Archived entries for sustainable tourism

Erin & the Bali Starlings

Erin Rice - Teaching other staff to use the GPSErin (center) teaching a volunteer and a staff how to use the GPS

Mapping roads and villages, and planting seedlings are just some of the task Erin Rice, a 36 year old American, tackled as a volunteer in the Bali Starling Conservation project at Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia.

Erin, from Perth Australia, took three weeks out from her job as a geographical information system analyst, to volunteer on the island, a 45-minute boat trip from the mainland Bali.

“I was looking for a place to volunteer and Bali and this project was the most informative – and I had always wanted to go to Nusa Penida because that’s where everybody in Bali told me I should never go.” She was told by Balinese people that the island was once inhabited by ghouls, demons and dark spirits, and this supernatural battle of light and dark that gave the island its name.

“I have taken a GPS that staff have thought to be broken.. I got it to work and mapped many of the roads and villages in the north-east of the island,” said Erin. The data collected will be used to map important aspect of the island, she said..” I will also take the data back to my office, use my software and hopefully produce a more professional-styled map.”

Nusa Penida, a tiny island with a hilly interior is surrounded by coral reefs, has so far been rarely touched by tourism. It is home to around 45,000 people, though far fewer live permanently on the island.

Erin Rice - Working at the greenhouseErin with other volunteers at the greenhouse

Everywhere you look on the island, like in Bali, women stroll along with basket and boxes – full of offerings to the Gods of Balinese Hinduism – balanced steadily on their heads. And every now and then you hear the faint tweets and chirps from some of more than 100 Bali Starlings – one of the world’s most endangered birds – that live freely on the island.

This unique sanctuary takes in the neighboring islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan and the 41 villages across all three island have introduced traditional regulations agreeing to protect the birds. Along with geographical mapping, Erin helped plant seedlings to re-establish the island’s forest cover. The seedlings will eventually feed and shelter the birds after release so they can survive and breed.

She also attended English classes which the project runs for the school children on the island. She said it was a rare and wonderful experience. Rubbish pickup is another job the volunteers take on. The excessive garbage polluting the coastline of Bali is and increasing problem that many NGOs are trying to address.
“I work with many environmental scientist and ecologist and consider myself environmentally aware and I think it’s great to help retain biodiversity in Bali,” said Erin. She said she loved volunteering on Nusa Penida,” I enjoyed talking to the people the most; it can be frustrating, it can be fascinating and it can also just be a lot of laughter and fun.”

Words by Rosa Hall

 

Find out more about the program at Wildlife Protection, Habitat Restoration & Community Development on Bali, Indonesia

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John’s 3 Months Cameroon Volunteering Experience

Long story short, I was a 20 year old Disaster Management student looking for a place to volunteer in the developing world where English is spoken and which wouldn’t break the bank. I came across the project, Teaching in Rural School in North West Cameroon on Ecoteer, a volunteering website, and within a day, after a few emails being sent back and forth between myself and Joshua, I was set to come to Belo.

There was quite a long gap between me first arranging to come to Belo and then actually arriving, but between then I was kept up to date with the organization’s work and had my questions answered. Finally I landed in Douala, was met by Joshua and then taken to Belo, tired but glad to be there.

I arrived just as schools closed and, after a week to try and find my feet, I opened summer school. I’ve never done classroom teaching before and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but somehow it worked and after 10 weeks of teaching the children were still coming back of their own accord. It wasn’t an easy job – the kids took a lot of effort and it could get really frustrating at times, but I really enjoyed it and I’m very glad I’ve done it. It’s always great to see them actually learn something new and be able to apply it. Other than summer school, I contributed to side-projects of the organization, for example writing the newsletter.

I came to Belo with no expectations. This was my first trip to Africa and I knew that if I painted a picture in my head then it’d probably be wrong. Belo is very clearly the developing world, but not like the extreme which a lot of people might initially think. You have to be prepared for a different way of life, but there is still enough familiarity to the Western world so that you don’t feel alienated. Basically, I missed some things about home but I survive very easily.

The food was very good (and there was a lot of it). Samuel provides three meals a day, six days a week, as well as cleaning the house and washing clothes. It was made much easier not having to worry about all of that. I eat a lot of meat at home, so the primarily vegetarian menu took a bit of getting used to, but you can always go to 3 Corners (the centre of Belo) to buy some ‘soya’ (meat on a stick) or else if you really want to you could always head to the goat market and produce a bit of meat for the kitchen yourself.

