The next day I flew to Jakarta, Java and changed planes for Pangkalan Bun, the capital of Central Kalimantan, Borneo. The fires have ravaged Central Kalimantan. They recently stopped burning (for the time being) after tremendous efforts from the Borneans and various organizations. A state of emergency was declared but little has come from that – except that the palm oil companies are completely off the hook for liability since a state of emergency removes fault. I have received different numbers for the fire damage. One account said that over 6,000 hectares (approx. 15,000 acres) were burned while another said that well over 9,000 hectares (approx. 23,000 acres) were incinerated. Devastating.
The most important aspect of my time spent here in Borneo (besides photographing the orangutan and the palm plantations) is to meet a women whose work (and in whom) I have admired for years: Doctor and Professor (as she is known here) Birute Mary Galdikas. I mentioned in a previous post that she is one of the three primatologist women who was trained and mentored by the famous Dr. Louis Leakey. These three women including Jane Goodall (chimpanzees) and Dian Fossey (mountain gorillas) are referred to as the “Trimates”. Birute Galdikas’ work strongly continues here in Borneo. Early on she established a Care Center (larger than the quarantine center in Sumatra). I have been in contact with Dr. Galdikas (Birute) and due to the fires, our correspondence went dark the past few weeks. I had no idea if she was going to be able to meet with me while I was here all though earlier she indicated that she would.
I learned upon arriving that she was out in the forest on the Sekonyer River where I was going. What luck!! She was staying at a lodge there and had a meeting with officials from Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia). We stopped by the lodge and she came out to meet me. We spent about half hour together and she invited me to meet her on Sunday – in two days. She is a very interesting lady and it was a thrill to meet her. To me, she is a celebrity in conservation. Her work is very important. I look forward to seeing her again on Sunday. This has been a most successful start to my time here.
My forest guide here is named Aidi. He too is also gregarious. It will be nice to work with him as he is very enthusiastic as well as entertaining.
I will be living on a house boat called a ‘klotok or kolotok” for the next 10 days with a crew of 4 – pretty nice. These boats are called “klotoks” because their engine makes a sound like “klok klok klok”.
Here are some images of my new home on the river for the next 10 days: