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By Colleen Curlewis, April 2013
I returned recently from the first Earth 4 Orangutans trip to Northern Sumatra where I saw how the scourge of plastic and non-biodegradable waste is choking the environment. I wanted to write a blog that gives you some tips on how to travel responsibility – tips that can and should be applied both at home and abroad. Before that though, let’s look at why plastic is such a problem.
If you’re concerned about greenhouse gases and the overuse of fossil fuels, plastic fails dismally in that department too. The energy and other resources used to produce these (mostly) single use materials is significant. Using National Geographic calculations it would take about 22 million gallons of crude oil to produce the 38 million water bottles used by the Americans each year. That’s a lot of oil, a lot drilling and a lot of emissions.
Beverage bottles contribute the highest amount of litter (after cigarette butts) and are especially bad for three reasons they require extensive energy to produce, are typically single use, and do not biodegrade. In Australia, despite our first world facilities in recycling, public rubbish bins and container deposits, the Clean Up Australia Day foundation lists plastic as the number one source of rubbish collected. A staggering 38% of all rubbish collected is beverage containers and their lids – all of which are recyclable.
Make sure you show this to the shopkeeper straight away. This is how you can set an example, and if you can speak a few words of the local language, explain you want to keep their country/ city/village beautiful by not adding to the litter. You might also say that animals sometimes eat the bags and die painfully.
Reduce, reuse recycle. Say no to plastic. Lobby the manufacturers of your favourite products to reduce packaging and to find alternatives. The problem of plastic has been created in such a short time, but has created a very long term problem. We need to take personal responsibility for what we consume. For ourselves, our children and all the creatures we share the planet with. We do, after all, only have one.
One of the highlights of the discussion forums was the presentation by Ary Suhandi, the director of Indecon, and a key player in making the transition from illegal logging to tourism in Tangkahan. He spoke of how Indecon promote ecotourism, and sustainable development for local communities throughout Indonesia by providing support and training for communities ready to make the change.The Toba test tour was designed to showcase eco tourism opportunities in the area and explore places not yet on the tourist trail. We visited a wonderful project called Taman Eden, at Lumban Julu where a local family grows organic produce and engage the community in propagation and planting of endemic species in an effort to regenerate forest destroyed by the paper industry.
Seeing Tangkahan shine, and exploring a new area of North Sumatra were definite highlights, but the overall highlight was the people we shared this with.Meeting and getting to know so many passionate Indonesians whose drive to preserve Indonesias' wild places through eco tourism and community participation was inspiring. Ika and myself made many good friends and we look forward to exploring further all the innovative exciting projects in the hope of sharing them with RAW clients in the near future.
Raw Wildlife Encounters Founder Director and Orangutan Land Trust (OLT) Trustee Jessica McKelson is currently in Singapore for the Orangutan Land Trust workshop to determine the Trusts future direction and strategy.
Executive Director of OLT, Michelle Desilets, said of Ms McKelson's involvement and the workshop "I am so proud of you and to be a part of the efforts of Orangutan Land Trust. I am only too excited to be a part of this strategic workshop with dynamic people. You are such an inspiring woman, keep up the great work!"
OLT was founded by Lone Drescher Neilson, known internationally as a champion for orangutans, and as one of the foremost experts in the rescue, care, rehabilitation and release of these orangutans. She is the founder and manager of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) operated by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. OLT is also a partner of Ms McKelson's Earth 4 Orangutans project founded with acclaimed primatologist and Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program Director Dr Ian Singleton.
"I feel privileged to be part of such an amazing organisation", Ms McKelson said of OLT.
Today Ms McKelson departs for Sumatra to meet with The Guardian (UK) Environmental freelance journalist Oliver Milman to share with him the incredible work Raw's conservation partners achieve within the unique areas of Sumatra Raw Wildlife Encounters visits. Read Milman's past articles on RWE and our conservation partners work here:Zookeepers plan to build islands for orangutans - The Age
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About Raw Wildlife Encounters
Raw Wildlife Encounters (RWE) is one of the world's leading eco adventure travel agencies. It provides guests with life-changing travel experiences and unique wildlife encounters while catering for an exceptional quality and comfortable journey along the way. Raw tours are lead by qualified wildlife professionals who take guests along roads less well-travelled and allow them truly unique learning experiences with exotic wildlife. Raw Wildlife Encounters fosters responsible tourism that benefits the local people, tribes and wildlife in all travel destinations through Raw’s Conservation Commitment programs.