For the first 5 weeks of my 3 month trip I was the only volunteer. There’s no point in pretending that I loved every minute of it – I was alone in a strange place, doing something I’ve never done before. I had thrown myself in at the deep end but, despite getting lonely and worried, I managed to stay afloat. It was great when the other volunteers came and I had help in the classroom and company to explore the incredible scenery in the area or go for a drink. Even on my own though it was still nice to go and drink an Export (or ‘tal tal’ in the dialect) in Le Combattant, my favourite bar.

Since my only language is English, I was obviously very glad that English is widely spoken in the area. I did try my best to learn some Kom though, and the locals always appreciated me trying to speak the dialect. Even saying small things like good morning or thank you would usually earn me extra smiles.

The people of Belo are very friendly. I know that whenever people go travelling anywhere they always say that the local people are friendly, but in this case they actually are. Especially when I first arrived, I had to be prepared for people in the street stopping me to talk to me, saying hello, and generally just being nice in the way they interact with one another. Flying home again, landing in London, I forgot the unwritten rule of pretending that no one else even exists.

When I first told people that I was coming to Cameroon, it was common for them to immediately think of West/Central Africa as a dangerous place. There’s really nothing to worry about. Cameroon is a safe, peaceful country (especially compared to neighbouring countries), and in all my time in Belo I never once felt unsafe. No one was threatening or aggressive at all. Obviously, being white, I stood out and would attract eyes easily, but you get used to it. One time I was talking to a shop owner and he told me that he liked me because I didn’t seem afraid when he saw me walking through Belo. So long as you use your head and don’t go looking for trouble, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

If you are hurt or unwell in any way though, Belo has a health centre close by and is only a short drive from Mbingo hospital; one of the best in Cameroon. If you desperately want to you can even consult Western doctors as well.

So to summarise, it wasn’t always easy but I’m really glad I came to Belo. It’s a great, worthwhile and challenging experience which I’d recommend to anyone.

To know more about this project, visit Teaching in Rural Schools in North West Cameroon or other projects in Cameroon check here. For other teaching projects, visit Ecoteer

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Sharna’s two months with the turtles!

Sharna was volunteering 2 months at Perhentian Island for the Diving, Turtle & Coral Conservation. Here she shares her memories volunteering as head volunteer early this year.

” Where to begin? Well, I thought that getting involved in a conservation programme would be the perfect way to end my travels. Originally I was only meant to volunteer for two weeks at Bubbles, however, this didn’t really work out and I ended up staying for an extra six weeks making my stay a grand total of two months, which in my opinion was still definitely not enough time. To try and summarise what I did during my stint at Bubbles would be impossible, I learnt an incredible amount not only about marine life, turtles and diving, but also about myself and all the amazing people who I shared my time with. In spite of this, I shall try and put into words the past two months as best I can.

When the boat first pulled into the bay it looked completely deserted, with the resort hidden behind the trees all that was visible was a beautiful secluded beach, a few hammocks and the pure, crystal sea. Making this my office for the past two months was no problem whatsoever. During my first week I settled in completely, everyone was so welcoming and we were introduced to the project by getting stuck in right away. Before coming to Bubbles I was not aware of all the problems faced by sea turtles in Malaysia and one thing that I think the programme excels in is raising awareness. Guests of the resort are always informed about the turtles which nest on Bubbles beach, either through turtle talks, white board notices or posters in their room. All of which I was lucky enough myself to be involved in.

As I arrived quite early in the season it wasn’t until my third week that I saw a nesting turtle. Having the opportunity to watch a turtle nest was probably the most extraordinary experience during my whole stay. The whole process is incredible but my favourite part is definitely when she uses her back fins to dig the chamber, I never realised a turtles fins were able to move in that way. The fact that I could get so close to these amazing creatures and see how they lay made staying up until 3am completely and utterly worth it. Even if sometimes the nests were almost impossible to find that you ended up getting covered in so much sand and effectively became a part of the beach yourself. One turtle in particular stands out for me, when she was leaving her nest she managed to fall down a hill of sand, being confused and not realising that she had fallen so far, she continued to try and cover up her nest next to the tide line, even though it was a good ten metres away. As a consequence we called her Bridget Jones.

Diving was another experience that I was introduced to during my time at Bubbles and I am now completely hooked. In the beginning I had no clue of the difference between a bamboo shark and a sting ray (slightly exaggerated) but by the time I left I could spot and sign a number of different species of fish, I shall never however live down the time that I thought that an Indian Walker was a crab. I completed both my open water and advance courses during my stay and this meant that I was able to help out with another aspect of the project, the coral nursery. A few times a week Gareth, one of the conservation facilitators, and me would dive down to the nursery and attach broken corals to the frames and give them a good clean at the same time. At the end of each dive we would practice a ‘skill’, this included ballroom dancing, running without fins (this ended in a fit of giggles), making a swim through with our legs and doing summersaults. It is moments like these that I definitely miss the most.

