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Media Release: For Immediate Release 18 October 2013
Raw Wildlife Encounters Highly Commended in Green Lifestyle Awards
We are proud to announce Raw Wildlife Encounters has been awarded Highly Commended in the Travel Company category of the 2013 Green Lifestyle Awards.
Held in Sydney on 9 October, the Green Lifestyle Magazine's Green Lifestyle Awards gave recognition to companies and people leading the charge toward a cleaner and greener living environment.
Raw Director, Jessica McKelson, said 'We are thrilled to receive Highly Commended in the Travel category of the Green Awards. It is an honour to be recognised as second to the winner, Ecotourism Australia and among 50 other leading companies and people in the green industry including Hall of Fame Winner, Olivia Newton John. This recognition is shared with our dedicated staff in Australia and on the ground in Indonesia. We all work towards the same vision which is to practice positive and genuine eco tourism through providing unique and incredible travel experiences that inspire guests to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle upon their return home while also developing and financially supporting conservation and community programs in all our travel destinations”.
The aim of the awards is to develop a list of the very best in innovation and change in the green industry and recognise those who are taking a positive and genuine step of working toward green becoming the norm.
The Editor of Green Lifestyle, Magazine, Lesley Lopes, said, “We started the Green Lifestyle Awards to recognise dedication on the part of individuals, companies and non-government organisations in contributing to a more sustainable Australia. It seems more and more of you are making conscious decisions about the things you buy and where you find information about all things green as we had twice as many nominations as for our inaugural awards last year.”
We would like to acknowledge each of the Winners and Highly Commended recipients and thank the team at Green Lifestyle Magazine, nextmedia and hosts Jon Dee and Tanya Ha.
For a full list of Winners and Highly Commended green companies and personalities click here.
Raw Wildlife Encounters (RWE) is a leading eco travel agency and tour operator. We provide guests with life-changing travel experiences and unique wildlife encounters while catering for an exceptional quality and comfortable journey along the way. Raw small-group tours are lead by qualified wildlife professionals who take guests along roads less well-travelled and allow them truly incredible learning experiences with unique wildlife. Raw Wildlife Encounters fosters responsible tourism that benefits the local people, environment and wildlife in all our travel destinations through Raw Community and Conservation Programs.
For further information please contact:
Jessica McKelson, Director RWE at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Jones, Marketing and Communications RWE at email@example.com
Last weekend the village of Batu Katak hosted a local environment day, promoting forest conservation. The event was attended by representatives from National Parks, local government, environmental and education NGOs, and local stakeholders. Raw sponsored 200 trees for the community reforestation program, some of which were planted on the day, with the remainder being planted by Raw guests and local guides.
Batu Katak is a small village located around one hour from Bukit Lawang. The people of Batu Katak have always been active in attempting to protect the forest around their village, and in the past have successfully stopped big business from mining the limestone karst in the area. There are still companies with an interest in mining the area and so the community are turning to tourism in an attempt to place a value on the land beyond mining and the encroaching palm oil. Raw are working with National Park representatives and the local community to develop their tourism product, by providing training oppurtunities for local guides and building a program that will bring students from Australia for voluntourism. We hope to provide the local people with skills in language, waste management, forest monitoring, sustainable agriculture and conservation tourism. The aim at Batu Katak is to develop a program that is strong in defending itself from over development and over reliance in tourism, whilst providing the community with a sustainable mixed income and protecting the forest.
Attendance at the event in Batu Katak was important in nurturing relations with the stakeholders involved in reaching the communities objectives. One of the most touching moments however, was listening to speeches given by local schoolgirls about conservation. The five girls were the best entrants in an open competition, where they were required to write and present their own thoughts on conservation. Their presentations at Batu Katak were the final step before receiving their awards, and although I cannot yet understand all of what they spoke about, I understood enough to feel a sense of awe at the passion and maturity of these young women. I am hoping to engage these girls further, and to share their words with the Raw community in the near future!
Experience this for yourself on our 2014 Wild Jungle Safari! Departing April, July and September 2014.
