Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Turning a blind eye to helpless orangutans - the policy of some conservation groups.

Personal note: Hardi and I are very familiar with this city and region. Besides the very good UNEP report, I have also highlighted the area many times as one under grave threat from oil palm plantations. It literally is a environmental disaster in progress, with orangutans the most high profile victims.

It's in this city and close by, that many orangutans remain held captive illegally, under horrific conditions. We have tried helping these orangutans and we will continue to for as long as it takes. There is no rescue centre there and local NGOs like WWF, FFI, The Titian Foundation (backed by US Aid) refuse to help these orangutans……and some NGOs even resent what they perceive as COP's interference in their local affairs.

Millions of dollars are being raised for orangutan conservation every year - and spent 'somewhere', by groups like WWF, FFI, The Nature Conservancy and USAid, but do we know how many orangutans they have saved? Do you? And do the supporters/donors of these same groups realise these groups do not help wild caught orangutans kept in tortuous conditions? It's not the fault of the orangutans they are in these terrible cages is it? They deserve some quality of life don't they?

I bet 99% of the public who donate money to save orangutans, would expect their money to be used to help save 'any' orangutan. Without some very urgent and decisive action by those with most of the money and authority, the only orangutans any Indonesian will ever see about ten years from now will be just about surviving a life of abject misery - in a cage. I suppose they could always look at a video or DVD and wonder why their elders were so ineffective in saving the orangutan - arguably 'the' flag-ship species of Indonesia.

I'm not saying, 'save wild caught captive orangutans instead of those in the wild'. If the groups concerned were to devote even one tenth of their budget and resources to these orangutans, it will save a great many, as well as send out a very strong message to the traders and local authorities - the latter despair because of lack of interest from some NGOs who are in a position to help, but choose to look the other way - these captive orangutans appear to some to be nothing more than an inconvenient truth.

Finally, another reason why NGO groups should, in my view, allocate resources in this way is because if the money is made available, the interest and support will very quickly follow. In other words, probably a primary reason why local NGOs show no interest is because there is no money in it for them - no incentive to care for individual orangutans.

Those with big budgets tend to like big projects - as these in turn attract big international grants, international travel, good salaries, etc; all very well you may think, but surely if that strategy had been effective over the past 25 years the orangutan population would not be in the extremely serious situation it is now would it?

How can anyone call themselves a conservationist or, even caring, when they look at all those photos (and I have more, even worse photos) of captive orangutans on this Blog and then chose of their own free will to do - nothing. I don't know the answer, but I do know people who are in this category.

What can you do about this?

If you support orangutan conservation and you are not sure if your money helps orangutan victims like those you see on this Blog, why not write and ask the organisations(s) you support if they do help wild caught illgeally held orangutans?

The StarOnline, Malaysia

Monday November 3, 2008

Pontianak is a bustling city that is attracting Malaysian investors

LOCATED on the equator at latitude 0’ 0” N and longitude 109’ 20” E, Pontianak, also known as Equatorial City, has unique attractions for visitors to the West Kalimantan province of Indonesia.

To reach the city, a land journey from Kuching takes eight hours while a flight from the Sarawak state capital takes only 30 minutes and from Jakarta it takes about one hour.

Pontianak, spread over 107.2 square km, has a population close to a million. The majority of the people are Malay Muslims (65%) while the rest are Chinese, Dayak and of other ethnic groups.

Incomparable: An aerial view of Kota Pontianak in Kalimantan, Indonesia
The founder of this 237-year-old city is Syarif Abdurrahman AlQadri, who was of Arab descent.

It is believed the name Pontianak, which means vampire in Malay folklore, originated from a legend of Syarif Abdurrahman encountering a ghoul while sailing along Sungai Kapuas, which at 1,143km is the longest river in Indonesia.

According to the legend, Syarif Abdurrahman had to fire his cannon to chase the vampire away. He also decreed that the spot where the cannon ball fell was the place where he would start his sultanate.

The cannon ball fell on the spot where Sungai Kapuas meets Sungai Landak, a place now known as Beting Kampung Dalam Bugis Pontianak Timur, or Pontianak.Today’s era of modernisation has swept through Pontianak and turned it into a city choking with commercial centres, modern buildings, shopping complexes and hotels.

Sudio Subandi, a bank employee, said that Pontianak was the economic nerve centre for West Kalimantan.

“All major economic activities are conducted in Pontianak, and for a long time, the city has been the nerve centre, after Jakarta,” he said.

He said that foreign tourists from Sarawak were regular visitors, apart from those who flew in from Jakarta and other Indonesian provinces.
A key attraction is Equatorial Monument – an iconic lure that splits the city into two.

A Dutch geographer erected the monument in 1928, and 10 years later, Indonesian architect Sylaban made refurbishments to it.

Among the other tourism draws are Pusat Wisata, an aloe vera planting centre in Jalan Budi Utomo, where tourists can have a close view of the plant which originated in the Canary Islands off North Africa.

Pontianak is ideal for growing aloe vera as it gets more sunlight in a year compared to other parts of Indonesia.

A visit to the city is considered incomplete without a trip to shopping havens in Jalan Jen Sudirman, Ayani Mega Mall and traditional markets like Pasar Flamboyan in Jalan Gajahmada, Pasar Dahlia in Jalan H. Rais A. Rachman and Pasar Mawar in Jalan Wolter Monginsidi. Pontianak boasts the presence of Universiti Tangjungpura (Untan) which has a student population of 15,000.

Untan assistant rector Prof Dr Saeri Sagi said the university has eight faculties including law, economics, education, technical, political science, agriculture, mathematics and medicine. The cordial relations between Sarawak and West Kalimantan paves the way for investments between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Malaysian Consul in West Kali­mantan, Zaini M. Basri, said many Malaysian investors came to expand operations particularly in the oil palm and coal mining sectors.

Among the plus factors was the cheap labour and vast land areas ideal for plantations.

Zaini said that 4.5 million ha of land in the province was being developed into oil palm estates.

He expressed confidence that more Malaysians would take the opportunity to invest in West Kalimantan. — Bernama