The next day, January 12, 2013, we departed from Camp Mantangai after breakfast. Walking shortly to a nearby jetty, a speedboat was waiting for us. For the next few days, the journey would be along rivers!
Our destination today was Camp Tuanan but we would first make a quick stop at a local community; Katunjung Village. After traveling by speedboat for around an hour, we arrived at the idyllic riverside village of Katunjung at 9.35 am and walked to the residence of Mr. Sugiat, a member of the Village Consultative Body who has been actively involved with the Mawas and KFCP teams in socializing, planning, organizing and executing peatland rehabilitation activities in and around the village. We spent an hour listening to Mr. Sugiat and his team of local people, as well as to Sirajudin – Mawas person-in-charge in Katunjung – updating us on their latest activities, challenges and hopes.
Coal Stockpile in Tanjung Kalanis
As I have mentioned earlier, I will write in more detail about peatland rehabilitation activities later. For now, let’s continue our journey. We hopped back onto the speedboat and this time headed straight to Tuanan. However, the Mawas team who accompanied me decided on a little detour. Passing the village of Tuanan, we went a little further upriver to an area called Tanjung Kalanis. The team wanted me to see a coal stockpile site in Tanjung Kalanis. The site is quite new and has become a concern for environmentalists and our collaborators at Tuanan Orangutan Research Station.
A stockpile is a preparation plant, i.e. a facility that washes coal of soil and rocks, preparing it for transport to markets. The company that owns the site has apparently expressed its desire to expand or at least to make the stockpile more accessible by opening roads through the forest. If this plan falls through, it will obviously threaten conservation activities in Mawas, particularly in Tuanan and its surroundings.
At this point we don’t know the extent or the status of this expansion plan (whether or not a proposal has been submitted to the local government or whether it is even considered for approval). But this is something that we will keep a close eye on while working with the government to ensure that the Mawas area remains untouched by industries, especially since Mawas now has been declared by the government as a Protected Forest and Conservation Forest.
Docking at the small jetty of Tuanan Village – another riverside village – we waited at a villager’s house for a pushcart to arrive from camp so our belongings could be sorted onto a pushcart. The camp is a 2-kilometer walk from the village and our friends at camp were kind enough to provide us with a pushcart so we didn’t have to carry our heavy backpacks. Located 64 kilometers east of Palangka Raya, Tuanan is picturesque village covered in white sands. It almost felt we were by the sea!
While waiting, Tommy and Sofi took me to the village’s only school. It is an elementary school and was established by the BOS Foundation a long time ago. Today, the school is run by the government and funded by an independent donor. However, the Tuanan team still helps out once in a while in providing environmental education for children. Sofi is one of the teachers providing such educational services here.
Tuanan Orangutan Research Station
Then, I was pleasantly surprised by the 2-kilometer walk to camp. I thought it would be torture and my heart would jump out of my chest. Instead, it was a pleasurable leisurely walk on a flat trail through typical peatland vegetation. The afternoon breeze was of course a welcome bonus. We reached camp in under an hour. It was way past lunchtime, but knowing we hadn’t had lunch, Oli, our kitchen staff at Camp Tuanan, quickly cooked and served us fried noodles and omelettes which we shared with Alysse, a biology researcher from Florida.
Camp Tuanan or also known as Tuanan Orangutan Research Station was built by the BOS Foundation in 2002. Here we have collaborated with Carel P. van Schaik and Maria van Noordwijk of the University of Zurich and Dr. Sri Suci Utami and Drs. Tatang Mitra-Setia of the National University in Jakarta since 2003. Research focuses on wild orangutan behavior as well as the effects of habitat degradation on orangutans in particular and other biodiversity in general. The results are expected to deepen our understanding of orangutans and their natural habitat, which in turn give us the necessary knowledge to run our orangutan reintroduction programs and habitat restoration program.
Tommy, Kurniawan and I went tracking for a while in the late afternoon. We followed a narrow boardwalk that extends 3,2 kilometers from Camp Tuanan to another camp of ours, Camp Bagantung, which I would visit tomorrow.
Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter any orangutans on our short afternoon trip. Wild orangutans are generally harder to find as they instinctively run away at the sight of humans, especially a stranger like myself whom they would have never seen before. This is, too, the behavior that we expect to see in successfully rehabilitated orangutans. Furthermore, it was the end of fruiting season so naturally the orangutans had traveled deep into the forest to find food. Tommy said that back in November, at the height of fruiting season, it was easy to find them. I’ll just have to come back in the right season!
I attempted my luck again in the morning, tracking into the forest with Odom. Still, no signs of orangutans but I did encounter six gibbons playing in the trees while cautiously watching us at the same time. They were constantly on the move, it was so hard to capture them on camera!
My stay in Tuanan was short yet memorable. The camp is bigger than Camp Mantangai. There are more rooms, two bathrooms with refreshing crystal clear waters and a very spacious semi-outdoor dining room, allowing me to hang my hammock there. Needless to say, I spent the night sleeping on my hammock instead of in a room, dismissing the fact that sun bears and clouded leopards sometimes break into the camp to find leftover food. I’m happy to report that I slept soundly through the night without being poked by sun bears or scratched by clouded leopards.
The activities at Camp Tuanan will be the second story that I will share with you in more details in the next couple of weeks. Wait for that and for more adventure in Mawas, which will be published tomorrow in “Roughing It in Mawas – Part 3”.
Text and photos by: Rini Sucahyo – Communications Advisor to the CEO