Once again, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to apologise for the long silence. I know I have neglected to keep you up to date with all that is going on in orangutan-land. If I have an excuse it is only that I have been struggling to keep up myself. June has looked like this:
(Supply boat after it was refloated, repaired and painted)
First week: Five straight days in the field investigating a case of illegal farming inside the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, which is when I managed to get Jak hopelessly lost (or vice-versa as I still maintain!) followed by a meeting with the mangers of one of the palm-oil plantations which border the Reserve. After that, we continued onto Sukamara, the next district capital, where we are establishing an office.
Second week: To Jakarta where Astri, I and representatives of seven other projects attended a coordination meeting with the European Commission Delegation prior to the opening of the Indonesia Environment Week exhibition. If nothing else, the meeting made us proud our little project is holding its own at the sharp end. I also met with the director of a company which conducts bio-carbon surveys. Many people are talking about trying to protect forests through carbon-offsets, or Reduced Emissions through avoided Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects, but very little is actually happening on the ground. That is a ring into which we want to throw our hat – Belantikan is a stand-out candidate for protection. For a taste of what this involves have a look at http://www.climate-standards.org/ and follow the links to “Climate, Community & Biodiversity Project Design Standards, Draft Second Edition”. Finally, I met with the coordinators of the cross border, USAID funded project we are working on.
Third week: Should have been back in the office attending to paperwork, but it did not turn out that way! Our supply boat was battered in heavy seas, made it to the Buluh Besar guard post then promptly sank. Our supervisor, Teguh, was apologetic but he really needn’t have been: clearly not his fault. I also went back to Lamandau to check on progress at the new release camp which the volunteers are building. Then, last weekend, I went up to Pondok Ambung to have a few days with the crocodile researcher.
In between there was the usual mix of staff management issues (how do you budget for out-of-the-blue double digit inflation?); an audit; a volunteer with a horribly infected leg derived from over-zealous scratching of mosquito bites and my Indonesian counter-part saying he can’t continue to work in Borneo with his wife – who is expecting their first child – still in Java. He has been like a second limb to me, and his departure is big blow.
I am sure like many other people reading this blog, my problem is trying to juggle too many balls at the same time. A problem which is made worse by my being a mere male who is genetically incapable of multi-tasking! The up-side, however, is that I did manage to sneak up to Camp Leakey to see Uning the daughter of one of my favourite orangutans, Unyuk. Uning has just had her first baby. It was great to see them.