After my first month I was given the position of Head Volunteer. This effectively put me under the bracket of staff but I continued to have all of the responsibilities that I had previously as a volunteer, apart from the fact that I was able to take my own snorkel tours. The snorkelling round the islands is incredible, I snorkelled with different species of turtle, black-tip reef sharks, barracuda and many other beautiful fish hidden beneath the coral. As a volunteer you also get to go on one of these snorkel tours and I can safely say it is one of the best places I have snorkelled in the world. Not only is there a copious amount of marine life, but the wildlife above the water is everywhere to be found. Both flying lemur’s and dusky langur monkey’s will interrupt you whilst you are trying to eat by swinging through the trees next to the restaurant. Monitor Lizards, Whip Snakes and Geckos are constantly hiding around the resort and you are able to get so close to these fascinating creatures. The island is a hot spot for wildlife and I was lucky enough able to be right amongst it.

The days at Bubbles were filled with beach cleaning, hatchery maintenance, jungle trekking, palm weaving and covering up turtle tracks. You were never bored, there is always something to be fixed, built, drawn etc and I learnt so many new skills during my time volunteering, including how to use a power-saw (slightly worrying for my Mother). However, you are always given some downtime, either to go for a swim and a snorkel or simply to read a book in a hammock and watch the sunset on the beach.

The evenings are filled with swapping stories about what goes on during the day, having a game of cards or a few drinks, bbq’s, malay dinners and patrolling the beach for turtles. You would think that a seven hour nightshift would drag, but the patrols flew by, especially when you were with someone else. If there wasn’t a turtle to distract you, you would end up talking until the sun would come up. Some of my best memories of my time spent volunteering are of the nightshifts; we would make up star constellations, take photos using lazer pens, we saw a moon that looked exactly like a jaffa cake and played in the brightest bioluminescence I have ever seen. You really get to know people properly when it is just the two of you sat on a beach at night and I loved how sociable the project was.

Oh and just a side note, the seafood curry that the kitchen staff make is just delicious, I have taken the recipe home in hope that when I make it, it will be at least fifty percent as good as theirs.

One of the main things I have taken from my two months volunteering is the people I have met. They are some of the most incredible characters with the most insane stories to tell and I will continue to keep in touch with them for a long time to come. I got to know people working in all aspects of the resort and I really felt like I had been welcomed into the Bubbles family.

This program has shown me that you can make a difference in one place, no matter how small, and how rewarding it is to see the work that you do having such a positive impact. I would recommend this conservation programme to anyone, it has so many different aspects to it that there is something for everyone to enjoy, no matter how long they wish to stay for. It has completely opened my eyes and becoming involved with conservation projects all over the world is currently where I would like my life to lead, as a result I am looking into returning to Bubbles to continue to help the turtles.”

If you are interested to volunteer in this programme, visit Diving, Turtle & Coral Conservation Volunteer at Perhentian Island or email explore@ecoteer.com

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Sam at the Jogja Wildlife Rescue Centre

My experience at the Jogja Wildlife Rescue Centre was life changing. I found myself completing tasks and experiencing things I never imagined that I would. And I absolutely loved it! The staff, the locals and other volunteers made me feel so welcome, that after a while it felt like home. I learnt so much working with the animals and even saw some that I didn’t know existed. Spending time with the orangutans was unquestionably the highlight of the trip. They are the most incredible animals and I did have a little cry when I had to say goodbye. My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer.

By Sam Hunt
For more  info on the programme, visit Jogjakarta Wildlife Rescue Centre. For more info on volunteering projects in Indonesia, visit Volunteer in Indonesia

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Creating Enrichments for the Wildlife Rescue Centre

Ever since the Jogjakarta Wildlife Rescue Centre volunteering project got launched just several months ago, the project has been going on great!

Volunteers had a great time creating enrichment props and food for the wildlife in the rescue centre.

Volunteers setting up the hammock for the orangutan

Volunteers feeding the orangutans fruit popsicle which is a food enrichment made by volunteers

Volunteers painting the cage

Volunteers setting up the enrichment props for the animals

Besides creating enrichment props and food for the animals, this programme also heavily focus on English and Environmental education to the local school children. Volunteers will be taken to meet these children and teach them English, art, science etc.

Volunteers guiding the children how to make art from recycled materials

Volunteers doing their lesson plans to prepare activities for the children

Volunteers and the children with their finish art of a human body made from recycled materials

Besides teaching English to the children, the volunteers also teaches the Wildlife Centre staff English too. This creates an opportunity for volunteers and the staff of the wildlife centre to interact and learn about each other’s culture.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to interact with the local community through activities such as having authentic Javan dinner with a local family and at the same time learn how to cook some of the Javan dishes, have evening activities with the locals etc.

Volunteers having a Javan dinner with one of the local family

Volunteers helping out with dinner preparation the Javan way

A trip to get fresh coconuts

Free time for some badminton action with other volunteers

It is a great opportunity to see Indonesia and experience the culture and learn about animal rehabilitation through this programme. For the full information on this project, visit Jogjakarta Wildlife Rescue Centre or visit the Facebook page

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Jogjakarta Wildlife Centre Volunteering Project

We are glad to announce that Ecoteer Responsible Travel has a new project on board!

The Jogjakarta Wildlife Centre volunteering programme!

This volunteering project focuses on helping orphaned and injured animals back to health and then release it to the wild again. The centre provides the a second chance to the animals poached in the wild rainforest of Borneo.

The centre currently has orangutans, Javan Eagles, gibbons, crocodiles and many other bird species.

One of the best part of this project is that most of the staff of the wildlife centre are locals, so volunteers are able to work with them and spread environmental awareness to the villagers as well. Volunteers will also be teaching the villagers informal English by incorperating wildlife conservation issues too.

Wanna know more about the animals in the rescue centre? Here are some of their stories!

Siamang Gibbons

Some animals have special characteristics such as the Siamang Gibbon. It is one of the native animals on the Sumatra Island. It has a smooth dense black hair and gular sac. This gular sac is on the upper neck and inflates like a balloon when the Siamang Gibbon sings. The callings are territory markers for a group and they are only performed in typical daytime, creating a beautiful choir.

There are 5 male Siamang Gibbons at the centre, Genbi, Cheetah, Mumun, Boy, and Tomang. They were all rescued from illegal keeping.

Cheetah

Cheetah was rescued on September 2nd 2003 from a restaurant on the road edge to a beach at Ciamis, West Java.  It was kept in a small cage, so it couldn’t move freely, though it was nicely treated by the owner.  Cheetah is the oldest Simang Gibbon at the centre.

Tomang

Tomang was taken from a two storey construction store at Jogja – Wates highway. On the evacuation, Tomang hurt the hand of a rescue team member, so it had to be anesthetized. He loves to eat leaves, such as water spinach, bitter bean leaves, or cabbage.

Mumun

Mumun was delivered by its owner on January 2nd 2004. Almost every month after, the owner kept on coming to see Mumun. Before Mumum came to the centre its owner had an accident whilst Mumun was on his back.  The accident caused a serious opened abces on his elbow, this was when his owner sought the help of the centre and with long treatment, the wound eventually healed.  Mumun can now swing around again. Mumun never like’s his bucket to be filled with water, so he always empties the bucket every time the animal keeper fills it. Mumun also like to play chase and catch.

Boy

Boy is a shy Siamang Gibbon, not an aggressive one. He was seized by Bengkulu’s BKSDA on August 7th 2004. Boy was kept by chain on a tall pole, and had to be anesthetized by blowpipe to evacuate him.

Genby

Genby was rescued from Tegal, Centre Java on December 19th 2004. The owner was old and sick (coughing), causing worries that Genby would be infected. So the owner decided to give Genby to the centre. Tegal is a playful Siamang and uses all enrichments to play, including spinning and hanging around on the rubber ropes. Genby also likes leaves so much.

Kalaweit Gibbons & Sumatran Gibbons

Sumatran and Kalaweit Gibbons have magical callings, especially at dawn. This calling is a territory marker in the group. Their hair color varies between black, bright brown, and dark brown. There are 5 Sumatran Gibbons at the centre, which are Tomwek, U’uk, Tungtung, Tomi, and Thole, while the Kalaweit Gibbons are Cempluk and Onyong. Each is put in an enclosure with enrichments inside.

Tomi

Tomi was seized from a hotel on March 24th 2003. It is a Sumatran Owa, and the first animal in the centre. Tomi is the most attractive male of all Owa in JOC. It loves the stuff worn by the animal keepers, like hats, masks, gloves, and even glasses. Actually Tomi is so cute and obedient, just need to be a little careful he won’t take our stuff.

U’uk

U’uk was given to the centre by its owner on September 11th 2003. He is the oldest Owa at the centre. U’uk was in a bad condition when he came to centre and continues to be very aggresive.

Tungtung

Tungtung was given to the centre on March 12th 2005, and was given by a Jogjakarta citizen. Tungtung and U’uk have their enclosure next to each other.

