I apologise for the lack of orangutan news recently. I was at my desk for all of last week because every year, during January, we have to write up the previous year’s activities and prepare the work plan for the year ahead. These reports are then submitted to the Government. It is not without its interesting moments, but essentially it’s a bureaucratic exercise that certainly doesn’t involve watching orangutans. And it hasn’t been the easiest time to do all this. The reality of life here is that if it is not a power cut it is a fuel shortage. I am typing (thank you laptop) this by candlelight – we have had no electricity since 5pm and it is now 9 pm. There is virtually no diesel in town, which is why the electricity generating station is only operating part time and kerosene has already run out. Indeed, even in Jakarta families are being rationed to 1 litre per week which is nothing when kerosene is the main cooking fuel. In our camps and guard posts the Assistants are having to cook on wood fires, something we hate having to do. The lack of diesel is providing a challenge for our forest patrols. Only journeys that are essential can be made so we have to prioritise our work carefully in order that we can maintain our high profile monitoring and vigilance. The forests need protection fuel or no fuel.
The fuel shortages don't just affect my work life but my home life too. Recently I was asked about snakes. Snakes, while certainly not my favourite animal, I can cope with. Spiders, however, give me the heebie-jeebies. The other day I went into my bathroom and saw a huge black huntsman above the door. I fled – naturally. Then there was a power cut -great timing. That night, I went back into the bathroom, with a candle, to wash and wouldn’t you know it the spider had disappeared. And that’s what I hate about spiders: they just appear and then disappear. And my bathroom is next door to the bedroom and trying to find a spider with candle in hand isn't fun. I still haven't found it!
We not only have fuel shortages but we are also experiencing high seas and so very few supplies are getting through. The price of nearly everything; rice, soy sauce and even cement has increased. The weather has been completely unseasonable with very little rain falling this month. The rivers are unbelievably low. February normally heralds the start of the fruit season, but without rain the fruit will wither on the branches. Life is tough in the field, inflation is on the way up and, for the orangutans, there could be lean times ahead with the rehabilitants having to rely on supplied food, which is funded entirely by the Orangutan Foundation.
We’re laying plans and there is a general upbeat mood; to be honest things can really only get easier!
More real orangutan news soon.