MEDIA RELEASE 14 June 2013: Art 4 Orangutans Exhibition
340 Works of Art by Melbourne school students will help buy better lives for orangutans.
Opening 20th June at Zart Art, Box Hill
On display until 8th July, 2013
Art 4 Orangutans was inspired by a 35-year relationship that has deepened over a mutual interest in art. Once or twice a week Kiani (Suma), Melbourne Zoo’s oldest female orangutan, and I sit quietly together while she watches me draw, paint or model with clay. She is one of the many orang-utans I have studied and drawn over the years. They have all shown me in different ways that orangutans need more than food and water to live the lives they deserve – they need a life of the mind.
Art 4 Orangutans aims to function at two levels, providing enrichment for apes in the care of humans, and material support for the conservation of orangutans in the wild.
With the idea of organising an exhibition of school students art, I approached Jan Roker of Zart Art leading supplier of art materials and professional development resources to Australian schools. It was sheer serendipity. She had just visited Melbourne Zoo’s orangutan group and been fired with enthusiasm by a keeper talk about the threats facing the wild population. The energy, expertise and hard work of the whole Zart Art Team brought the exhibition project to life.
Supporting Earth 4 Orangutans
When the co-founders of Earth 4 Orangutans, Ian Singleton and Jessica McKelson, proposed the establishment of an Orangutan Haven Island Sanctuary and Conservation Education Centre in northern Sumatra, it presented a unique opportunity to serve the causes of both wildlife conservation and animal welfare. The project aims to provide a safe, enriched permanent environment for a small group of Sumatran Orangutans who, for health reasons, can never be released into the wild. At the same time this group will provide the nucleus of an education centre that will benefit the whole panoply of Sumatran forest life. The project will also benefit local communities as a source of employment and by drawing tourism to the area.
In this excitingly large and varied exhibition, young people have used their creativity to celebrate the lives and diversity of orang-utans, in the hope that others too will care. They have produced works from drawings and digitial art, to quilts, sculptures and a wheelbarrow full of forty orangutan dolls – there is even an orangutan skateboard! All these items will be sold by silent auction.
I hope you will join me at the Zart Art Gallery on June 20th to salute the talent and commitment of these young artists - and the wonderful teachers who inspired them.
By Pamela Strahan Conder - Art 4 Orangutans
facebook: Pamela Conder - Art 4 Orangutans
Whilst in Tangkahan Sonya Prosser met with Leni who oversees an English Club for many local children who attend twice a week. The English Club program has grown substantially since its inception with now around 100 students are wishing to attend.
The English Club itself is a community creation aimed at providing the children with opportunities to learn skills relevant to improving potential career options in the future.
Sonya has been working with Leni on prioritising the needs of the Education Program and preparing the budget so that the program can expand. The program aims to provide a secure and stimulating classroom for local children with the curriculum based around three core areas of education that are not currently provided by government funded schools, but deemed essential by the local community:
1. English Language.
2. Local Culture
3. Environmental issues.
The community believes these are essential to provide a secure future of eco tourism and sustainable development in the area.
In addition, the program aims to provide the opportunity to better cater to the individual needs of children. The children vary in age from 5 to 15 years, and currently the availability of adequately trained staff restricts more targeted lessons.
The immediate need now is to improve facilities for learning, and to provide salaries for two teachers.
The current classroom is too small for all the children, is run down and there is not adequate storage for learning materials. Raw guests have recently generously provided some funding for the English Club which has allowed the current classroom to be upgraded until funding can be secured to purchase land and build a new classroom that better suits the needs of the children.
There are now opportunities for further volunteers or donors to work on fundraising to secure a new building for the classes and provide teaching aids, as well as volunteering, assisting with teaching and capacity building.
Initial funds raised will be used to upgrade the existing building and provide salary, for an additional teacher. This will improve the current situation whilst we raise funds for the new school.
If you would like to be involved, or to donate, please contact:
Sonya Prosser: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Jones: email@example.com
Indonesia’s forests are being destroyed. Ecotourism may offer one way to protect them.
By Gemima Harvey for The Diplomat.
Following a flurry of international attention and keen anticipation, the extension of Indonesia’s forest moratorium, preventing companies from getting new permits to clear protected areas, was confirmed on Wednesday. The news comes days before the original ban’s expiry on May 20, but even with this promised respite for Indonesia’s forests, many remain concerned.
