Monday, 9 July 2012

A New Chapter.

This time last month, my fellow eco warriors and I departed from Tembak for the last time, and arrived in Pontianak on the west coast of Borneo for the final few days of the 80 day DeforestACTION project. It was so sad to know that in a few days’ time we would be dispersing all over the planet – some of us returning to jobs, girlfriends and families in our own countries, some of us continuing to travel.  However, instead of concentrating on this, we through ourselves into a photo exhibition that we were putting on to show city people from Pontianak the images we had captured over the months and tell them stories about the people that we had met. The event was a huge success, and we had over a hundred people turn up, from university students to business people. We took them round the exhibition, laughing at funny stories, comparing the day-to-day lives of city dwellers to that of those living in the interior villages, and describing the challenges and solutions that we have recognized during our trip. All of the people that I showed round were captivated by the quality of the photographs and the stories behind them.

After the exhibiton, we had some live music from a local youth group- a mixture of traditional drumming and modern beats. We wound down, danced, told stories, laughed and danced some more. It was a great night.
These last few days in Pontianak also gave us the chance to start to imagine where we would go as an organization – as the new DeforestACTION - and how we would make it work, especially after we disband to all corners of the globe. The original concept of DeforestACTION was the brainchild of a bunch of individuals from a handful of different organisations and walks of life. There was Sean Tierney from Microsoft, who wanted to push Microsoft’s Partner’s in Learning programme, which involves young people. Alongside him were employees from Taking IT Global – an online social community, and the world's largest network for young people interested in positive change. Then there was Cathy Henkel, film maker, director of the documentary about our time in Borneo and owner of the Brisbane based film company, Virgo Productions. Finally, there was Willie Smits, acclaimed conservationist and visionary, who has been working and living in Indonesia. Each party had a different vision for DeforestACTION, and different things they could offer the association. 

This worked for the best part in the initial project. Together they made a global call out throughout their networks and found applicants from every corner of the globe. The educational specialists contacted class rooms from dozens of countries who we are still in contact with today through webinars and social networks. They envisioned what we would do on the ground, what the documentary would look like and what it would aim to capture. In summary, they helped to light a spark. However, it was clear from early on that with many motives, fields of expertise and other obligations and distractions, the original board never properly boiled down what DeforestACTION should and could become in the long run, after the initial project. This is where the Eco Warriors, in hand with other applicants who joined us on the 80 days, took a leading role. We have a firm understanding of how the project worked both on the ground and over technology, strong connections with local people and NGOs, and a collective goal of making this organisation, DeforestACTION, sustainable and successful long into the future.

So, we split the future model of DeforestACTION into 3 parts:

-          The first part, education about deforestation, will be carried out both on the ground and in classrooms worldwide. On a local level, emphasis will be placed on the destructiveness of palm oil monoculture, the short-lived advantages of selling land to palm oil companies, and the alternatives that have been shown in places like Tembak, where enrichment both of the forests and the infrastructure of the village has been a leading factor in their strong, united resistance in the face of these companies. Kodi Twiner and Mark Kurowski perfectly portrayed this sort of education in their vibrant performance about the benefits of rainforest which they performed in front of hundreds of children across interior Borneo. On an international level, emphasis will be put on encouraging classrooms and youth groups to learn about deforestation get involved in actions to halt the destruction, and inspire whoever possible to get more involved. 

-          The second part is fundraising, fundamental for the continuity of the project and its undertakings around the world. Much of this will be in the form of grassroots for now, so if you want to help out with this, or know anyone who would, please get in contact.

-          The final part of the organisation will focus on ground projects in Borneo.  We will be continuing work with Tembak village, along with working with Danau Sentarum National Park and Canopy Indonesia to design an eco-tourism programme, educational and training package and build up ecological knowledge of the park. We will also be reaching out and building connections with local NGOs and organisations, providing them with well-deserved publicity and informing all of you around the world about the job opportunities, projects and plans of these groups. Finally, we will be ourselves outreaching to graduates and passionate people to help continue and expand these ideas. We will send out job opportunities, eco-tourism packages and project opportunities available for all those who want to experience the rainforests of Borneo and see how we work.
I have been based in Bali with my girlfriend since then, soaking up the sunlight and Western life, and putting lots of hours into studying Bahasa Indonesia at a language school and from books and films. Paul Daley has also stayed on in Indonesia, and is currently living in Yogyakarta, also studying the language and meeting locals. We will be reconnecting in a week and returning to Borneo where we will be trying to finalise how DeforestACTION will work on the ground in the coming months and years. 

