Friday, 2 January 2009

SAVE OUR LAND, WATER - and Orangutans

SAVE OUR LAND AND WATER. Palm oil kills.

by the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP). The Ape Crusader is a 4xwheel drive vehicle used by COP for orangutans rescues, investigatiuons into illegal logging, and educational visits to isolated communities.

“..................The President of Indonesia should know that our livelihood is being taken away by palm oil plantations. The world should know, what is happening with the forest and the orangutans here.

We have to save our forest now, before it’s too late,” said the Tura village head in a film titled “Petak Danum Itah” or “Our Land and Water”. The village community in Tura made the film themselves with the suport of COP. The APE Crusader crew taught them how to operate a video camera, design sounds, write scripts and so on, everything needed for serious documentary film-making.

There were no special or formal training. Everything was done as part as their daily activities. They learn to use the camera among their daily activities such as fishing in the river, tapping rubber, work on their farm or collecting forest products. The camera was introduced as part of their daily lives.

The APE Crusader started working in Tura village since September 2008. The APE Crusader Crews stayed in the village, lived as part of the local community. They taught in the local school, plant trees and also follow the traditional ceremonies. Edy taught Indonesian language and Physical Education. Tri Ivana taught English. Nakula helped tha village head with village administration. Lutfi played soccer and build the Conservation Camp.

Everyone in the village participated actively. Every night they watch the reruns of the day’s shoot. Everyone learned and laughed at their bloopers or funny acts. Everyone, young and old took part, especially during the shoot at Mantian. Mantian is a forested area, handed down from generation to generation as the community’s shifting farm area. The land was suddenly included in a palm oil plantation’s concession area. The community used their canoes to reach the area. One they arrived there they planed it with rubber.

Tura Village is heaven, as many other villages along the Katingan river.

Nature had spoiled them for generations. Without a lot of work or long periods of time under the scorching sun, nature can provide them with at least 50 - 100 thousand rupiah a day from rubber, rattan, honey and fish.

In planting rice, they never used fertilisers.

Now, disaster is in the horizon. The Katingan river started to be unfriendly. This year alone, it has flooded the village three times. On the flip side, a drought two years ago, the river turned into a desert. No water. No boats can pass the river. One thing was to blame, the forest upstream was gone and palm oil plantations had replaced it.

Tura Village was not as bad as the other villages. In other places, grasshopper population exploded, they flew in a thick black cloud, eating up the communities farm. Again, the culprit was: the loss of forest and so went the grasshoppers predator birds. The food chain and life network became vulnerable – a simple lesson taught in every elementary school in Indonesia.

“Then why do they keep destroying the forest?” asked the Tura school children to Tri Ivana. Tri (pronounciation: “Tree”) Ivana just finished highschool and now undergoing trainings and an internship with COP for 6 months to become a community organisator. Tri originally came from Pendahara, a neighbouring village from Tura.

At least 15 companies had received concession rights to clear the forest and plant palm oil in the area. For the community, it was an alarm for doomsday. If their forest is gone, so will they. For the orangutans, its a death sentence. Based on the BOS Foundation and Ministry of Forestry’s surveys in December 2006, at least there are 1,500 orangutans in 3 concession areas of PT. Makin Group lived along the Katingan river.

If a thorough survey is aconducted in this area, this area may well hold an amazing wealth of biodiversity. COP decided to work in Tura village. The target is clear: save the forest. This will not only save 1,500 orangutans, but also the community’s livelihood.

In reality, the Minister of Forestry had reminded the Katingan Regency head and PT. Makin Group to back off from the area in 2007, after a report from COP. But whatever we do, the companies will always find ways to hang on to the area. COP will also work to gather the communities’ support to kick the company out.

Many thanks to the Orangutan Appeal UK who funded the APE Crusader, so we can do more to preserve the habitat of the remaining orangutans.