Fires in Tanjung Puting National Park

I know you are still waiting to hear an orangutan story – for that I apologise. The post is written and will follow this one but I have been caught up in rather more immediate events. I wrote some weeks ago how little rain we have received, well we are now into our third week without a decent shower and have suffered our first fire (see photos below) in Tanjung Puting National Park.

Forest behind Pondok Ambung

Fire behind Pondok Ambung 2

Fire fighting Pondok Ambung

Fire Pondok Ambung

Six and a half hectares went up behind Pondok Ambung Research Station. The fire burned through scrub and secondary forest – it was held at the edge of the primary forest which was a relief but, sadly, this is only a sign of things to come.

We are caught up in “La Nina” weather phenomena which is effecting the Pacific bringing rain storms to north eastern Australia and drought to south-eastern Australia and, bizarrely, to us. Here, I have lived through two El Nino events, in 2002 and 2006. On both occasions the extended dry season resulted in wide spread fires and chocking haze. The fires of 2006 catapulted Indonesia into third place on the list of the largest emitters of green house gases. El Ninos are bad. I have to say, I am not impressed by its sister La Nina either. To be so dry at this time of the year is beyond exceptional. And it will impact on the orangutans. Already, the evening sky is filling with smoke.

Small blazes are tackled directly, encircled by lots of people who tamp down the spreading edges and are backed up by the hand sprayers. Larger blazes require the making of a cut line across the fire front, which is typically a metre (3’) wide scar of bare soil; in 2006 the cut line in Tanjung Puting was 12 km long (see photo below).

Cut line TPNP

The cut line is then patrolled until the fire arrives and is then prevented from crossing. For small fires, our staff is usually first on the scene. For larger fires, everyone is called in including people from the surrounding villages.

Cut line TPNP 2

Now I am going to break with tradition and ask directly for support. I have no idea whether this request is allowable under Wildlife Direct rules; all I can do is vouch for its sincerity. We need to equip our staff with fire fighting tools. The principal tool is a “beater”, which consists of a bamboo pole with a cut car tire ‘tongue’ at the end. We need to buy lots of these beaters so that we are ready to tackle the fires. I am asking for a $2 donation from each reader. The beaters costs around $1.50 and the extra money will go towards buying hand sprayers which are used for dousing beaten, but still hot, embers (see photo below).

Fire fighting Pondok Ambung 2

Thank you for your support and I will keep you updated.