Monday, June 16, 2014

Busy Day at Kebun Raya Botanical Garden

11 year old orangutan at
Kebun Raya UNMUL Samarinda
Today was a very busy day finally getting to work for Kebun Raya UNMUL Samarinda (KRUS), the education forest and botanical garden managed by the University Muluwarman (UNMUL) near Samarinda. We have visited KRUS twice already during our stay in Samarinda. Those visits let us explore the grounds and get to know KRUS, and talk to the faculty in the Forestry School at UNMUL who are responsible for the facility. One of the major goals of this UTEP project is to make some improvements at KRUS.

KRUS is an Education Forest used by UNMUL for student projects and classes, as well as being open to the public. There are some amusement facilities (paddle boats, train, bumper cars, local food cart vendors) to make it a family fun destination - one of the few outdoor fun destinations available in crowded Samarinda. The facility now also houses several animals that are rescued from illegal pet trade, injury, or habitat destruction. While there are several large enclosures with lots of climbing and playing structures for the orangutans and the sun bear, many of the other animal enclosures are very small and do not provide much comfort or behavioral stimulation. Most also have signs that have faded away or broken, and there isn't any education info for the public.

Small gibbon enclosure
Gibbon at KRUS

Sun bear enclosure at KRUS - nice!

One of the orphan orangutan enclosures at KRUS
Lots of toys and climbing structures!
So today, after previous days of planning and buying materials, the UTEP students and I worked with UNMUL students and faculty to make frames for educational signs that the students designed and will have professionally printed, and to make enrichment devices to improve the daily lives of some of the animals. We aren't finished, the students will have a couple more days to keep up the work!

UTEP and UNMUL students working on signs

As for bigger solutions to the cramped housing, that will take longer than the 2 weeks we have left here. I'll provide a document with recommendations to the KRUS managers, including some enclosure modifications, animal care, and enrichment strategies. Luckily, there are some folks already involved at KRUS who have some very similar ideas but need the support and resources to make it happen. They are from an organization called the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP), and they are already the primary caretakers of the orangutans at KRUS. They designed and built, with volunteers, the climbing structures in the larger enclosures, and they have a lot of knowledge and ideas about enrichment and improving animal care at KRUS. COP also helps rescue "pet" orangutans and orphans, are activists trying to raise awareness and fight forest destruction for palm oil plantations that are rapidly eradicating vital orangutan habitat and creating more orangutan orphans and injuries, and holds training workshops for Indonesian zoos to improve their standard of animal care. I hope that together we can spread some of the love to the rest of the KRUS residents!

One of COP's eye catching trucks 

Breakfast time for orphans - these guys will hopefully
make it back into the wild after COP staff help them learn
forest survival skills and they are big enough to be on their own

Me with veterinarian Dr. Iman and Area Manager Dhani from COP

And finally, just for fun, I have to tell everyone that most of the Indonesians I have met like taking pictures and being in pictures, and they LOVE taking pictures with us foreigners! So we are now in a LOT of photos with a lot of very friendly Indonesians, and on who knows how many Indonesian Facebook pages! So here are a couple of groups of school kids at KRUS who were very excited to pose with us. The UTEP students are teaching as many as they can to put their "picks up" too!

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