Tole

Tole was given to the centre on December 23rd 2005. When Tole was given he was just young, only 2 years old. Tole is a male Sumatran Owa with a golden color. Basically, Tole is a cheerful and playful Owa.

Tomwek

The real name is Tomi, because its arrival was at the same time with a public figure called Tomi Soeharto at a village in Sumedang, West Java. But because it’s a female, when it arrived at the centre on September 23rd 2003 it was named Tomwek or Tomi Cewek (female Tomi). The color is bright brown with estimated age more than 10 years old, loves to sing a lot, especially when she sees someone around. Tomwek loves her bucket, and often plays and sleeps in it. Tomwek’s song raising a magical atmosphere in the morning, it’s almost as if you were in the forest.

Cempluk

Cempluk is a female Owa that was given by a citizen from Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta Special Region, on April 21st 2004. On its arrival day, Cempluk was already an adult, so at this time, she was probably more than 10 years old. Her calling songs are so beautiful and unique with treble sound endings, typical to Kalaweit Gibbons. She is so shy, but loves to collect branches and leaves on one of the enclosure’s corner, as if it is a nest. Cempluk also loves to play with branches and leaves by swinging them above the enclosure.

Onyong

Onyong is a young male Kalaweit Gibbon and arrived on January 13th 2006. He is very tame and likes to play “pretends to pull the hands and fall with a roll”. Onyong was rescued from a village at Sleman, Jogjakarta with typical color of Kalaweit Gibbons, and loves honey from a bamboo stick.

Orang utans

BONI : Charming Means Me

My name is Boni. I’m a male Borneo orangutan. I’m 16th years old  and I live in the Wildlife Rescue Centre, Jogja – Yogyakarta, a centre for rehabilitate Indonesia wildlife by confiscation operation from illegal trade and illegal pets.

I was saved on October 14th 2006 from a village headman in Muntilan – Central Java by a laws enforcement operation. At that time I was just 10 years old. I was kept in a small cage in front of the house, living with me was several animals. My former owner taught me to clean the car and the floor to my cage.  I will still clean my cage if you give me a brush.

When I was saved from my former owner, it was like an action drama. Because my former owner was a hoodlum and a powerful man, the rescue team from Indonesian Nature Conservancy Agency (BKSDA) and orangutans activists concern there are negative acts from him after they take me to the centre. But with several police officers guarding the rescue team their fears went.

Now more than five years for me living in the rehabilitate centre, and I still can’t relieve my habit to brushing floor, a habit which is actually not a natural behavior for a large male orangutan like me.

But you know what? I’m a handsome, gentle and spoiled orangutan, but with my big cheek pad and my shiny brown fur, I’m a gorgeous orangutan. And that’s a fact you cannot deny.

Here are other facts about me – Boni the orangutan. I really love plays with car tires and tree log inside my cage. My others favorite are eating bamboo shoots and coconuts. I can peel the coconut only in few minutes. If there’s an orangutans competition for peeling coconuts, I’m sure I will be a champion.

That’s some stories about me – Boni a charming orangutan.

Dedek: There’s A Sweet in Me

My name is Dedek. I’m a Borneo orangutan. I was an orphaned orangutan. After poachers had killed my mother and brought me to Java I was sold to a police officer in Semarang – Central Java. I’m really sad, because I was separated from my mother. I even don’t know my mother anymore. The police officer in Semarang had a mini zoo at his residential complex. There was another Borneo orangutan placed in same cage with me – Gogon was his name. He’s like a brother for me. The police officer usually brought me and Gogon around the area with his motorcycle. Because I was a baby orangutan at that time, my body was still susceptible to illness. In September 22th 2006, me and Gogon was saved by the Central Java Indonesian Nature Conservancy Agency. Confiscated by the government from my illegal owner, they brought me to the rescue centre in Yogyakarta. In Indonesia, having or keeping orangutan as a pet is illegal.
In the rescue centre I underwent several medical tests. The results showed that there was a chronic infection which made me grow slower than Gogon.

Now with the time passed by, with routine treatment by Dian my local vet, I’m getting better. Yes, I’m a healthy orangutan, now!

In the centre I was separated from my big bro Gogon. And it made me mourn. Fortunately it did not last long. Now, I stay in the same cage with Gogon. We always share food and toys. Banana’s my favorite.
Wrestling and rolling games are always fun with Gogon. Sometimes I slam Gogon too hard when we are playing, but Gogon never gets mad with me.

Another favorite thing is my orangutan hammock tire, and I wouldn’t share it with Gogon.

Yes, I’m a cute and sweet orangutan. Naughty? No, I just like fun.