Much of this concern centers on the future of vast swathes of tropical rainforest in Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra. Aceh’s Governor, Zaini Abdullah, is pushing a pro-development plan that would allow 1.2 million hectares of protected rainforest—some of the most pristine areas left in the country—to be rezoned, opening the gates to mining, timber and palm oil companies. The plan is reportedly close to approval, unless Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono intervenes. The spatial plan calls for roads that would cut through sections of Gunung Leuser National Park, the last place on earth where elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans can be found in the same location. Adding alarm, the protected status of a critical ecosystem, The Tripa Peat Swamp, would be removed.
East Asia Minerals (EAM) has been lobbying authorities to approve the plan, releasing a statement last month saying: “The company [EAM] is working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from ‘protected forest’ to ‘production forest’.” They go on to say that efforts have been stalled by a coalition of environmental NGOs.
Opponents have taken to social media, with efforts including a recent petition from global campaign network Avaaz. Rudi Putra, the Indonesian conservation manager who won The Future for Nature Award 2013, explains in the appeal that Aceh boasts the largest biodiversity in the Asia Pacific region and is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In 2011, the national moratorium was set in motion by an agreement between Indonesia and Norway under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme. Norway pledged US$1 billion to support Indonesia in its strategy to address issues of rapid deforestation and peatland degradation, which accounts for 75% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Forest coverage is disappearing at a disturbing rate, earning Indonesia the dubious distinction of inclusion in the 2008 Guinness World Records for having the fastest rate of deforestation. An area equivalent to 300 soccer fields is cleared every hour, and the UN Environmental Programme predicts that 98% of Indonesia’s forest area could be destroyed by 2022.
Suspense about Aceh’s future coincides with the release of a UNDP study of forestry governance in Indonesia, which rates Aceh as the most poorly managed in terms of protection, regulation, planning and participation of REDD+.
Graham Usher, Landscape Protection Specialist, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project is pleased that the moratorium has been extended but says it remains unclear what this means for Aceh. He notes that where the former governor reformed forestry regulation in favour of protection, the new Aceh governor is reverting “to the development paradigm of ‘less forests = more development.’”
Usher explains that national laws and environmental guidelines are paramount, including mandates to protect the Leuser Ecosystem, but the Aceh Government is under the impression that a “special autonomy” act gives it unbridled authority to break national forest protection laws. He says, “It appears that the National Government is taking a softly-softly with Aceh to avoid disputes.”
A key problem is inconsistency in spatial mapping. While the National Government has the final say, since decentralization in the late 90s, local governments have been producing their own maps and Usher says not all of these are recognised by the national authority. He gives the example of a 2007 concession handed to a palm oil company by the land mapping agency in Aceh. This concession in the Tripa Peat Swamp was marked as protected by all previous moratorium maps and yet the company (Dua Perkasa Lestari) has continued to clear the land, regardless of its environmental significance and concerns over legality.
Usher says efforts are being made to move towards a solution “where all government agencies essentially work from the same baseline data.” But with 40 years of divergent maps to assimilate, this is far from simple. “There is no doubt that progress has been made, particularly with the public perception that maps are public documents and should be transparent.”
It is also critical to consider the affected indigenous people living near the areas mapped for rezoning.
Campaigners and conservationists assert that lost forest coverage could cause landslides and flash flooding, with serious consequences for local populations. Usher says that Aceh has many steep mountains with fragile soil systems and that a proposed new road network creates risk of major disasters. “The Leuser Ecosystem was not only established to protect biodiversity and threatened species, but also to protect the ecosystem services on which millions of people currently depend.”
Others, however, argue that restraint on industry is a restraint on raising the living standards of the rural poor. Pro-development bodies maintain that expanding industry creates jobs for communities where there may be little alternative economic opportunity.
This reasoning is used by industry representatives opposed to extending the ban on forest conversions. The director of law and advocacy for the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, Tungkot Sipayung, spoke out in The Jakarta Post, saying extending the moratorium will “limit development of labour-intensive palm plantations and palm processing sectors.”
Another sentiment, in opposition to limiting development, is cynicism towards the interventionist role played by industrialized countries. World Growth, a pro-development NGO, contends in a report about the potential impact of the 2011 moratorium on communities, “It is crucial that developing nations be given the same chance that developed nations have benefited from.” The report points out that in certain regions palm oil is the main or only crop grown, providing jobs in its various stages of production.
