Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In the Wild with Donald Trump

Here is what I knew about Orangutans: They are endangered, they like bananas, and - according to Bill Maher - Donald Trump looks exactly like one.

Also, I thought orangutan was spelled with two "gs" as in orangutang.

After three days spent in Tanjung Puting National Park I confirm the following: orangutans are endangered, Donald Trump - not endangered - does resemble an orang love child; and I can spell orangutan but now I can't pronounce it.
Tanjung Puting National Park is located on the island Borneo, but it's on the Indonesian side so that means it's really on the island of Kalimantan. It's actually a peninsula that dips into the Java sea; Tanjung Puting literally means "Protruding Nipple." Not to be outdone by "payudara," which means "breast," but translates literally as "chest fruit." Chest fruit...that is actually how you say boobs in Indonesian. How fantastic is that?

Protruding Nipple Park was carved out as a game reserve in the mid-1930s and made into a national park in the early 1980s. It's also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which really gets my nerdling heart thumping.

This is one of Earth's special, special treasures. Ever heard of a Clouded Leopard? What about a Sun Bear or a Sambar Deer? This park is the stuff of mythical creatures; it's an ecological paradise full of plants and animals that only exist in this one place on Earth.

We saw a Hornbill akin to this one, but the one we saw is so endangered, I can't even find a picture of it on the Internet. Our guide, Arif, practically swallowed his tongue when he spotted it. Arif, by the way, operates Orangutan Applause alongside his wife. He is passionate about forest conservation and sharing Indonesia's ecology with the World. He's also an admitted bird enthusiast, which is pretty adorable. For anyone considering a trip to see the Indonesian Orangutan, I highly recommend going with him.

I also want to mention my travel companions: Sara and Eric (I'm related to them) and Hank and Betty (I'm not related to them but they brought me a million Ziplocs from the USA so they can come to my house anytime they want).

The five of us landed in Kalimantan and were settled on a riverboat - our "home" for three days - and en route to the park entrance by lunch time. Lunch, if you're curious, looked like this:
And our boat, looked like this:

It was like being on the African Queen but with a bunch of hippies. Look at us just taking in the nature from our sweet ride:

Into the jungle we motored, creeping along until the waterway was but a sliver and the jungle was practically hanging into the boat. And this is what we saw:

And look at this little guy!:

And, of course, my personal favorite:

But the main attraction, of course, are the "Forest People" (because that's how "Orang utan" translates in Indonesian. I know. I know. This language is genius.) While we saw plenty of Orangutans swinging from trees as we glided along the river, we also trekked into the forest to various feeding stations.

Here, Orangutans swing in twice daily for free food. Often, it's mamas and babies. Because mama Orangutans aren't stupid: if someone else offers to cook, you take it. 

This has to be - hands down - the best example of multi-tasking in the animal kingdom:

When your arms are the same length as your legs, you can do amazing things:

Tanjung Puting is perhaps most well-known for Camp Leakey, an Orangutan refuge and rehabilitation center. Birute Galdikas - likely a name you aren't familiar with but a good one to remember for crossword puzzles - built the camp in 1971. Leakey might be a familiar name, as in Louis Leakey the mentor to both Diane Fossey (Gorilla lady) and Jane Goodall (Chimpanzee lady). Birute is the Orangutan lady. 

We visited Camp Leakey where Birute still does research. 

This one made my heart melt a little:
These two made me think of every Underwood ever:

And this guy just took a walk right through camp. No big deal: 
Also a wild pig stopped by with her piglets for some banana peel scraps.
The most memorable part of the trip for me was planting a tree as part of the PESALAT reforestation project. Thanks to Arif for organizing this for us. Since 2000, the Friends of the National Park Foundation has replanted some 90,000 trees and rehabilitated 61 of a planned 200 hectares of degradated lands throughout Indonesia. In there among them are three from us. 

Maybe just one more video for the road:

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