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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Trip to Cabang Panti

Yayasan Palung grew out of conservation activities initiated by Dr. Cheryl Knott about a decade ago in West Borneo. Dr. Knott had been researching the orangutan population in Gunung Palung National Park since the early 1990s, and our organization continues to work closely with international research projects in the park. This week, the Yayasan Palung staff visited the Cabang Panti site in the park, where international and Indonesian researchers are observing the behaviors of orangutans, gibbons and leaf monkeys.

Although most of the staff grew up in Ketapang or Kayong Utara regencies, one of the very last places in the world which still have wild orangutans, and have been working for years on orangutan conservation, few of us had ever seen an orangutan in the wild. We regularly have orangutans go through our transit center - but these animals are usually sick and miserable, having been taken from the forests, usually severely malnourished and kept in unsanitary conditions as pets. Maybe it was just my imagination, but when the wild orangutans looked at us I did not see the same sadness or pain that I see in the rescued domesticated animals.

We were lucky - wild orangutans are known to be solitary and hard to find, but the researchers identified several animals. Two groups of Yayasan Palung staff were able to see a total of six animals in one day - one adult male, one adult female, and two mothers each with one child (the pictures are of some of these animals, taken by researcher Tri Wahyu Susnto). While we were very excited to see such a healthy orangutan population, our trip also gave us sufficient cause for concern. On our hike up to the camp and back out of the park two days later, we heard trees being felled and saw multiple signs of illegal logging and hunting actively taking place withing the National Park boundaries.

When we got home, I was exhausted. Still I knew that the work before us to protect the orangutan of West Kalimantan is going to be much more difficult that the dozens of hours we spent hiking through leech-infested forests and swamps. But now, should I ever feel tired or frustrated with setbacks we might face in building a conservation movement here, I can reflect back to how much happier the orangutans look in the wild, and should easily be able to draw the strength to keep on working to keep them there.


  1. Great job !, going forward to help orangutan and its habitat, and also the local community.

    Hudi DW

  2. I miss Cabang Panti, Gunung Palung, Lubuk Baji