we haven’t been updating the blog because we have been in Bali and there is absolutely no reason to be on a computer here, it’s insane beautiful in a much different way than where we have been, it was hard at first to come here believe it or not, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the orangs and their lives and all the work we have to do to change things, but Bali is so full of laughter and smiles and happiness, it really is a healing place. This morning i came out to the veranda to watch the sunrise and found a tiny gecko drowned in my left over smoothie, but i touched him and he just scampered away, he was so relaxed just laying in that sweet juice all night watching the moon, that’s how it is here……….I leave tomorrow and just last night i realized just how much this country had got under my skin, specially the animals, all of it……….and i’m sad to leave, really sad.
Yes, it’s true……..we are members of the family here, I spent the day almost getting eaten alive by a 7 year old orangutan, well not really but both amy and I were stuck in the muddy forest in our flip flops trying to get our bearings, walking on roots, trying to escape from the older orangs in Forest School that found out we were photographing Forest School 1, which are the babies, and were sneaking into the camp and really giving us a scare, Amy fell down holding the camera lights because our flip flops were so muddy and slippery, it really was sortof a nightmare, so we left the jungle, me being so sad having a lot of trouble actually trying to photograph these animals, they are just like humans but I think a little smarter, and very eager to sneak up and pull on a camera bag string or open my bag with the zipper to find what’s inside……..they also love to jump up into my arms and play with my face and pull my hair, specially when they are covered in mud, now imagine me holding a baby covered in mud, because she/he just has to be held, and then i’m also photographing at the same time, holding 2 or 3 cameras around my neck……….am I insane? yes, i think i have realized that…….
we cooled off in the nursery and met some very special one year olds that were recent additions to the sanctuary, one baby was found as a pet in someone’s home nearby, she had a scar around her neck where the chain had been…….the others had malaria and were fighting to stay alive, all there without their mothers who had all been killed in some way because of palm oil, it really is a sight to see, all these orphaned beautiful, smart creatures, all just more victims to the world’s hunger for things, this time palm oil which is the main ingredient in 1 in 10 foods in our grocery store and most recently biodiesel.
this internet cafe in Palankaraya is boiling hot and i’m so hungry, ouch!!!!!!!!!xxxo
Hi Valley Schoolers!! We’ve arrived in Central Kalimantan, our final destination, where we will finally visit Nyaru Menteng. The last week has been incredible– though very hard to find internet access to write to you all about it! We spent a day exploring Malua, which is the forest where the BioBank project is underway. It’s a forest that was logged in the past, so it’s in the process of growing back. Some of it was logged recently, so done in a somewhat sustainable way. But much of it was logged a decade or so ago, when they just came in and cut everything down and dragged it out, with no real thought to making sure the forest could regenerate. The money from the BioBank project has funded a whole team of employees from the forest department–wildlife experts, guards, and other workers, who are now stationed there to ensure that no one comes in and cuts down the forest. They are also cataloguing what species are there, and making plans to plant new trees.
It’s a huge effort, and some of the trees grow slowly, but hopefully someday not too far from now there will be a beautiful, functioning rainforest there again.
The next day we explored primary rainforest–the parts that have never been logged. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, as Annie’s photos will show you! We hiked to a viewpoint and looked down on a sweeping valley of trees and mist. We walked on a canopy walkway up in the trees, which makes you realize what it looks like for the monkeys. And we saw all kinds of wild animals: orangutans, gibbons, maroon langurs, two kinds of wild cats, a few kinds of deer, hornbills, and even four pygmy elephants! When you see how spectacular and teeming with life the forest is, it makes it even sadder to think about it being completely cut down. It’s almost too much to think about.
All the animals we have seen on this adventure are incredible, flying lemurs, a family of elephants, orangutans, red leaf monkeys, stick bugs, wild hogs, long and short tailed macaques…..the list goes on and on, and i never stop feeling totally amazed………..we were in the Danum Valley studying the Malua Bio Bank which Hillary will explain below, but just so you know, about an hour ago after 4 flights and 24 hrs of travel between yesterday and this morning and oh wait, missing our morning flight, we actually arrived in Central Kalimantan, Palankaraya, home to Nyaru Menteng, our true adventure has begun……….please hold tight because of course there is no internet here either, so you can just dream about our adventures for the next few days and then hopefully all the happy sweet beautiful ones will come true for us!!!!!!!!!!xxxxx
This post is from Hillary, the writer that is traveling with me here in Borneo, she is amazing……….she has many accomplishments, some you can see here, www.hillaryr.net, my favorite is she contributed to The Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, and loves Orangutans as much as me……the following is her writing.
Hi Valley School kids! This is the news for you guys: We finally arrived on the island of Borneo on Saturday, flying to the gateway city of Kota Kinabalu. We were so excited to finally arrive! We flew from Singapore across the South China Sea.
