Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Flying Over at the Last Habitat of Sumatran Orangutan

It cost us two days to fly to Sumatra accompanying US Ambassador Cameron Hume, Jatna, Glenn Prickett, Arifin Panigoro, Tom and Ann Friedman and best friend—indeed—Mr Alfred Nakatsuma of USAID. We have seen the last habitat of the orangutans at Batang Toru Watershed Area, in the middle of the huge natural forest. One can clearly see from the airplane that the forest in Sumatra is disappearing rapidly, mainly in the lowland areas.We discuss about the oil palm threats as well as other economic activities in the area. As many other parts of Sumatra, there are not so many lowland forest habitat left, as I have seen the rest of forest left in some areas –included Batang Toru— it seen only the peak of high elevation, means not on the lowland forest.

We fly over a part of good forest, home to some 350-400 Sumatran orangutans. This area seems to be the last orangutan home in the southern part Tapanuli. Batang Toru holds at least six principal habitat types, including most of the forest (above 620m), hillside moist forest (dominant between 200m–600m), lowland, cliffs and talus slopes, secondary forest and riparian forest. The total existant habitat covers approximately 148,000 ha.We arrived at Aek Godang Air Port and continue our trip along the hard trails to get Aek Nabara Village and meet the community.

They are really happy and tell us about their dreams and thank the group for the visit to their area. Mr. Hasibuan, the head of the village, says they are surprised and thank CI for their understanding of the importance of the orangutans in their area. According to Conservation International, most of the forests in the West Batang Toru area are facing a severe thrat of deforestation, so that the orangutan population in this area has been under high pressure.On the other hand, this prediction can come true in the future, since the area is surrounded by provincial and regency level roads, new settlements that continue to extend upward, penetrating the forest.

The orangutan habitat is disturbed by humans through forest conversion to agriculture and plantation areas (dominated by the oil palm), and logging or gold mining activities, either legal or illegal.The most interesting lesson of this trip, is to see Tom Friedman persistently working, always taking notes with his laptop. Tom is on leave and concentrating on a new book. The creative process of this writer of international fame and winner of the Pulitzers prize is amazing to watch.

I envy him his amazing laptop with strong battery , with which he can continue to work for 3-4 hours , whereas mine lastsonly 30 minutes! Why? that is because (being honest…I use a
recycled computer). Yet my contributions to the conservation are useful (I think).You might read some articles by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, or the book The Lexus and The Olive Tree, which has been translated into Indonesian and so many other books he wrote.

Tom is concerned with conservation in Indonesia, and he really helps us to spread the word to let people know about our activities and what happens in this remote area to the species!Tom is an amazing writer, because his ‘cursor’ may influence US policy, which might be change the world.

I hope that after Toms visit to Indonesia and Batang Toru, there will be a significant change in the perfective of the world (including the US) to our forest and living community ’In Indonesia.

TOM FRIEDMAN ABOUT His visit to Batang Toru Area, Sumatra

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Conservation or 'Conversation?'

Dr. Mubariq Ahmad CEO WWF Indonesia (midle)

Salimah, a Muslim women organization for Islamic preaching (Da’wah) invited me to attend their gathering at Asrama Haji Pondok Gede, Jakarta (March 8th ). This Muslim Women organization lively force from the economic, capacity building, da’wah to disaster relief and -- having a significant grass root supporters ---enthusiastic to understand about conservation and environment.

Being honest, actually I replaced Dr. Hendri Bastaman (Assistant to the Ministry of Environment) who cannot attend the meeting. The organization claimed nation wide members and advocating of Muslim (women activism) instead other women organization: Muslimat NU –affiliated with NU and Aisiyyah wich is associated to Muhammadiyah.

The perfect presentation nowadays a systematic methodology to explain Islamic perfective to nature is a simple presentation produced by IFEES: Qur’an, Creation and Conservation (authored by Fazlun Khalid); the module available in Bahasa Indonesia and that translated by Conservation and Religion Program Conservation International Indonesia.

Conservation is not a popular terminology. It proven that in some where people have wrongly spelt it to ‘conversation’. I find the similar ‘guess’ to my bank statement too. That is why conservationist have to work hard to spread the facts of conservation not to become only a ‘conversation’, not doing anything like No Action but Talk Only (NATO). I find this action implemented in today’s dialogue at the students of Sekolah Tinggi Agama Islam Madinatul Ilmi (STAIMI), Depok who has a positive movement, they plant 1000 trees and they would like to understand what Islamic Perfective to the Nature by discussing my new book: Menanam Sebelum Kiamat: Islam Ekologi dan Gerakan Lingkungan.

Book Discussion: Menanam Sebelum Kiamat

At least the fundamental spirit of the eagerness nurturing the earth would be much more encouraged if they understand the knowledge which is much more involved by their ‘heart’ and believe. About 60 students attended the discussion they are enthusiastic to learn as well taking actions and care a contribution to save the earth from global warming.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


March, 5 2008, Ministry of environment (Rachmat Witoelar) launched a program specially to encourage Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) to involve in the environmental movement.

The frame called ‘eco-pesantren’. 600 Islamic boarding school member attended at the gathering and they are from all the schools of East Java, Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara. I was surprised that now Pesantren become one of the leads to the movement in regards of their potential influence in the grass roots level.

To note now there about 17thousand numbers of Pesantren in Indonesia and they mostly existed in the rural areas and villages. It serves more than 2 million students. A little contribution the small world, I am proudly also involve to contribute as a member of the ‘guideline team’ for the eco-pesantren’ and Ministry office has produce ‘Buku Panduan Eco Pesantren’. Hopefully, this step could be a significant contribution in the future.