Orangutan rescue mission July 2010 (part 1)

Sitting in a shaking plane flying over Borneo where tomorrow we will start our next rescue mission. We, Richard, Leo and me, got the last row in the plane where the seats are smallest and cannot lean back and where every flush of the toilet behind the less than one inch thick material both vibrates and creates noise. Leo and Richard somehow still manages to sleep leaning on their small tables but at least the people in front of them have their seats upright! And in about an hour landing in one of the most polluted cities in the world we will have to endure more discomfort in Jakarta’s choking unruly traffic.

A meeting with important people who are so far away from the forests and the orangutans, both physically and mentally, that it makes you sad that they hold the keys to any chances for the orangutans and their survival. Well that will change if we can get enough support for Orangutan Outreach (an organization from Willie’s friend Richard Zimmerman). Then I can take them on directly. That day will come. I know what money means and can do in Indonesia. Once through the Gibbon Foundation we did reduce illegal wildlife trade significantly and increased the prices for wildlife through simple consistent law enforcement. That is what works. Law enforcement increases risks and lowers profit margins for the traders. More risk fewer deals and higher prices. Simple economic principles. Complication? Corruption everywhere.

So we need law enforcement against those who are supposed to do it but don’t! That was what we did with the Gibbon Foundation. And it worked. Police chiefs would give up their orangutan the moment a letter of LASA [The Wildlife Advocacy Institute] would arrive. Because they would know that this organization would chase them for years in court and expose them in publications. It was not worth the trouble or risk. But so many organizations will not do this. Because they get terrorized when they do. I know. The people of LASA got death threats and so do I. And many international organizations don’t want to work with me because the Ministry of Forestry may not extend their cooperation agreements with them because they don’t like someone like me or my Indonesian organizations that they cannot control. And the contracts with these international organizations are reviewed yearly and friends in those organizations have told me in private that they agree with my approach but their management decides to choose the safe way and avoid me. Well that may bring them more safety but not so for the orangutans.

31 years of Indonesia can make you cynical and wear a person down. But in Richard Zimmerman I have found an ally that loves orangutans and will do what it takes to save them. With Orangutan Outreach we are now building an effort that is based upon a very sound understanding of what is needed and a network of brave and dedicated people. The biggest risk assumption is for Richard and me to believe that there are enough people in the world who get it and want real change and a real chance for the orangutans. And that the economic crisis will not destroy their capability to contribute to our cause. Richard and his iPhone are an army and it connects us from the field with hundreds of thousands of orangutan friends around the world. Richard will ensure that you will hear from us and our many friends out in the field (www.redapes.org). So I just hope that these thoughts and reports will reach you through these digital airwaves and help us to give the orangutans and with them all other living organisms sharing their forest home a real fighting chance. And fight we must!