Sunday, 27 December 2009

Another Christmas Tree?

So firstly I want to wish everyone a merry Christmas! Here in Bali we celebrated with a traditional BBQ feast. The boys got up at 5am and went to the local market to get fresh fish, prawns and squid. We girls were in charge of gutting and preparing all the lovely seafood and the condiments so on Christmas day you could find us up to our heads in fish guts and chocolate mousse! A splendid mix if I may say so myself. Dewi and Widi, our local Balinese colleagues came over to celebrate their first Christmas with us and brought some lovely sambal and sumping which hit the right taste buds in a remarkable manner.
We are now back in the office and rearing to go! Here at SOS we have a goal to reach by the end of 2009, we want to plant 25,000 trees inside the Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra by the end of the year; currently we have 2568 trees to go before we reach our target. It costs £1 to plant one rainforest seedling, if you feel like getting another tree this Christmas; you can help us by visiting our webshop or our justgiving page.
Speak to you later!



Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Painting the Jungle Shop

Ok, so this year, May I believe it was, SOS Bali opened the JungleShop, a thrift store in the heart of Ubud.
We have a volunteer Shop Manager and local staff manning the store. The shop has loads of exciting merchandise, because not only do we get second hand donations, we also get new items from boutiques down in Kuta and Seminyak! SOS has put in loads of hard work to ensure that locals, ex-pats and tourists pop by the shop.

Lately we decided that the shop needed some sprucing up and decided to paint the wall with
a picture of Pongo, the orangutan from Teman Hutan, who is also the shop’s mascot. So one evening after work, we loaded up with a projector, brushes and a tin of paint and made our way down to Jalan Gootama. Bali has these scheduled power cuts, but the thing is that even though they are planned, you never really know when they are going to happen. Luckily for us, we had two full evenings of uninterrupted painting, and the powercut didn’t take place until we had finished the full mural.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Arriving in Paradise

Arriving in Bali was like stepping into a totally different country. Indonesia consist of 17,000 islands and the difference from one to another soon becomes clear, especially as you leave Sumatra behind and head to the tourist paradise that is Bali. SOS has an office in Bali, which is where I am working from for the next month or so. The rationale behind the Bali office is quite obvious: there are enough ex-pats and tourists here to keep you fundraising for a lifetime. Because there is such a massive amount of foreigners that have moved here to Bali, there is also a massive opportunity for SOS to go into both private schools and work with classes on a long term basis. We already do a lot of work with local schools, but with fundraising opportunities this would allow us to work with schools on a more long-term basis, and who knows, perhaps the next school trip could be to the jungle to see the Sumatran orangutan?
Bali is not just famous for its epic surf, but is also a hub for craftsmen that create lovely merchandise for SOS and helps us spread awareness and raise funds on a global basis. We reach a massive international audience here, and loads of people come into our office wanting information on the orangutans and how best to consciously go about visiting the orangutans. We help them with general information, work with companies in Sumatra who donates a cut to us and also generate awareness with the tourists before they even reach the jungle
Bali has also been identified as a hub for illegal trade of protected animal species, so it is extra important that we are generating awareness to make sure Bali is not involved with trading of the orangutan or other endangered wildlife.
Since we got to Bali we have also been able to update the Flickr site, so have a look if you want to see more photos from Sumatra, including replanting, school visits and of course Bukit Lawang.
Right, off to see the SOS ‘Jungleshop’ now, will tell you all about what this is in the next blog...


Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sumatran School Visit

During my time in Sumatra I also had the opportunity to go along to a school visit. SOS supports OIC so they can visit local schools, show presentations and films, have Q&A sessions, hand out activity books and even maintain a OranguVan –which contains mobile environmental libraries and film units. The school we visited is situated in the midst of a massive oil plantation area. Most of the children attending this government run school have parents who work on the plantations, making them the perfect target group for addressing local sustainable issues such as Palm Tree plantations and de-forestation. The group we met are called the Green Group, they meet every Wednesday to discuss environmental issues, recycle and do gardening work in their school garden. They run their own pioneering composting programme where they are turning palm oil branches into compost. These branches fall off the trees at regular intervals, and are usually left to rot or collected and incinerated. The children are collecting the branches with support from the plantation and creating good quality compost which they can use at their schools patch of land or take it home to their kitchen gardens. One idea we thought about when we were at the school, was if it is possible to extend this programme to other schools in the area and create our own compost to use on re-forestation sites. I’ll let you know if anything ever comes from this initial thought.
In our presentation we discussed the importance of water, especially clean water, for the ecology and how this affects both animals and humans. We then had a Q&A session where we got to test their environmental knowledge, and they got the chance to ask us about environmental issues and of course about our countries – after all, it’s not every day they have a visit from two English people, a Norwegian and an Australian. We also had the chance to hand out a new children’s book which SOS has helped fund; Teman Hutan, which was very popular with the young conservationists.

The book is printed in English and Bahasa Indonesia, and tells the story of Pongo, the orangutan. It is a great way of explaining to children why the rainforest is so important for the orangutans and the other wildlife who depend on the Sumatran forest. Check out Captain Freddie’s website for more information.
Catch you later,


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Replanting rainforest

After visiting the orangutans in Bukit Lawang we headed north to visit a replanting site in Besitang, North Sumatra. The area we went to used to be a massive illegal palm oil plantation and is actually located inside the national park; the main problem with the Palm oil here in Sumatra (simply put) is that so much rainforest is being cleared to make room for the plantations that is has a direct impact on wildlife and forest biodiversity. When palm trees plantations are created, little, if any wildlife can function in these new surroundings. The orangutans cannot swing from the branches of the palms and there are no fruit trees around to support their diet.