That’s some stories about me – Dedek a sweet orangutan.

GOGON : Curious is Me

Hello there! Have you ever heard about orangutans? Endangered species of the great ape family and we’re the only great ape from Asia that still extant, although very apprehensive. There are two orangutan genus; Pongo pygmaeus (Bornean orangutan) and Pongo abelii (Sumatran orangutan), and our native habitats are Borneo and Sumatera Island.

Well, that’s a background about orangutan. Now, I want tell you about myself.
My name is Gogon. I’m an orphaned Borneo Orangutan, I am now 13 years old and I haven’t seen my homeland – Borneo  – since I was 2. It’s because I was kept illegally since I was an infant.

A police officer at Semarang – Central Java owned me as his pet. He had a mini zoo in his residential complex, and I was one of his collections. With me, there was another Borneo orangutan – Dedek. Dedek was a baby when kept with the same cage with me. I loved Dedek just like my little sister. My former owner usually took me and Dedek around the residential complex with a motorcycle and gave me candies.

When I was 7th years old, there was a laws enforcement operation by Indonesian Nature Conservancy Agency- the Ministry of Forestry of Republic Indonesia. The government confiscated me from my illegal owner and brought me to the rescue centre in Yogyakarta. From that time, I rehabilitate in Jogja Orangutan Centre in the same cage with Dedek.

Not intents to arrogant, but I’m a gallant, clever and cunning orangutan. And handsome orangutan too! I love to explore something new in my cage and using it as a tool. Sometimes I used to escape from my cage, and it will make my keepers annoyed.

Even I’m older and stronger than my little orangutan sister Dedek, I succumb to her more because she’s just like a little sis for me. I always treat Dedek well.

I loved to play in my cage with Dedek. Wrestling and rolling are our favorite game. Sometime when we played – Duo Orangutans games, Dedek without conscious slammed me hard. But it’s not a problem for me, and I’m not angry to him.

That’s some stories about me – Gogon a curious orangutan.

JOKO: On the Moves

I’m cute, active, smart, and a little bit naughty. My name is Joko. I’m an 8 year old male Borneo orangutan. Just like other orangutan that kept by human since a baby, I was an orphaned orangutan. Before being sent to the centre by Indonesian Nature Conservancy Agency, I was kept illegally at a restaurant in Solo – Central Java. I was placed in a very narrow cage and showed as a spectacle for the restaurant’s customers. With me, there was a female orangutan – Ucok. I couldn’t play in the narrow cage. At my former place, I smoked cigarettes every night. Well, because my former owner gave cigarette to me.

At my new place I am in the same cage with Ucok – my former partner. Believe me, there’s no cigarette for orangutans anymore in my new place. I really love to tease my animal keeper. Grab something from the animal keeper quickly is my specialty. So they must be very careful and vigilant when near my cage. I also love when the animal keepers are busy all day, because they try to move me to the transfer cage to clean my main cage.

That’s some stories about me – Joko the energetic orangutan.

UCOK: Beautifully Eyes

Hello, my name is Ucok. I’m a 12 year old female orphaned Borneo orangutan. I live in the rescue centre for rehab, and I am hoping someday I can go home to Borneo – my home island.

My new life at the centre began on October 6th 2011. It was the most important time of my life. On that night I was brought by Indonesian Nature Conservancy Agency in a confiscation operation from Solo – Central Java to the rescue centre in Yogyakarta. Yes, as an orangutan, I was kept illegally by my former owner in a restaurant in Solo.

Together with Joko (8 years old) – a male Borneo orangutan, we were kept in cramped cages in the middle of a fish pond and showed as a spectacle for the restaurant’s customers. I have a big belly and people often thought I was pregnant.

Before pregnancy test, I must learn to adapt with the orangutan’s diet menu. It was really hard for me at first, because even though I’m an orangutan, I prefer to eat rice instead of fruits and vegetables. But after two weeks in the centre, I started to like my new menu of fruits and vegetables.

After a few weeks to adapt to my new place, I finally underwent a pregnancy test. Using the ultrasonography machine, the animal keepers held my hands, feet, and my head. It was really strange for me, an orangutan. They put lotion on my stomach and there was a tool they moved around on my stomach. After the test, I heard Dian the rescue centre’s vet said that I’m not pregnant. They called my condition pseudo pregnancy.

Now, I spend my days learning new things, because I must learn to be a real orangutan. There are some toys in my cage. I love to swing. But my favorite is playing with the flowing water pipe, to wash my face, hands and sometimes I even wash my sleeping blanket.

That’s some stories about me – Ucok the beautiful orangutan.

