|Tree climbing session deep inside Hutan Harapan. Enjoying forest canopies view from above the tall tree.|
By Stephanie Morren
I, Stephanie (with my husband Liam), recently had the very great privilege of spending 3 days in the beautiful Harapan rainforest in Jambi and South Sumatra provinces, Sumatra, Indonesia. I have known about this project run by RSPB, Burung Indonesia and BirdLife International for many years. So when I had the opportunity to visit I jumped at the chance!
The journey to base camp from Jambi is around 3 hours along a very muddy and bumpy road. Most of this journey is through palm oil plantations which just seem to go on forever. So it was difficult to imagine what Harapan would be like. Even once we went through the gate into the forest, the rows of palm trees were still there, visible in every direction. We did gradually start to see some native forest, with tall trees and a variety of flora. We also saw a troupe of long-tailed macaques crossing the road in front of us!
|Indigenous kids of Bathin IX of Hutan Harapan's school|
Base camp was really impressive and there were lots of friendly people working there. After settling in to our room (with the unexpected luxury of air conditioning!) we headed out into the forest for the first time. Although this forest has been heavily exploited in the past, it was teeming with life. Birds, insects and monkeys all moving about through the trees, and the wonderful and distinctive sounds of the rainforest filled the air. As we watched various macaques, leaf monkeys, wild pigs, flying squirrels, hornbills and hawk-eagles it was easy to forget how small and vulnerable this forest really is.
Over the three days we spent a lot of time in the forest – trekking through the forest trails and taking in all the sights and sounds. Avoiding the leeches was a daily activity too! A real highlight was the climb up to the treetop platform which gave us a 360° view of the forest. As we were so deep into the forest, there was no palm oil or anything else in sight. Purely forest and it was beautiful. Another highlight was finding tracks of animals such as sun bears, tapirs and Sumatran tigers. It was amazing to think that they had passed through that very spot not long before us. During a night walk we came across a banded palm civet, which are classed as internationally vulnerable as they have declined due to habitat loss. To see any nocturnal mammal is a real treat.
|Adventure inside the last tropical dry lowland rainforest in |
Jambi & South Sumatra provinces, Indonesia.
We also had the pleasure of visiting the local school for the indigenous people, where we told the children about our home in England, and taught them a well-known nursery rhyme. It was fantastic to see them enjoying school and they will be the first generation of their people to go through a school education. When we asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up, answers included teacher, policeman and doctor.
There are challenges facing the team at Hutan Harapan, from deforestation because of encroachment to tiger poaching activities. And there is no doubt that this project and the future of lowland rainforest in Sumatra hangs in the balance. However, it is rare to meet such a dedicated bunch of people and if any project is going to succeed I believe it can be this one. For the sake of the climate, the people and the wildlife, let’s hope that they manage to save it, and this wonderful place continues to get better and better.