Feature

The last bastion of Kalimantan’s
orangutans

Ssssh: A notice warns people not to make loud noises near the orangutan rehabilitation center in Tanjung Puting National Park.
Ssssh: A notice warns people not to make loud noises near the orangutan rehabilitation center in Tanjung Puting National Park.

Spanish soccer team captain and Barcelona team halfback Carles Puyol is currently campaigning for the rescue of orangutans, whose population is endangered.

Today, the orangutan population is estimated to be 66,000 and without intervention, this primate species is predicted to become extinct within the next 20 years. Tarzan — as Puyol is dubbed — along with the International Animal Rescue (IAR) and the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) is distributing posters with the words “I Care — Do You?”

Actress Julia Roberts undertook a similar campaign in 1998, when she starred in a short film titled In the Wild — Orangutans with Julia Roberts. Julia visited Tanjung Puting National Park before 2000 to star in Mongolian Horsemen with Julia Roberts as a display of her concern for wildlife.

The actions of Julia and Puyol to show their concern has prompted tourists from various countries to go to Tanjung Puting National Park, which is located astride Kotawaringin Barat and Seruyan regencies in Central Kalimantan. Besides serving as a habitat and rescue center for orangutans, Tanjung Puting has diverse flora and fauna.

Among the park’s notable trees are the kantung semar, meranti (Shorea sp.), ramin (Gonystylus bancanus), jelutung (Dyera costulata), gaharu (fragrant wood), lanan, keruing (Dipterocarpus sp.), ulin (Eusideroxylon zwageri) and tengkawang (Dracomentelas sp.).
Nurture: An orangutan holds her young. Although they live in Tanjung Puting National Park, which is ostensibly a conservation zone, Kalimantan orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) remain under threat from encroaching oil palm plantations.

Nurture: An orangutan holds her young. Although they live in Tanjung Puting National Park, which is ostensibly a conservation zone, Kalimantan orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) remain under threat from encroaching oil palm plantations.

The fauna species at the park include bekantan or proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), lutung merah or long-tailed monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda rubida), bears (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus), mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus klossi), branch tigers (Neofelis nebulosa) and wild cats (Prionailurus bengalensis borneoensis).

Some reptiles at the park are sinyong supit crocodiles (Tomistoma schlegel), estuary crocodiles (Crocodilus porosus) and bidawang (Trionyx cartilagenous). Over 200 bird species are found, one of which, sindanglawe or milky storks (Ciconia stormii), is among the world’s rarest 20 species.

The diversity of flora and fauna has attracted foreign visitors. According to the local tourism office, foreign tourist arrivals at Tanjung Puting have been increasing. In 2011, foreign tourists visiting the park totaled 21,107, up 100 percent from 2010. The foreign visitors to the park contributed locally generated income (PAD) worth Rp 186. 77 million (US$19,424) in the sector of tourism.

In order to boost PAD in other sectors, the government continues to offer oil palm investment opportunities in Central Kalimantan. So far Indonesia has been the world’s largest oil palm fruit producer. In 2011, the export value of Indonesia’s oil palm products and derivatives reached $11.61 billion, up 17.75 percent, or $2.5 billion from 2010.

The export value in the coming years is expected to keep growing in line with the government target of 27 million tons of oil palm fruit production in 2015.
Under threat: An orangutan dines on sugarcane. Besides oil palm estates, an estimated 490 wildcat miners operate in the park, polluting the Sekonyer River that is the source of life for the great apes.
Under threat: An orangutan dines on sugarcane. Besides oil palm estates, an estimated 490 wildcat miners operate in the park, polluting the Sekonyer River that is the source of life for the great apes.

Several activists have appealed to the government to cease the expansion of oil palm estates to aid the conservation of orangutans in Kalimantan, whose habitat is increasingly threatened.

The slaughter of orangutans is now not only an Indonesian issue, but is also a world concern. A number of international media outlets are reporting this case.

Erik Meijaard, the main writer of a survey report published in PLoSOne, an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal, says he is convinced that orangutans are facing a serious threat that is more critical than previously thought.

 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has affirmed the importance of forest conservation. He doesn’t want future generations to hear about the extinction of a number of species due to forest denudation.

“I don’t want later to tell my grandchild, Almira, that we were unable to conserve our forests,” said the President in his message at the international conference on forests in Jakarta on Sept. 27, 2011.

Rare: Female Proboscis monkey (bekantan) is spotted in Tanjung Puting National Park. In addition to orangutans, the park is home to a host of rare flora and fauna

Rare: Female Proboscis monkey (bekantan) is spotted in Tanjung Puting National Park. In addition to orangutans, the park is home to a host of rare flora and fauna
.

Diverse: Hundreds of different species of birds live alongside orangutans and proboscis monkeys in Tanjung Puting National Park.

Diverse: Hundreds of different species of birds live alongside orangutans and proboscis monkeys in Tanjung Puting National Park.

Green tourism: Tourists enjoying the natural scenery along the banks of the Sekonyer River in the park, which was named a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1977.

Green tourism: Tourists enjoying the natural scenery along the banks of the Sekonyer River in the park, which was named a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1977.

— Photos JP/Indra Harsaputra

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