This week Dr Willie Smits and a couple of fellow Eco Warriors, Liza Heavener and Chris Gauthier, gave keynote speeches at the largest educational conference in the world (ISTE).

What DeforestACTION brings to the classroom is fresh and powerful. Schools students now have the opportunity to be involved in real life conservation work from their computers at home and in the classroom. This means we are educating a whole new generation of conscious global citizens who are passionate about creating a better world, for all people and all life on our planet.

Click here to check out what some of the educators thought about this amazing new concept in education.

As always, if you want to keep up with what’s going on, go to, and please get in touch with Liza Heavener at if you need any more information or if you or anyone you know would like to be involved in the future.  Anyway, here’s some more pictures.

After returning to Tembak village for the first time, we symbolically presented the village with 40 fruit trees – one for each household, not only to say thank you, but also to engage with the whole village one last time, The fruit trees will provide the village with seeds to plant further trees, along with fruit and shade for the road.
Constantly helping to water the trees - the temperature was so hot that day that the seedlings needed constant care until dusk started to settle in. Thankfully, the village was hit by a huge storm that night, giving all the trees a promising drench.

The community seed nursery, ready to take on seedlings from the forest. It was amazing to see it fully packed out with polybags, and I am looking forward to seeing how it is working when I return later this month

One of many Sungkai seedlings, planted by Action Agents, film crew and Eco Warriors earlier in the month, is doing well, with new shoots. Sungkai are a pioneer species, grows quickly, and provides great timber for building materials.

The orangutan enclosure, which will be used to house orangutans in the future. This enclosure will only be used for the animals whilst they sleep, and during the day they will be taken to the60 hectare forest for forest training, with the hope that they will be given the skills they need to one day be released for good in a safe release site.

Water! After a lot of effort from the animal rescue team, a water tank was set up next to the orangutan enclosure to provide animals under our care in the future with water at all times.

If you remember, Tembak village were planting a community vegetable garden when we first arrived. This photo was in one of my earlier blogs.

3 weeks later, this is what the vegetable garden looked like. Cucumber, tomato, runner bean, cassava, and many other plants reach 7 feet into the sky. They perfectly display how fertile the soil and productive the climate can be along the equator.

Setting up for our photo exhibition. We put up around 30 photos from various Eco Warriors, and hundreds of people attended the event to hear and see the stories we had to tell.

Brochures about DeforestACTION were handed out at the end to spread the word about the project and tell others about what we had done.

Liza Heavener and Paul Daley standing at the reception of the exhibition. I’m sure Paul wouldn’t want me to point out his sweat marks so I won’t mention them.

A youth drumming group from Pontianak drop some amazing beats as we celebrate and lament the end of our 80 days.

Finally, here is a tribute to Borneo that Paul Daley made. I have been so lucky to spend so much time in this incredible place. Sampai Jumpa Lagi. 

Thursday, 31 May 2012

And Breathe.

I normally don’t start these blogs with pictures because I want to introduce you to the narrative before I show the stills. Danau Centarum National Park in West Kalimantan, also known as “the lakes”, requires no such introduction, so I’m going to throw you straight into it.

A couple of weeks ago, the film crew, some investors and the Eco Warriors travelled Danau Sentarum  to survey it as a potential eco-tourism project in the future, as well as get some breathing time together before we all disperse out across the world. This was our view at the end of a boardwalk out the back of the tourist centre we were staying at. This national park is made up of around 132 thousand hectares of peat swamp forest, with wild orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, estuarine crocodiles, monitor lizards and huge insect, reptile, bird and fish biodiversity.