Eagles

There are 11 eagles from many species at the centre, all were rescued from illegal trading and injuries. Nine of them are eagles which deserve rehabilitation for ultimate release, while 2 of them are disabled and cannot be released. In 2011 we released 2 eagles back to the wild.  Check out our video clips. It is very difficult to change an eagles behavior because of their strong memory. So, if there is any mistake in the behavior treatment, it could cause a failure to the release programme. Some of the eagles are:

Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis)

This Black Eagle was turned by citizen of Mount Merapi slope on July 22nd 2003.

The left wing carpal was garroted and has gangrene because it was kept in a small cage, making the eagle disabled and unable to fly, therefore cannot be released. Until now, the injury on this female eagle’s wing sometimes reoccur’s.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus)

A Changeable Hawk-eagle is from a middle age lady from the Central Java region, she cares about wildlife. The lady delivered the eagle herself from her home that was about 150 km north of Jogjakarta. Now, this eagle is being rehabilitated for releasing. The other two are the result of a rescue from illegal trading. Policemen accidentally saved these eagles when they were inspecting the motorcycles on the road. One of the eagles is an infant which certainly still needs maternal care.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus)

This eagle was evacuated from a Mount Merapi Eruption on October 30th 2010. He was left behind by his owner who sought refuge from the danger zone of Mount Merapi. By the animal volunteers, it was evacuated and given to the rescue centre in a sick and starving condition. With treatments at the centre, the eagle slowly regained health and is now able to catch fish from above his pool.

Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela)

Both of these eagles are a result of a rescue from illegal trading. Policemen accidentally saved these eagles when they were inspecting the motorcycles on the road. One of them had an eye injury when rescued that caused blindness.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)

It is an opportunistic eagle and is the symbol of Jakarta, the Capital City of Indonesia. This eagle was also rescued during a Police inspection on motorcycles on the road. Those eagles were going to be sold outside Jogjakarta.

Javan Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus bartelsi)

It is endemic to Java and can only be found in certain region’s including Mount Merapi forests, about 40 km north of the centre. This eagle was given to the centre by a student after he bought it from a merchant. Because of his awareness, this eagle was given a chance at the centre. It seems this eagle was kept a long time by the merchant and caged in a small area. He has rope marks on both his legs. His beak is elongated like a parrot which means this eagle has never been able to grind it’s beak, maybe because he has been tied on an iron percher for most of his life.

This programme is perfect for any animal lovers who wants to help teach and interact with the local villagers of Jogja.

To know more, visit Jogjakarta Wildlife Rescue Centre or email explore@ecoteer.com

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Interview: Greening up South Africa

The Ecoteer interview with Marleen Lammers, representing one of the organisations in South Africa focusing on greening up the environment and the cities by planting trees and spreading the awareness of  sustainable environment.

Give us a brief summary of what your organization/ project is about and how did it start?

Our organization is a social enterprise that plants trees and sets up creative ways of sustaining trees through community involvement and spreads environmental education in sub-Saharan Africa. The objectives are to uplift communities, plant trees in deforested areas, green under-greened urban areas, spread environmental awareness, combat climate change and inspire a green movement by making greening enjoyable. We started in September 2010 and has since planted over 12,000 trees in over 170 beneficiary schools, crèches, orphanages, old-age homes, community centres as well as deforested areas. Creative tree-care programmes have been implemented and children, community members and volunteers are getting their hands dirty, learning a lot and loving it.

Our organization recently won the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Western Cape Provincial Government competition for Social Enterprises in South Africa, as well as a LeadSA competition run by Cape Talk in association with the Dischem Foundation. We were also shortlisted for an Enviropeadia award in two categories in South Africa.

Our organization is a fast-growing social enterprise that offers a very dynamic, inspiring, and fun working environment. Everyone involved in incredibly passionate about what they’re doing, and the enthusiasm rubs off on anyone who joins. Moreover, it is exciting and rewarding to be able to make a real difference in underprivileged communities, and to contribute to a greener Africa.

How does your project benefit the local community?

Our urban greening projects provide underprivileged and under-greened schools with fruit trees, giving them both healthy food and something to be proud of and take ownership of.

What are the most interesting aspects of your projects from volunteers feedback?

Some of our volunteers’ feedback:

“Everyone working for here gets swept along into a positive and productive working atmosphere. I’m sure I’ll come home a different person, having learnt and experienced tons and carrying with me the knowledge of how to change the world one tree at a time.” (Charlotte Brinkmann, Germany)

“Thank you so much for the amazing way in which you organized the tree planting project. It was such a pleasure to plant when the hard work is done!”

(Andy, South Africa)

“I loved meeting and working with the children at the schools. They were so responsive to the tree planting program that we carried out. Thank you so much!”