With April school holidays around the corner and a family holiday planned, you will quickly need to organise someone to care for your pets. Boarding kennels can be expensive and are not always the ideal solution. Not only is your pet adjusting to you being away, your dog/cat is also removed from their home environment. Some kennels do have great facilities and provide activity sessions for your dog throughout the day. So if you decide on this option, make sure you check out the facility and find out the daily activity schedule for your pet.
Our highly skilled and professional team offer an affordable pet sitting service. We visit your home either once or twice a day while you are away and take care of all of your pet's needs. This is a fantastic option as your pet remains in the environment where they are most comfortable. Our staff are all very fit and enjoy nothing more than taking a high energy dog for a run, so you can be sure that they are well exercised while you are away.
You also have the benefit of security. Part of the reason we have dogs is to provide us with a warning if there are unwanted people hanging around the house. Many burglars target homes during the holiday period. Keeping your dog at home provides added security and the visits from our staff ensure the house looks occupied while you are away. Our staff will also bring in the mail and put out your bins out at no added cost.
Trust our professional team with the care of your extended family.
Author: David McKelson,
Serien! (Samburu for Hello)
I find it amazing that I just never tire of coming to Kenya. I have been so lucky; in the past 4 years I think I have spent around 9 months in the north of the country, working in Melako community conservancy with communities and wildlife and alternative livelihood development.
Melako is my home away from home. I have my own rhythm there, and great friends, and endless appreciation for the incredible people, landscapes, and wildlife; it is so untouched.
Just some quick background on Melako: it is home to 6000 members of the Samburu and Rendille people who are nomadic pastoralists and amongst the most enterprising, welcoming, and stunning people I've ever met. To top it all off, the environment is spectacular. The backdrop for Melako is the dramatic Mathews Ranges that drop into the most arid regions in Kenya. I am always surrounded there by beautiful Acacia trees that symbolize the African plains, and wildlife like giraffe, elephant, hyena and lion are never too far away.
Africa, and how it touches your soul, is actually really hard to describe, you must experience it for yourself. It’s the sunsets, the smell, the feel, the colour — and the goat for dinner! All of these things plus something you can’t quite put your finger. It simply remains with you.
It was all this “amazingness” that inspired a new venture. The Melako community, a friend from Il Ngwesi Conservancy, and myself put our heads together and concluded: ‘you know what, I bet other people around the world would find this part of Kenya just as inspiring, I bet other people would like to learn about how we work with wildlife’. So here we are 12 months later, proudly welcoming you to join us on a journey that will change your life forever.
Now we have our own company based in Kenya, RAW Africa Eco Tours, and we are proudly partnered to Jess and her crew at Raw Wildlife Encounters. The community has put together a fantastic program for our guests, showcasing some of their favourite locations and experiences, and want to present it to you. We have access to places and people and conservation ‘stuff’ that no one else will ever offer because of the strong relationships and connections RAW Africa have made in the most famous conservation areas in East Africa.
So come and meet the Antipoaching Dog Unit at Lewa, climb into the treetops in Ngarendare Forest, sleep under the stars with lions calling in the distance in Laisamis, share a meal and stories with the Scouts of Melako, and relax by the pool at Il Ngwesi Lodge while elephants and giraffe refresh nearby at the waterhole.
How could you not want to come on this journey!
Over the next couple of months I will be posting blogs introducing you to the community, the scouts, the wildlife, and the landscapes of East Africa. If you have any questions please get in touch.
Brooke Squires has worked in zoos, national parks and conservation areas around the world. These days, she divides her time between her beloved rhinos at Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria, where she is a rhino keeper, and the International Conservation Partnerships for Zoos Victoria.
Ph: +61 (0)423 393 836
Author: Sonya Prosser
I had thought I knew what to expect.
