WHERE: I am going to be living in Indonesia, an island nation (made up of ~20,000 islands) just north of Australia. Specifically, I will be on the biggest one, known as Borneo. It is shared between a few countries, and the Indonesian share is called Kalimantan, which encompasses the southern two-thirds of the island’s landmass. Within Kalimantan, I will be working in a tropical peat swamp that is part of the Sabangau Forest. Lots of acidic water, relatively “flat” marsh/land, and copious amounts of wildlife! I think. Photographic evidence forthcoming.
WHEN: I arrived in Jakarta today (19 July), where I will be until paperwork clears; once that hurdle is overcome, I shall head on over to the far less urban jungle. I'll be staying at a field station in the Sabangau Forest a large majority of the time, making forays to the nearby village/town/city of Palanga Raya every few weeks. The camp does not have internet, and so it will only be during trips into town that I may update this lovely electronic diary of my monkey-minded mania. The plan is to remain at camp until mid-December, whence I intend to begin my journey back towards the Americas. Five-ish months.
WHAT: I will be working as the orangutan intern at camp, taking part in research on mainly the orangutan population’s behavior and ranging within the Sabangau Forest. This means trekking around muddy woods staring up at apes in trees for twelve hours a day. Needless to say I am excited (mud, trees, apes, what’s not to love?). There are only two places in the world where orangutans live, and both are located within Indonesia. The islands of Borneo and Sumatra each hold one of the two subspecies, found living in pockets all over each island. I shall be endeavoring to add to humanity’s cache of knowledge regarding the Bornean orangutan.
WHO: Me, Jess extraordinaire. I will be working with an organization called the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, OuTrop for short. They have been monitoring orangutans at this site for nine years now, and are the reason this forest is protected as well as supported by the World Wildlife Foundation. In addition to recording “Days Of Orang Lives” as the local soap opera, they also run studies on gibbons, biodiversity, the forest ecosystem, red langurs (type of monkey), and a clouded leopard study using camera traps! Needless to say, lots of exciting things.
WHY: Getting the chance to work with orangutans has kind of been a life passion of mine. Not to mention, getting to sit and walk around a jungle for almost half a year does a naturalist’s mind good. Lots of food for PhD. directed thought. In addition to conducting field research, I hope to squeeze in time to not only take an absurd number of photographs, but also do a fair bit of sketching!
When I was in the US, I was practicing my visual observation skills by visiting zoos wherever I happened to find myself! Here are some sketches I’ve done traveling around the US…
Out in Seattle (Woodland Park Zoo):
|Komodos & tapirs.|
|All sorts of birds.|
|Turtles, vipers, tree kangaroos, & horned lizards, oh my!|
|African oddities: the hippo & the giraffe.|
Down in DC (National Zoo):
|A few relatives lounging about.|
|Close ups of gorillas.|
|Menagerie of small creatures: tenrec, marmoset, burrowing owl, naked mole rat, meerkat, oh and the not-so-small cheetah.|
|Sun bathing sun bear.|
Around NYC (Bronx & Central Park Zoos):
|Primates, pythons, & a parrot.|
Hopefully this serves as enough of an intro to keep your interest for a while; I likely won’t be updating again anytime soon until I get settled in at camp, and figure out just what is required of me. But I intend to return triumphantly with smashing snapshots, daring drawings, and less embarrassing employment of the Indonesian language.
Goodbye for now! Selamat tinggal!