This time of year is the end of the wet season, so the water level of the lakes is relatively high, and in some places can be up to 30 feet deep.  These trees grow out of the water when the level is this high. It looks like a mix between a scene from The Lord of the Rings and The Woman in Black - eerie yet insanely stunning. This incredible photo was taken by Eco Warrior Paul Daley.

We got our first sighting of wild orang-utans! Well, their nests anyway. They build their nests high up in the canopy, normally in fruit trees, so that they can literally reach for their lunch. At this time of year, fruit is harder to come by, meaning the orang-utans must move locations more often, making it harder to keep track of where they are. We were walking in a group of maybe 15 people, so the chances of seeing them were pretty slim anyway.

Making our way into the wilderness. This was on our journey to the village with wild orang-utans. The river is so shallow and windy an inaccessible that you must take these little boats, a couple of people in each one, to get there.

Trying my hand at vertical canopy climbing. We were staying with some of the local firemen, who were kind enough to bring along their climbing gear which they use for rigging up equipment to put out forest fires. A huge amount of the forest is lost every year to these fires, and so the fire department play a crucial role in protecting this place and its flora and fauna.

Fellow Eco Warriors Kodi Twiner, Paul Daley and Fa Empel stand at the dockside soaking in the sunset on the water. Here’s a great fact– “Mada Hari” means sun, or directly translates to “eye of the day”. “Mata air” translates to water spring in English, or directly translates to “eye of the water".

All the Eco Warriors chugging along in a local longboat. It’s slow, but it really gives you time to soak in the scenery. The journey from Sintang by river takes about 7 hours on a longboat, and on our way to the lakes, most of the journey was spent in the dark with nothing to do but lie back under a spectacular night sky.

Eco Warrior Kodi Twiner spells out her name for a placard alongside the species name of the tree she was planting. “Shorea Belangaran”, or local name “Kawi”, is a critically endangered climax species indiginous to Indonesia. The timber that it produces is very hard, so it is a good building material.  Cameraman Ezther catches it all for the film.

Local produce - Fish provide the main income for most of the locals in the National Park. Over 80% of the freshwater fish consumed in the Kapuas region of Borneo is caught sustainably from this area. For many generations, the locals have been developing their sustainable practises, and because they depend on the fish, they have to. One of the fundamental ways they do this is by banning any fishing in certain lakes.
Eco Warrior Ben Dessen beams after catching a wild reticular python, the longest snake species in the world, after it wandered up to a rubbish dump just outside our house in search of a snack.

This lady was 3.4 metres long, but can reach up to 12 metres. Practically a baby. Can you imagine 12 metres?

We leave Borneo in the next few days, and Paul Daley and I will be heading to Bali for a language course. Paul, my girlfriend Nina and I will be returning to the lakes in dry season in a few months to carry out some biodiversity studies on the area, discuss the implementation of an eco-tourism package, rescue crocodiles and learn now to rig up and climb high into the canopy with the local fire department. The landscape will totally transform as the lakes dry up, and fruiting season will be upon us, which greatly increases our chances of finally spotting some wild orang-utans. I cannot wait.

So it's goodbye for now, Borneo. Sampai jumpa lagi.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Nice to get to know you, Tembak.

It’s remarkable how much a month in someone else’s world can affect your perspective. I recently returned from a month stint in the village of Tembak, right in the heart of Borneo, and I feel like my brain had a little bit of a rewiring.
 I guess the first thing I should comment on is that I have had the world of internet at my fingertips pretty much every day since I was 13 years old. I have spent a good chunk of the last 10 years sat in front of a computer, browsing, gaming, communicating and researching (and other things which I won’t go into…). On top of that, I am in constant communication with friends and family by phone, and it’s expected of me to be available to chat. To be thrown for over a month into a world where many of the older generation have never even heard of the internet and where getting good phone signal requires a 40 minute trek up telephone hill (no joke) was a new experience.  It was OK at first, but after a few weeks, it felt so strange to know that the world was going on behind closed doors. Emails, phone calls, Facebook comments were all building up. The world could be falling to its knees and we wouldn’t have a clue. To add to this, time started melt into itself. I find it almost impossible to order the experiences that I had there. With a similar agenda every day, and with no input from the outside world, there were no milestones to mark intervals of time. Days of the week and times of the day became less and less relevant. It was either dark or light, rainy or dry, too hot for work or not. Eventually, though, like every new experience, you get used to it, and it becomes normal.

