

 

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@@Kitsafari..what an interesting and informative trip you had. Thank you very much for both the report and the great photos! I finally read it from start to finish.

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SafariChick

@@Kitsafari Finally got to finish your wonderful trip report. Enjoyed the Reuters article as well - so cool we have a writer in our midst and that you can write about a topic important to you. The photos are absolutely amazing - makes me want to go see them in person myself even more than I already did! I agree it is a shame it is so hard for Dr. B and I worry a lot about this part of the world. I am always trying to spread the word about palm oil and it is so difficult to avoid any more.

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