We saw a couple young orangutans at the rehabilitation center Nyaru Menteng, so now we would like to try to find some in the wild at Sebangau National Park. We are not sure how difficult this will be.
The office for Sebangau National Park is located at a pier about a twenty minute ride in shared taxi from Palangka Raya. We are greeted by a very friendly young woman, Suli, who speaks excellent English and gives us plenty of her time to explain the area to us. Sebangau is open for visitors, but is definitely not ready for an influx of guests. It sounds like visitors need a guide and she is the only English speaker. But actually her bosses are coming from Jakarta, so she will not be able to take us. Therefore, Suli kindly let’s us go on our own without a guide and arranges it so that we will meet up and stay with the workers from the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). Since they do not speak English, Suli loans us her pocket translator.
We buy seats on a public speedboat that will take us to SSI, the WWF office at the entrance of the park. The water is black and smooth with perfect reflections of plants and clouds. It feels like we are gliding on a mirror.
Sebangau is a relatively new national park and is the largest protected area of peat land - think swampy wetlands - forest in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). This is actually the last remaining peat land in the Central Kalimantan region after the central government initiated the Mega Rice Project in 1995 in which they tore down an unprecedented 1.4 million hectares of peat land forest for agriculture (and you can bet logging concessions too). 1.4 million hectares ( = 3,336,000 acres) is almost exactly the size of Conneticut.
In the past in Sebangau hundreds of canals were dug by loggers (different than the Mega Rice project) which gave them access deep into the rainforest. The canals and forest degradation reduced the natural ability of the peat land to retain moisture during the dry season and made the area very susceptible to fires which in turn released enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and significantly reduced the natural habitat of the animals. Peat land is a breadbasket full of flora and fauna. It is easy to imagine the impact this sheer devastation of forest in Kalimantan is having on the 808 species of plants, 150 types of birds and 35 species of mammals, including 6000-9000 wild orangutans - the largest population in Indonesia - that live in Sebangau.
|These edible jungle mushrooms became part of our lunch|
|This nursery is growing indigenous species that will be planted in the area.|
|The WWF station at Sebangau|
Later in the day we take another short boat ride. This time on the river and small tributaries behind SSI. I am not sure what we are looking for exactly, but we do not see any wildlife. We do, however, get to see the younger of our two guides scale straight up a tree to get two jungle apples. And we do slog a bit more through the swampy jungle, which is always fun, I guess.
|Watch your step!|
|View from the canal blocking site. This canal streches another 19 KM.|
The green is where vegetation has begun to return.
|A very bitter tea made from Akar Kuning (Sp?).|
This root found in the forest will supposedly help fight against malaria.1