So I guess the key skill I learnt on my time in Tembak was letting go of time. In the culture I grew up in, we are constantly harassed by deadlines, distractions and data. We have diaries, agendas and timetables which must be adhered to in order to make life run smoothly. We always have tasks at the back of our head and people breathing over our shoulders. There is very little space for just sitting back and looking at the present, and instead many of us complain about boredom when we have nothing to do. My time in Tembak helped me to relieve this feeling and to realise that if I have time to sit back and clear my mind, that’s OK, and even healthy.

I‘m sure being surrounded by nature is a huge catalyst for this in Tembak. We all have an inbuilt love of the natural world and it can spellbound us. That’s clear from the popularity of shows like Planet Earth. I spent a lot of time during my stay on my own, just staring at the world around me, whether that was in the rainforest or in the village on the veranda watching the Gods piss from the skies. It feels so natural to be in nature, especially in Borneo. Nature is so raw and complex here that even the most hardened, city dwelling Eco-Warriors in the group have been entranced by it at some point in this trip. It can squeeze all thoughts out of you like toothpaste.

In addition, nature has its own set of deadlines and cycles of time. There are periods of the year that you must plant your crops, and parts of the year when you must harvest them. There are sustainable methods you must use in order to maintain a quality environment, including not chopping down all the trees good for timber without replacing them. But at the same time, when you live in nature, there are often times when weather or the environment does not permit you to work. For example, Tembak villagers do not work in the rain, because generations of experience have told them that working in the rain for an hour or two increases your chances of making you sick for days. For this reason, the locals can often be found relaxing, and the pace of life is much slower. Their concept of time is much more founded in the present. Even their language reflects this, with the word “sudah” representing any time in the past and “akan” representing any time in the future, unless a certain time is specified (which more often than not it isn’t).  “Mungkin nanti” or “maybe later” is a phrase used often (frustratingly so) in Indonesia and especially in Tembak.

This is a refreshing way to live, but it provides a problem if you have a task to fulfil and only a limited time to achieve it. We have had 80 days to come up and implement a sustainable reforestation, eco-tourism and animal rehabilitation programme for Tembak, get to know the culture and language, and do all of this whilst living and breathing this snail-paced life. To make it even more complicated, locals are so brilliantly polite that they will often tell you that something is fine to do just so as to be rude and tell you that it’s not. We hit this wall over and over again, and it had some frustrating consequences. For example, one of our key aims for our time in Borneo was to set up a community seedling nursery for the village – somewhere where locals can come to buy or swap useful timber, fruit and medicinal seedlings to enrich their land and forests. We started 4 community nurseries. Four bloody nurseries. Each time we would think we had found the perfect spot, and confirmed the spot with the locals, another local would tell us about a fundamental problem with it that the original locals knew but didn’t want to tell us about out of politeness. It was a long process, but eventually, after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, we settled on a spot.

So now, one month down the line, we have a community nursery ready for seedlings over the coming years. It may not seem much, but our presence in Tembak and our enthusiasm for reforestation has certainly got locals interested in getting involved, especially those locals who were passionate about reforestation before we came. I can see exciting things developing.

During our time in Tembak, we were joined by half a dozen Action Agents from around the world – individuals who have raised $5000 for the project in the last year and so were invited to join the Eco-Warriors in Borneo. They were a fantastic bunch, and really brought a new energy to the group dynamic. They have been so passionate about the project since it started and getting to know them was really a privilege. I can’t wait to work with them all in the future of the DeforestACTION project.

We will be returning to Tembak at the end of this week for 5 days, and we have plans to line the main street with fruit trees with the help of the locals. It’s going to be incredibly sad to say goodbye. It has been such a unique honour to get to know Tembak and its people and culture, but I do have plans to return some time over the next few months, and hopefully one day I will return for an even longer stint. After having my camera and photos stolen, I need to go and recapture as much as I can! For now, Eco-Warrior Paul Daley has kindly leant me some of the photos he took over the trip. Enjoy!