Usher dismisses the idea that industry expansion pulls people from poverty as “rubbish.” He uses spatial planning in Aceh to illustrate that land decisions are being dictated by “a few bureaucrats and private interests.” He goes on to note that there is limited land for productive agriculture in the region and that most people live on the north/northeast coastal plain, where most rice production takes place. This rice farming hinges on irrigation from inland forests. “If these forests are converted to other uses (such as oil palm or mining), many of these people will suffer increased poverty. There is a reason that developed countries like Japan and Taiwan (with a similar landscape to Aceh) have 60-70% forest cover: they have long realized that they need this level of forest cover to sustain their development.”
Spurred by climate change worries, industrializing nations are being called on to minimize emissions. As Indonesia demonstrates, this in turn requires new policies and improved forest management to limit the deforestation linked to growing industry. That’s a point echoed in a study by Yale and Stanford University researchers, which projects that expansion of palm plantations in Indonesia’s could pump more that 558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2020, more than all of Canada’s current fossil fuel emissions.
Indonesia has the third-largest tropical rainforest coverage in the world and as global warming is blamed for more severe weather events and environmental catastrophes, many eyes are turning to the Southeast Asian nation to keep the lungs of the earth intact.
But who draws the line between development and environmental degradation?
Indonesian conservationist Rudi Putra says in the Avaaz petition appeal, “Countries like mine have a right to develop, but not at the expense of our priceless natural patrimony, and it should benefit, not harm, Indonesians.” Wolfgang Sachs, author of The Development Dictionary, has written: “Politics is compelled to push either equity without ecology or ecology without equity.” He continues to discuss post-development initiatives where, “a transition from economies based on fossil-fuel resources to economies based on biodiversity is paramount.”
One possible model is ecotourism, which lets people earn money while living in harmony with the earth. Indigenous communities retain their independence, at the same time accessing a sustainable economy.
Disputes between indigenous populations and multinational companies are increasingly common, in a disturbing trend known as “land grabbing” or “economic land concessions.” In Laos and Cambodia, for example, the chain of collusion strings together multinational companies, backed by banks in Europe, which are granted land concessions by corrupt government officials, who then look away as locals are rendered powerless, their farmland and livelihoods destroyed. The disenfranchised are left with an ultimatum: work for the companies or starve.
Right now in Borneo, the Malaysian firm Sarawak Energy is planning to establish hydroelectric dams, which according to news site Mongebay are “controversial because they require the forced displacement of indigenous communities and will flood large tracts of rainforest. Furthermore there is currently little demand for the electricity that will be generated, raising suspicions that the primary purpose of the projects is to generate lucrative contracts for politically well-connected firms.”
Ecotourism turns this trend around. Rather than economic growth at any social and environmental cost, people are empowered to create a conservation-focused economy, creating job opportunities while providing incentives for protecting rainforests and generating funds for wilderness patrols and the rehabilitation of endangered species displaced by human activity.
Take the inspiring example of community-based ecotourism in Tangkahan — near the Gunung Leuser National Park, an area under threat from the Aceh Government’s forest plans. Fuelled by the desire to create a sustainable economy, two villages of more than 7000 people came together to establish The Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan (LPT). Supported by NGOs Indecon and Flora and Fauna International, in 2002, LPT signed an agreement with the National Park Authority, securing 10,000 hectares (now 17,000 hectares) for eco-tourism activities under the prerequisite that it be protected. From 55 founding members, 32 formerly worked as illegal loggers, indicating an innate wish to protect their environment while retaining the ability to feed their families.
With financial incentives for conservation, the community has transformed the area into an ecotourism destination. This has led to job creation, with various roles required to run their tourism office and multiple tour packages. LPT’s website states that just a decade ago, the area was an exit point for illegal logging in the national park. With its stunning scenery and clear rivers, however, the community began to realize the potential for income from appreciative visitors.