As the plane descended through the towering cumulus, I glimpsed the city below. It appeared through patches in the cloud, grey and dusty, red bricks, dirty roads and windowless buildings. I could not tell whether the city was being built or falling down. The panic rose as more of the crumbling city emerged, and I realized that none of my research had prepared me for flying into Kathmandu.
Clearing customs and immigration without a hitch, we exited the airport and were set upon by the mob of touts, intent on ferrying us to the hotel that paid them the best commission. Grateful that my first attempt at organizing an overseas trip had included booking the first night in a hotel with airport transfers, we were soon whisked away from the melee by a quiet and attentive hotel driver. Taking refuge in the sanctuary of the car did little to subdue my growing apprehension, I wanted to go home.
As we drove through the city I realized this was my first glimpse of real poverty, and it was with a sense of guilt and awe that we were delivered at a hotel lobby of polished marble and chandeliers.
The following day we wandered the streets and moved to less salubrious accommodation in the backpacker area. Intimidated by what lay in wait outside, I spent most of the first week, in or close to the hostel.
I don`t recall the exact moment the shift occurred, perhaps close to the end of the trip. Leaving the city and travelling to Pokhara, and Chitwan, opened my eyes to the beauty of travelling. In Pokhara we climbed mountains and heard stories of Tibetan displacement. In Chitwan we saw wild elephant, rhino, langur and sloth bear. By the time we returned to Kathmandu the fear that had kept me chained to the room of our hostel, had vanished, and what replaced it has never gone.
I could not get enough. Out on the streets every minute, I absorbed as much as I could, before boarding the plane back to Australia.
Today, as I continue to plan my next trip, I reflect on the experiences I have had during my travels, and how they have changed me. Being surrounded by migrating dolphins in Galapagos, seeing Cotton top Tamarins in the forests of Colombia, watching a culture being destroyed in Tibet and rebuilt in Cambodia. I have developed a taste for hot food in Sichuan and hot sauce in Barbados, found good friends in Vietnam and love in Cuba.
I am no longer overwhelmingly intimidated by flying into cities so unlike mine as Kathmandu, the trepidation is mixed with excitement of the unknown, anticipation of the unique tastes, smells, and experiences I will have.
I review the scribbled notes made earlier this year, in a hotel in Quito; ‘Costa Rica, look at volunteer opportunities, Belize, diving’ it reads, ‘two weeks on a catamaran, island hopping from Cartagena to Panama’.
As I usher in the New Year, I give in to my greatest urge, and begin booking my next adventure.
Sonya is a freelance travel writer and Raw Supporter.
Retirement Islands for Orangutans
An innovative plan to create man-made islands for sick and injured orangutans in Indonesia is offering hope of a better life for animals who have previously been destined to spend their remaining days in cages.
While much of the fight to save the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan focuses on protecting their natural habitat, for some orangutans it is already too late.
Environmentalists say they are rescuing a growing number of orangutans that are unable to return to the wild because they are too ill or injured, often the result of coming into contact with humans.
Now, Australian zoo keepers, the Australian Orangutan Project and an eco-tourism company are partnering with an orangutan conservation group in Indonesia to raise money to buy land in Sumatra to create four “islands” where sick and injured orangutans could live in an environment more akin to their natural habitat, with staff on hand to care for them.
The plan is to dig moats around the land, which would prevent the orangutans, which cannot swim, from escaping. The animals can live for up to 50 years.
Four orangutans being cared for by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program have already been identified as possible residents of the planned islands, said Jessica McKelson, supervisor of the primates department at Melbourne Zoo and founder of Raw WildLife Encounters, the eco-tourism company involved in the project.
Ms. McKelson said one orangutan who could benefit from the project had been shot 62 times after wandering past a village on the edge of a forest. He was left blind after being shot in both eyes, and cannot return to the wild.
“He’s becoming large and mature and he really needs to get out of the cage,” said Ms. McKelson. Another orangutan the organizers hope to relocate has been diagnosed with the human strain of hepatitis B.
But first the organizers must find suitable land for the orangutans and raise money to lease the land.