Agung, a local 21-year-old Dayak, has a smoking break next to some polybags we have prepared for seedlings in the nursery. I hope to get some snaps of the finished nursery when I return tomorrow.

Mixing the magic potion – in order to make the soil for the seedlings more “fluffy”, so that the plants’ roots can grow uniformly, we mix in some rice husk into the soil, which would otherwise be wasted. Along with this, we chucked in some charcoal to provide some nutrients for the plants as they grow.

Shaving jungle style, with blunt scissors and a tiny mirror, and listening to a spot of Bon Iver. It was all fine till the power went out, and then it was all about taking it slowly and cautiously.
Pak Tomo, the father of the house we stayed at, chilling whilst wearing one of the best t-shirts I've ever seen. He of course has no idea what it means.

A community vegetable garden in Tembak – all the locals are involved, each with their own allotment. They cleared the land and built the garden all within about 4 days. When they want things to happen quickly, it’s quite remarkable.

Penari perempuaan, or traditional female dancers, celebrate the arrival of the action agents to Tembak. The guy in the back represents a traditional warrior with a simple machete and handcrafted shield. The dance is enchanting, and the male dance and the female dance really emphasises gender differences.

Action agents and Eco Warriors bonding for the first time in the river. The fresh energy brought by the new arrivals was welcomed.

Pak Apui, a local Dayak, standing at the top of his hydroelectric plant just 10 minutes walk out of the village. He was the first person ever to build one of these plants in Borneo, after reading about them from his adopted son from Germany. He built the entire plant himself in 3 months and the local villages said it would never work. The plant provides free electricity for 7 houses, and now sits alongside 5 more plants in Tembak which power the whole village. Other villages are naturally jumping on the band wagon now.

Sticking my head through the jet of water coming out of the bottom of the hydroelectric plant. The water is carried down a tube and shoots out against the waterwheel, turning the wheel and generating electricity.
Holding a local kid called Gusto. He has an incredible energy, probably partly provided by the copious amounts of sugar that he and the other local children consume on an almost hourly basis. Wherever you go in Tembak, you can always expect to be greeted by this cheeky smile, and he’ll probably demand that you swing him over your shoulder and throw him into the air.
Snails up inside ya, finding an entrance where they can. These delicious titbits can be found on most of the logs floating around the river, and make a delicious garlic snack, especially alongside a bowl of ant soup (yes, ant soup. They taste just like beans.)

The oldest lady in the area, supposedly 135, though from the age of her kids, that might be debated (can women have children when they are 79?). The tale goes that if you look at her teeth, she will steal a year from your life and use it herself.

A beautiful honey tree in the heat of the day. As in my last blog, these trees are used for nests by bees because their smooth trunks prevent honey bears and other scavengers from climbing and stealing the honey. Somtimes I swear the world plays up to the camera. Sexy nature.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fancy seeing you here, internet.

So I have just spent the longest time away from the internet since I was maybe 13. A few days ago, I returned from the second trip to Tembak, which lasted for a month, and it has felt like a lifetime. I thought I would just write you all a little note to say I’m still alive, and that I’m working on my biggest blog post yet. It’s just that I had a little hiccup and had my camera stolen a few days ago, along with all the stuff I had written during my time in Tembak, so I’m going to have to find new pictures and recall everything from memory. Bugger.

It’s going to be a great blog post though, so keep your eyes peeled. I have so much to tell you, world.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

An oasis in a biological desert.

Ive now been in Indonesia for a month, and I'm really starting to fall into the flow of it. 10 days ago, the reforestation team, consisting of Shadrack Kalasa, Paul Daley and myself, headed to a village 4 hours out of Sintang called Tembak, a place so remote Google maps hasn't even found it yet. Whilst it may be remote and unknown, it is also a prototype for all of Indonesia, and in my opinion, the world. Their whole village is powered by micro-hydro power from a local waterfall, they farm fish under their houses in man-made ponds, they have their own patch of amazing rainforest outside their back door, they don't have an ATM and rely a lot of the time on community and local trade, and most impressively the whole population is united against the palm oil companies whose barren plantations surround them for hundreds of kilometres. They are an oasis in a biological desert.