Oh, and did I mention that OIC is the first and only NGO allowed to conduct restoration work within the park? We have been, and are still in the process of removing Palm Oil trees, thus allowing us to plant indigenous species in their place. A local farmers group is the main force involved in the reforestation process and there are currently 25,000 seedlings in the surrounding nurseries, just waiting to become a part of the rainforest. To cut a long story short, our initial reforesting target is to replant 500 hectares of orangutan habitat lost to development such as plantations. We are doing this by working with the local community group and the local farmers. Not only is this project immensely important for the upkeep of the orangutans and wildlife, but it also provides the all important sustainable livelihoods for the local community. There is a real science to re-foresting areas such as these, and advice on what plants to grow, how to grow them and how to sustain them, is coming in from experts both within Sumatra and from external scientists. We are planting approximately 70% fast growing hardwood trees and the remaining are fruit trees which will serve as good orangutan grub.

In the old plantations of Besitang, we all got down and dirty in the mud and planted some yummy looking Durian trees alongside the workers, the land owner and forest rangers. This was the first time I had the opportunity to plant rainforest myself and I must say it felt good – you should definitively try it some time!

Or, if you don’t have the chance to visit a rainforest anytime soon, you can help by buying seedlings through our online shop, at £1 a pop, it really is a great way of helping us do more crucial reforestation work.

Au revoir


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Visiting the orangutans

One of the main SOS projects in Sumatra is an ecotourism programme in Bukit Lawang, site of the old Orangutan rehabilitation centre inside the Gunung Leuser National Park. Bukit Lawang is a small village about three hours away from the hustle and bustle of Medan city and our office. You can’t really go to Sumatra and not go trekking to see the jungle and hopefully some of the amazing wildlife. A group from SOS and OIC was already heading there so I jumped in the OranguVan and we headed due west.

Taking all the traffic chaos of Sumatra into account, we made it to Bukit Lawang before lunch, and made our initial stop at a building which SOS has just recently purchased. Once the renovations are completed this space will be used as an internet cafe/information centre and will be staffed by OIC. This will be a place where both tourists and locals can come to learn about the rainforest and the orangutans and will have loads of information about what we do as a charity.
Bukit Lawang used to house an orangutan rehabilitation project, and still gives visitors the chance to spot orangutans and other wildlife by trekking into the jungle. You hire a guide from the Bukit Lawang guide association and head into the wild. For various reasons (disease transmitting, increased dependence on humans etc.) it is strictly forbidden to feed, touch or disturb the orangutans in any way, and the rule is that one should always keep at a safe 10 meters distance of the animals (guidelines). Unfortunately, this is not always the
case. The guides want to make money, and the tourists want their “real wildlife experience” and possibly a photo of themselves hugging the orangutan – a practise which the OIC are working to put a stop to. As we make our way through the jungle we spot an orangutan and her baby that have obviously just been fed by a tour group, we stick around for a while to ensure there is no more feeding and that no one is tempted to get a photo of themselves hugging either mother or child. In order to control these situations and hopefully put an end this practice, SOS are working with the guide association, providing an extensive training programme for guides in the area. We are also trying to generate more awareness with the tourists to encourage them to say “no thanks” if they are offered such close encounters with the animals.

During our trek we also visited a hectare of land that belongs to OIC. The
land was previously part of a rubber plantation, placed just on the outskirts of the national park. SOS were able to buy the plot with the support of Patron Bill Bailey, a couple of months ago and is working to turn this area into rainforest once again. Fast growing indigenous tree seedlings have already been planted and hopefully it will not take too long time until the area is once again covered by the rainforest. Cheers Bill!

That’s it for now, catch you later!


Monday, 23 November 2009

Ida Bondø – PR Volunteer, Ubud, Bali

Hi, and welcome to our newly created blog.
Through this blog we hope to spread the word about the Sumatran orangutans, the work we do in the Sumatran rainforest and how you can help us save a species.

About me- My name is Ida and I am going to be working with the Sumatran Orangutan Society for the next few months. I will be based in their Bali office in Ubud, which I am really looking forward to. With me I have my partner William Lee-Wright, who is also dedicating his time in Bali
to working with SOS.

Luckily for me, I arrived in Indonesia around the same time as Helen Buckland, the UK Director, made her annual trip out here. Which meant that I had the opportunity to go to Sumatra and visit some of the projects in the field before heading towards Bali.

Arriving in Medan was quite a culture shock. I came across from Malaysia on a small ferry, and stepping out of the boat it was immediately clear that the skyscrapers and Gucci filled shopping centres of Malaysia were several sea miles behind me. The roads, lack of roads and the rally-driving turned out to be a bit much even for the most hardened traveller, but eventually we made it to the hotel. Our room incidentally turned out to have the best view of the Medan’s main mosque, and we were woken up before the crack of dawn the following morning.

In Medan, SOS shares their offices with the Orangutan Information Centre, OIC, which is a local NGO doing much of the fieldwork here. So on Monday, holding on for our dear lives, we ventured into a ‘becac’ (a moped with a small chair-box on the left hand side) and headed towards the ex-pat community in Medan. Finally, one year and half a world since I first made contact with SOS, I got to meet Helen. We had a great introductory session where we talked about how I can best utilise my time in Bali to ensure I can provide maximum support to SOS throughout my stay. I also had the chance to meet the team working in Medan, including Dave the whistling Scientific Director, Panut the knowledgeable OIC Director and Aiba the energetic AUSAid Volunteer. I left the office with hands full of reading material and a brain full of new ideas to process.

My main projects will be PR related and I will introduce you to some of them as the weeks go by. Though, next week I will first have to tell you about our trip to Bukit Lawang, and my first encounter with some of the beautiful orangutans that live in the national forest.
Till then, take care...


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