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

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