From what I can see, the reason they are so strong is because losing their forest will be so devastating to them, and they know it. They have seen the villages in the surrounding areas lose everything after having been given empty promises of jobs and quick cash, and then ripped off, their lives and homes stolen from them. They all know this is what will happen to them if they sell their land. On top of this, with the free electricity coming from the hydropower, losing the forest around them will also stop the water flowing, so they will lose at gem too.

We went to a university in Sintang today to talk to undergraduates about the project, and one of the questions we asked them was whether their parents had sold their land to pay for their university degree. Many put their hands up, and it's not a surprise. Parents want the best for their children, and for them to be successful, rich, educated. If a palm oil baron comes along and offers the chance for an education in exchange for a bit of land, of course many will shake on that deal. What we need to do as foreigners is recognise and acknowledge this challenge, and try to help the locals to find ways of making the forest so valuable to locals that these deals coming from these barons are worthless, or at least not worth it. This is what has happened at Tembak. Tembak proves it is possible.

For this reason, we have been working on a few nurseries in Tembak which will supply the locals with valuable plants to grow on their own land - medicinal plants, sugar palms, trees which provide valuable building materials. We have strong connections with Tembak, and some of the locals in the area are so connected to their land that we trust the nursery will thrive. We also want to use these nurseries as templates to show villages in the local area that you CAN make your forest and land profitable, as well as maintain the natural ecosystem. We want to highlight to the world that a community CAN stand up in the face of big money and corruption. It's only a small step, and I'm learning so much about how to care for and encourage the natural world.

My Bahasa (the Indonesian language) is progressing at a steady rate. I'm already planning a month long course in Bali after the 80 days in Borneo, which is really exciting. I'm trying to delve as far into it as possible, studying whenever I can.

Anyway, here are some visual scenes from the world that I'm emersed in:

A local, Pak Apui, has offered to make us machete's for working in the plantation nursury. This guy has spent his life in the Tembak village, and is one of the few remaining elders with expert knowledge of local traditions, flora and fauna. He has an incredibly kind smile, though his teeth are always stained in red beetlenut seed - a local drug with effects similar to nicotine.

Working hard at the nursery. As you can see, there are polybags for planting seedlings all over the ground. Pak Nyau, the local who owns this land, was promised by a government official that he would receive funding and an environmental award if he started a nursery. He spent 3 months working 9 till 6 every day to establish the nursery, but the official never returned, and eventually he had to give up, and the nursery was left to become overgrown. It feels great to be able to give him a burst of energy, and make him proud of his work, and to ensure him that it wasn't all for waste.

This is what 4x4s are for. We are at the end of the wet season, but the ride to the village of Tembak is still ridiculous. Sometimes it is hard to tell where the road ends and the river begins.

Boy plays just outside our house in Tembak. Life is at a different pace in a place like this. At first, it's uncomfortable. It feels like there's too much sitting around, and things aren't moving quick enough. Eventually though, once you have accepted that things do just go move slower, you realise how rushed, hectic and stressful life in the west really is. I will never be able to fully accept it though, especially when I want to do so much whilst I'm out here.

Big ol' honey bee tree (or tualang). They can reach 250 feet, or 30 stories in height. They are a member of the legume family, and are related to peas. The reason bees build their nests in them in them is because they have a smooth surface and do not branch, making it hard for sunbears to reach the honey. Of course, humans climb up there, and there is a story in Tembak of a man getting trapped in this tree for days after reaching the prize at the top.

Web art. Fascinating and beautiful unless you get too close. That's the way I feel about lots of the creepies here.

The birth of 4 kittens has warmed up the feeling at our longhouse. The mother, colloquially known as "skank" is pregnant again we think. I have to admit a little fondness to her. She's a good mum, if a little gnarled and infected.