But Kota Kinabalu is actually not a very nice place to visit! It’s kind of a big sprawling city without any real character. On Sunday there was a big market on one of the streets in town, so we went in the hope of seeing some local crafts. The first stall had a big bowl that was woven together out of some sort of paper–when we looked closely we realized it was made from individual playing cards all intricately folded and somehow woven together and shaped into a bowl! But that was the only real crafts stall, and then it was block after block of stalls selling cheap items mass-produced in China. T-shirts, wooden utensils, towels, electronics, and lots and lots of ugly knick-knacks–the kind of things you might see for sale at a street fair in the U.S.
It was sort of sad to see all this stuff for sale on the island of Borneo, which was once covered virtually end to end by forests. Manufacturing all these items that people buy without really thinking about uses up vital resources and requires massive amounts of energy. These products use materials such as rubber, which is grown on plantations where rainforests once stood. Or minerals that must be extracted from the ground in huge pits or mines, which also causes deforestation. Or plastic, which is made from oil–the same kind of oil you put in your car as gasoline. And many–most–of these items will simply end up in landfills, when people toss them aside.
All of this is not meant to depress you! But rather to make you stop and think a bit about all the products you use in your daily life: clothing, books, electronics. All these things come from the Earth’s natural resources, which are finite.
Okay, now on to the fun parts! We finally left Kota Kinabalu and flew to Sandakan, on the northern tip of Borneo. We’re in the Malaysian state of Sabah. We visited with forestry officials, who explained to us how they are trying to come up with new plans for managing the area’s forests in a way that protects them for the future. They are trying to extract some trees without disturbing others. And to make sure there is habitat for the animals and birds that live there. But this type of forest management takes a lot more time and effort and money than simply going in and cutting all the trees down with big machines. So they are looking for smart new ways of joining together with other groups or companies to bring more money in. That is the idea of the Malua BioBank, which we are going to see tomorrow!
After the forest headquarters we visited the Rainforest Education Center. It’s an amazing place where they bring in school groups and teach the kids about the plants and animals in the forest, and why it’s so important to protect. Hubert, the man who runs the center, told us that most of the kids who come to the Center–they’re all from around the state of Sabah–have never been in a rainforest in their life. That’s pretty incredible, when you consider that in the US, most people think only of rainforests when they hear the word “Borneo”! The people who run the center believe that education is the key. If they can show these kids how beautiful and important the forest is, then they will grow up and want to protect it instead of destroying it.
Finally, we visited the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary! There we watched about 100 monkeys swing through the trees and clambor around on wooden platforms eating banana pancakes (sugar free!) that the people at the sanctuary put out to feed them twice a day. The monkeys are wild, but they get a little help in finding food because so much of their home habitat has been cut down for palm oil plantations that they might not otherwise be able to find enough to eat. There were three distinct “families” of the proboscis monkeys (which are found only on Borneo!), each with one male and a lot of females all with babies clinging to them. They would set the babies down on the platforms, and they’d wrestle with one another and hang from their mothers’ tails and generally clown around. It was hilarious. Two other kinds of monkeys were there too: long-tailed macaques and silver leaf monkeys. We watched them for an hour, until they’d mostly climbed and swung their way back up into the trees, where we could hear them calling to one another as they headed off to groom one another and bed down for the night.
We’re leaving in about an hour to drive to the Danum Valley. The adventure continues! We might not have email access once we get there, so if you don’t hear from us for a few days, that’s why!
we arrived in the real forest yesterday, a little town called Sandakan on the northern tip of Malaysia in the province of Sabah. Home to palm oil plantations that stretch for miles and miles, replacing what was once the home to thousands of integral important species, including the precious orangutan..
as we flew over the plantations, i started to cry, it was more incredible and vast than I had imagined.
We visited and spoke with the government forestry officials over coffee and funny little biscuits, they are doing a lot here for the forest, enforcing laws on logging and most importantly, issuing carbon credits and establishing zones throughout Borneo like the Malua Bio Bank, we are heading there today, actually in just a few minutes………….
by the way, it’s been raining here the whole time, so don’t feel jealous Seattle…….
it’s early morning here in Kota Kinabalu…….I wake early as usual and can hear the birds, they are singing so sweetly, I love it here intensely. the sky here is pink and purple and smells deliciously of fragrant and moistness that can only come to you in the tropics, I dreamt of the orangutans last night, we were all there together in the jungle living and the moon was high in the sky, they were staring at me with their big beautiful brown eyes, asking me to tell their story…..and I said I would and that I loved them so much, it was like a seance or something, then i woke up to Amy snoring and realized I was still in the hotel and we had not met them yet, good things to come.
After spending 3 days getting over jet lag (well we are not quite over it yet) in Singapore, we finally landed in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia today at 4pm, we will spend tomorrow on some island, eat and sleep here tomorrow night and then fly to Sandikan, where we will meet the Malaysian government officials of New Forest Inc. and then the next day drive 5 hours into the Borneo Rainforest to report on the Malua Bio Bank………right now we are still tired, only sleeping about 4 hours a night, watching incredible sunsets, hearing many words that make no sense, eating noodles, drinking coffees, being caught in monsoon style rainstorms, smiled at by hundreds of beautiful Asian people, talking to each other about what it might actually be like to hold hands with a beautiful orangutan………and thinking of that again and again……………….
will write more tomorrow…………