(Megan, USA)

What do volunteers learn while volunteering for your organization?

Volunteers are able to immerse themselves in local South African cultures, and learn from cultural interaction. They will also learn about environmental issues, and what it takes to spread environmental awareness.

Are there any fascinating/ inspiring events have you seen from your project? If yes, what was it?

Many! I would say our videos show this best. This is an example of an inspiring planting day we recently hosted:

What type of volunteers are suitable for your project?

Anyone with an interest in the environment, a desire to help inspire a green movement in Africa, and a willingness to get their hands dirty!

Any last words you would like to share with the volunteers to volunteer for your organization?

Join our Treevolution!

If you are interested to join this volunteering programme in South Africa, go to Environmental Education & Urban Greening Volunteering Project for more information.

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Perhentian Turtle Conservation Project in the Newspapers!

This week, the Malaysian daily newspaper The Star published two article about the Turtle conservation project on Perhentian Island Malaysia.

One article was an interview with the resort management that host the conservation programme. The resort manager Peisee, explained the history of the programme at that resort and how it begun from the first day she saw turtle tracks on the resort beach thinking that some one drove a tractor on the beach. She also explained how the resort is positioned on the beach in such a way that it attracts turtles to lay on its beach. You can read more of the article from here Ethical Turtle Tourism

The second article was about the resort’s conservation project facilitator, Gareth. In this article, he shared his view about turtle egg poachers as well as his job scope working as a conservation project facilitator which involves guarding the beach at night, managing the hatchery and supervising the Ecoteer volunteers in all of the turtle conservation task. It is an interesting article if you would to know more about his occupation and job scope as well as the current turtle threats in the Terengganu and Kelantan state in Malaysia. You can read more about it here Lifeline for Turtles

For more of this project information, go to Bubbles Turtle & Coral Conservation.

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Planting lessons

During the month of May, our volunteers Katharina & Eileen taught the kids how to plant. They provided them each with a pot, soil and seeds.

After a month, the plants are growing really well even though the oil palm plantation village is currently having quite a bad drought. The children now use the plants to decorate their school.

The children love it when Ecoteer volunteers come and teach them something new during their class and just make things less routine and more interesting to learn and our volunteers are able to get them really excited and eager to go to school every day. Whenever they see a new volunteer a rriving, they will be shy but also eager to get to know the volunteers and ask them so many questions about what they do and where they came from.

These volunteers who mainly come from the UK and may other western countries is also able to teach them subjects which are not covered by the local school syllabus such as environmental awareness studies, arts & craft, math and science in English and many more. The children are also starting to pick up English with a variety of accents as well as other foreign language – one word at a time.

As these kids do not get the chance to go out of the palm oil plantation very often, our volunteers bring their world into the plantation through books, movies, stories etc and they children have ‘seen’ many things just from the stories of the volunteers.

It is also an interesting experience for the volunteers because the children will also share bits of pieces of their life with the volunteers while interacting with them. The volunteers will learn about their culture and the children way of living and get an insight of how the community thinks and react toward certain issues, learning what is taboo in the community and what’s not. It is a great cultural experience and because the minimum stay required is 4 weeks, volunteers will be able to observe and help out in many ways.

Teach in Borneo is an interesting project to take on if you enjoy teaching and learning about culture from the people themselves and not from the tourist guide. On weekends, you also get to chance to visit famous locations such as the Turtle Island, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Mount Kinabalu and many more.

Read more about this project at Teach in Borneo or email explore.ecoteer.com for more information.

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Tree Planting @ Teach in Borneo

Last month, our volunteers from the Teach in Borneo project organized a tree planting field trip for the children of the schools involved in our project.

It was an exciting event for the children because they get very little chance to venture our of their village.

Our volunteers worked with the HUTAN organization also known as the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation project in the state of Sabah, Malaysia. HUTAN help organized this trip with the participation 15 of the students limited by the amount of funds.

For most of the students, tree planting is very uncommon as their community is not exposed much to environmental awareness. Which is why this field trip plays an important role to raise their environmental awareness.

However due to insufficient fundings, field trips as such cannot not carried out frequently and only selected student get to participate in it. If you would like to fundraise or donate to the Teach in borneo project, you can email explore@ecoteer.com for more information.

To many, tree planting is an ordinary field trip, but it is more than a field trip to them because they get to go out from the palm oil plantation and explore new things. That is why field trips such as these are very important to broaden up their minds.

We would like to thank HUTAN and our volunteers for putting up alot of effort to make the field trip a success.

For more information on the Teach in Borneo project, go to Teach English in Borneo.

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