Painted steps - as part of our project to liven up and refurbish the Sintang Orangutan Rescue Centre, some of the others have spent time giving the place a lick o' paint. This centre is only a place to bring rescued orangutans. It is not close enough to a release site, and so is not suitable for soft releases which allow orangutans to safely spend time during the day in the trees and learn climbing and foraging, so that they can one day be released into the wild for good. We are currently working on trying to set up a suitable soft release environment in Tembak village for this purpose.

This is a bird-winged butterfly - named after the fact that it looks like a bird when it flies. It is one of the largest butterflies in the world, and is also the most astounding creature that I have ever been lucky enough to see. It looks like it has been created in a UV rave. Check out the flourescent green spots covering the entirety of its wings and body.

That's all for now everyone, I'm off to Tembak again in the next few days, armed with fresh shovels, wheelbarrows and a new bed. We have just bought a antennae to help the reception situation whilst we are there, and have just received a bunch of computers and phones from Samsung, so hopefully (HOPEFULLY) it will be possible to continue to update from the ground.

For now, here's a video from our trip to Tembak called "Welcome to Tembak" recorded by the amazing Paul Daley.

Love from the jungle to you all.

Thursday, 29 March 2012


If there's one thing this project is not, it's smooth sailing. As Willie Smits so rightly pointed out on the first few days of the project:

"The only thing you can be certain of in Indonesia is that nothing is certain"

The last 10 days (since I met up with the other Eco Warriors, the film crew and Dr. Willie Smits) have, just like the roads, been bumpy, uncertain and covered in pot-holes. It has been a great disappointment to us all that no large companies have stepped up to give the financial foundations that this project really needs. On top of this, we have not yet received the laptops we were promised from Samsung, which has left us with only 5 computers between us all, limiting our ability to communicate with our networks and work on fundraising. We have lost 4 of our Eco Warriors to personal issues, including the 2 competent Bahasa Indonesia speakers, which has left some communication problems! On the plus side, my Bahasa is improving exponentially!

Nevertheless, I love being back.

On the journey to a town in the centre of Pontianak, we spotted this guy precariously driving his top-heavy van on the windy, bumpy roads. At one point the wheels on one side lifted off the road.

The most exciting part of returning - the bit that we had all been curling our toes in anticipation for - was meeting up with baby orangutan JoJo and her new playmate Juvi. Whilst we have to respect a 20 day quarantine period before we can go close to them, it was so great to see them play. Click Here is a video that Eco Warrior Paul Daley made of them playing with their care-worker.

Setting up for the first early morning webinar with thousands of kids from around the world (including schools from Pakistan, Brazil, America, Australia, India, Canada, Croatia and the UK). We spoke about ourselves, our plans, our aims, and our new campaign, orangutaNation, which involves young people from around the globe in rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned orangutans. It was so amazing to engage with these stake-holders, and to answer their questions. One girl asked Willie Smits if he, like her, had already decided at the tender age of 6 to spend his life saving orangutans.

Shadrack's Throne - Eco Warrior Shadrack Kalasa napping on his huge bed whilst the final midnight webinar is recorded behind him.

An exciting new toy for the EarthWatchers programme. Earthwatchers is a ground breaking new software tool to enable young people across the planet to monitor the forests and provide usable intelligence to stop deforestation. It provides a new approach for education by actually involving the students directly in the conservation effort by allowing them to monitor real data. This photo was taken from a GoPro camera which will be attached to a drone - a 6 foot remote controlled plane (bottom centre of the picture) - in order to take photos from a birds eye view of illegal deforestation.

With a small budget, we have managed to rejuvenate the enclosures within and security surrounding the Orangutan Centre which houses Juvi and JoJo, and which will soon house dozens more rescued orangutans. Click Here to see a video of this process by Paul Daley.

Bugs, bugs, everywhere. On your face and in your hair.
This little dude needed a paracetamol after crashing head first into a spinning ceiling fan. We healed his wound with a cotton bud, and he was soon ready to be re-released.
Sunset on the red bark. It's great to be back in the Beating Heart of Borneo.