Ms. McKelson said they hoped to raise 80,000 Australian dollars ($77,432) to lease about three hectares of land near the city of Medan, in north Sumatra. A clean water supply for the orangutans would be crucial.
There are also plans to establish an education center near the site to help teach locals about how they can live in harmony with orangutans, which is Indonesian for “man of the forest”.
Environmental groups blame palm oil and logging companies for encroaching on the animals’ natural habitat, and Ms. McKelson said villagers were increasingly coming into contact with orangutans as a result of deforestation. She said the animals sometimes approached villagers’ fruit trees, which could lead to conflict.
“We will be able to use this as a key education center to educate locals with the orangutans and also educate them about human-animal contact,” said Ms. McKelson, adding that there were an estimated 6,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.
By LIZ GOOCH
November 25, 2011, 8:29 AM
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
I always smile at this quote because it is supremely fitting for an eco-adventure-travel company. Mosquitoes? – Check. Yours free with every Raw Wildlife Encounter! Making a difference? - You bet. Thanks to our travellers and supporters, we’ve already improved the lives of orangutans and will continue to do so.
To save a species, save the ecosystem. To save Sumatran Orangutans, protect Indonesia’s forests. This is the philosophy to which Raw Wildlife Encounters (RWE) prescribes. The not-so-secret formula for saving a species from extinction is ensuring its habitat remains diverse, healthy, and safe.
As much as we’d like to, we can’t all hop a plane and spend months with our sleeves rolled up tending to orphaned orangutans or protecting elephant forests from logging. So we support those who can. We strive to empower the local community of Tangkahan to protect and preserve their own. And we travel to their country respectfully and ethically. Our reward is panoramic views of remarkable beauty and memorable, personal encounters with unique wildlife.
This desire to provide a future for wild orangutans drives our mission to discover the best ways for Raw Supporters to provide practical, tangible, life-changing support for the community and the wildlife.
Here are some of the projects we’re currently sponsoring.
- We employ Tangkahan community members in Indonesia to deliver the tourism experiences outlined in RWE travel itineraries. This alternative livelihood program is a great way for the local community to make an income, rather than participating in illegal logging or working in the palm oil plantations. Our team consists of a Communications Officer, a Project Manager, two experienced Tour Guides and four trainee Tour Guides. They are able to showcase their backyard and have a wealth of knowledge to share.
- We implemented a Litter and Waste Management Programme to educate the local community and tourists about waste disposal. Not only is it a way to combat litter issues, it has been great for the community and assisted in cleaning up the environment which they live in. The program employs locals to collect and sort rubbish for recycle and organic compost for use on community gardens, and minimizes the use of harmful chemicals on their plantations.
- Higher Education Scholarships to study at University STIM Medan are awarded to successful students from the Tangkahan district. To date, we have provided three 4-year scholarships for Ecotourism Management, Finance Management, and Tourism. By up skilling the poorer communities, they have a better chance to improve their education and find employment.
- A group of 25 city-based students from STIM University have formed MAPALA ‘Students for Nature Lovers’ to learn about conserving natural regions like Tangkahan through our funded workshops. These students installed bins and developed the interpretive signage for the Litter and Waste Management Programme. Connecting indigenous communities is a great way to strengthen messages in other areas without the information being diluted.
- We contribute all conservation levy money from Australian Orangutan Project (AOP) members who book with Raw back towards AOP Projects.
- We support Conservation Response Unit Tangkahan to continue elephant patrols to monitor activities in Gunung Leseur National Park and employs them for eco-tourism activities.
- We financially support the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme to build a new baby house and new quarantine cages at Medan Quarantine Centre, necessary for rehabilitation of illegally-held and confiscated baby orangutans before release to the wild.
- Our current priority project is raising funds to secure land for the Orangutan Island project, a sanctuary to permanently house orangutans who through injury or illness can never be returned to the wild. This sanctuary will become a conservation education centre for local and international visitors. Donations can be made directly to this priority project via the AOP website at https://australianorangutanproject.worldsecuresystems.com/donations/paneco-raw-island-donation
To finish, here’s another quote from the Dalai Lama that surely sums up why eco-travel with us is the superior travel experience for mind, body, and soul:
You can contribute to our programs by contacting us now.