The Jakarta Post
Full commitment: Syamsudin uses facial expression to convey his stories. (JP/Aman Rochman)
Dozens of children with their parents gather in an elementary school yard and listen to a man telling a story by means of cardboard puppets.
“What animal is this?” the man asked.
“Sumatran tiger!” the children answered him enthusiastically.
The man continued his story and introduced a plot in which two men arrived in the forest and they began to cut down trees for firewood and other uses. Eventually, the two men cause damage to the forest, the home of the tigers, elephants and other animals.
“Are the two men can recklessly cut down trees like that? Can they also hunt for animals without consideration?” he again asked.
“No, they cannot do it. They should never catch the animals. They must have pity on them,” a child replied.
Keep going: Syamsudin rides his bicycle to visit another town and share his stories with more children.(JP/Aman Rochman)
The storyteller was 45-year-old Syamsudin and he shared the story with the students of the Hidiyatulah primary and junior high school in Paranggo village, Wajak, Malang, East Java.
Syamsudin, a native of Indramayu in west Java, has been touring cities in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java by bicycle for about one year to raise awareness about Indonesian wildlife and forests among schoolchildren through storytelling.
In Malang, Syamsudin planned to visit several locations for seven days. Previously, he toured Yogyakarta for about 10 days.
After his Malang tour, Syamsudin will proceed to Surabaya, the capital of the East Java province, for the same purpose.
Syamsudin tells different stories with varied themes in accordance to local cultures, languages and natural surroundings.
In Sumatra, for example, he speaks more about tigers and elephants, while in Java he has wider range of tales covering all animals.
He makes no appointments with local schools and fully depends on their permission to let him in with the help of volunteers and communities.
His one-hour narrations at schools or in public places are free of charge, but he accepts whatever reward given to him to finance his future trips.
Fun life: Syamsudin tells a story to schoolchildren to teach them about the importance of wildlife and nature conservation.(JP/Aman Rochman)
Syamsudin has also told stories to deaf, blind and autistic children, which made him learn more and develop specific storytelling techniques for kids with special needs.
Nobody knows how much longer he will be able to tour more cities in Indonesia on his bicycle to share his knowledge and broaden the children’s horizons on the importance of wildlife and forest conservation.
“I realized just now that Sumatran rhinos and elephants are already on the endangered species list and some Indonesian tiger species are extinct,” said Erin, a student said.
With the aid of 12 puppets of different animals and figures, Syamsudin also encourages students to become storytellers and by doing this he hopes to establish a new generation of conservation campaigners.
“I believe it is difficult to change the mindset toward conservation among adults,” Syamsudin said.
“For me, there are more benefits in mentoring the children about the importance of wildlife and forest protection because they are the ones who will enjoy the results of conservation programs in the future.”