A few days ago we returned from Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the Island of Borneo. There we, as part of a small group that included 4 of our good friends, visited Dr. Birute Galdikas and some of the 320 Orangutan orphans that OFI is currently nurturing and protects. After first arriving in Jakarta - where JK met with Lex Hovani of the Nature Conservancy - to learn about logging and other environmental issues in Indonesia, we flew to Pangkalanbun and continued by boat, several hours up river, into the Rain Forest, finally arriving at OFI s Camp Leakey. After showing us around the camp, Dr. Birute brought our group to a feeding platform where we watched some of her charges receive a large variety of local fruits. Although we kept a proper distance, the Orangutans decide if they want to approach and meet you, it was thrilling to be so close to these gentle primates. To observe them while they interacted, swung through trees and sometimes came close to get a better look at us, well it was magical. In the afternoon we had tea with Dr. Birute - on the same Porch where in the film BORN TO BE WILD she shared her spaghetti with the female Orangutan names Siswi - when lo and behold, Siswi appeared, joined Dr. Birute and our group and enjoyed some Rambutan fruit that was brought for her. She is quite the local star and very comfortable around humans. The next few days were filled with many extraordinary experiences as we visited several other rainforest camps and release locations.
No doubt for many of us the highlight was a visit to the CARE CENTER where the smallest and youngest orphans - some still in diapers - are cared for. The Center has a number of Jungle Gym type structures that the young Orangutans enjoy and use as a training ground for the skills they will need when they are released into the wild. There we also met the young male named STEPPENWOLF. Mostly he was swinging overhead but a couple of times came over to investigate us, as you can imagine this was a great delight for us. The orphans are lovingly looked after by roughly 200 of the indigenous Dayak people who work at the foundations various camps and facilities. Additionally many Volunteers from the US, Canada and elsewhere come to lend a hand for a few weeks or months. To say that all this is a labor of love is perhaps inadequate. One of the less enjoyable aspects of our visit was a seemingly endless drive, necessary in order to reach a couple of camps, through miles and miles of Palm Oil Plantations. The hundreds of thousands of acres these plantations occupy, were once unspoiled rainforest habitat for Orangutans and hundreds of other species. Unfortunately the logging, followed by more Palm Oil Plantations, continues, although some progress is being made regarding this issue. As mentioned in our previous post, in order for the OFI orphans to have a future home in the wild, OFI is in the process of acquiring significant acreage known as the RAWA KUNO LEGACY FOREST project. You can see details about this and much more at www.oranutan.org We will of course continue to support OFI s efforts in Borneo and will do our best to persuade others to do likewise. Our next journey is to the San Ignacio lagoon in Baja California, where we hope to meet some grey whales, which are there for the calving season. The good people at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) invited us to join their annual trip and we are very much looking forward to this new adventure. We will post a note when we return: JK & JMK