Jessica McKelson, Director of Raw Wildlife Encounters, launched her ecotourism initiative in 2008 and said the livelihood of local people is a core pillar for why the company operates. “They are custodians of the lands that surround their communities, where we bring guests to visit, they allow us to enjoy these areas and we offer employment opportunities from guides to rangers to administration as well as education programs so they can comfortably support their families and don’t have to work in legal, or illegal, logging or palm oil and can live sustainably. Most have lost all their natural resources to deforestation practices and were left with no option but working for $8-$10 per day in terrible conditions or losing that job to transmigrants.”
Since the business started, McKelson says that 85% of gross earnings have gone to community and environmental programs. “This community-based eco-tourism model provides local people with stable, consistent income without damaging their own backyards and the wildlife and ecosystems within it. It’s conservation through empowering and educating the community. A win-win for all!”
Along with economic benefits for local people, there is the added bonus of conservation-based skills transfer from NGOs to the community. Describing the Tangkahan initiative, The International Ecotourism Society says that skills like “ecotourism development and management, planning and policy development, conservation management, and monitoring and assessment” were merged with Karo culture and values “to ensure community ownership of the initiative and equality in the distribution of benefits.” Raw Wildlife Encounters also offers guide training to the Tangkahan community to support sustainable management that is consistent with standards set out by The International Ecotourism Society.
In promoting ecotourism, emphasis must be placed on ethical management to ensure it does not transform into mass tourism, void of eco-values. McKelson says Bukit Lawang in Sumatra is an example of this. She explains that tourists ignore conventions about avoiding contact with orangutans and even pay bribes to local guides for a close encounter and the chance to feed them, which becomes encouraged by guides keen for the extra cash.
Despite the cases of mismanagement, she says, “Eco tourism in Indonesia can be a great employment model to protect natural resources via an alternative sustainable livelihood.” In other words, a step in the direction of building economies that do not come at the expense of the environment.
Full article > http://thediplomat.com/2013/05/19/can-ecotourism-save-indonesias-disappearing-forests/
Gemima Harvey (@Gemima_Harvey) is a freelance journalist and photographer.
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.
The term Batak is often used across Indonesia to collectively describe the people of North Sumatra, which includes the Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing people. It is more common however when in North Sumatra to refer to the Toba people as Batak, and the others as Karo, Pakpak. Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing. Historically it is believed that the Batak people moved from Toba to access the lucrative trading that occurred along the coasts of North Sumatra at the time. Many decided to settle along the way, such as the highland Karo, and their traditions evolved into the ones we see today with the distinct language and customs of each group. Lingga village is not only significant to Jack for his family history, but is significant to all the boys as a living example of Karo culture that has been lost in many areas, including Tangkahan.
The traditional Karo house is quite different than the Batak Toba. It lacks the large boat shaped roof that dominates the landscape of Toba, and instead is built roughly in the shape of a praying man. The animist religion historically practiced by Karo people, believes in three worlds, that of the sky, of man on the earth, and the underworld below. The shape of the house represents this belief. The house is on stilts, with a large space underneath, representing the underworld, the living space is the land of men on the earth, and the large spacious roof, used for storing and drying produce, is the heavens above. The house is entered via a ladder of which one side is taller than the other. Touching the lower side upon entry pays homage to the under world, and touching the higher side when exiting pays homage to the heavens. The door is low, so everyone entering must bow, and so pay homage to the earth, the land of man.
These elephants are refugees of a shrinking habitat. As their homes are converted to farmland or large scale plantations Sumatran elephants are increasingly brought into contact with humans. This human elephant conflict often results in the poisoning of elephants and in an effort to avoid these conflicts, the elephants are caught and relocated to government run elephant training centres. These centres are under resourced and overpopulated. One solution to the problems faced by the training centres was to establish the Conservation Response Units (CRUs), designed to give these captive elephants a better life and to protect the habitat still available to thier wild counterparts. The CRU, where the elephants of Tangkahan are cared for, aims to provide forest protection, high quality care for the resident elephants, ongoing professional training for the mahouts, education to both locals and visitors on the plight of Sumatran elephants, and essential financial sustainability through eco tourism.
When you book an interaction with the elephants of the CRU Tangkahan, you are contributing directly to a well established, professional and innovative conservation program.
The CRU model was implemented by Fauna and Flora International, since then it has been supported by Melbourne Zoo, Australia Zoo, Vesswic, and the International Elephant Foundation.
Visit these beautiful elephants on our 12 Day Wild Jungle Safari!