Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meeting with John Payne in Sabah

We had the privilege to meet with John Payne, author of numerous books about mammals in Malaysia who has been working here since 1977. He shared a wealth of knowledge with us over three hours, his experiences concerning numerous threats facing orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia.

We also met and stayed with an amazing woman who works with Hutan, an Orangutan and Elephant Conservation Organization in Sabah. Harjinder Kler was a wonderful hostess. She has lived her whole life in Sabah, and also knows a great deal about the orangutans here.

From England, Dr. Junaidi (John) Payne is the senior advisor to WWF Malaysia. He received his BS in Zoology from King’s College, London University in 1972 and a Ph.D in Tropical Ecology from Cambridge University in 1979.

Dr. Payne has worked on a variety of conservation projects in Sabah, including wildlife surveys, Sabah Conservation Strategy (adopted by the Sabah Government in 1992), early proposals for Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, and building up a full-time WWF presence in Sabah. He has written several books including A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo (1985), and This is Borneo (1994).

In an interview a few years ago, Dr. Payne remarked:
“The remaining natural forests around Sukau are examples of an extremely rare habitat type – natural vegetation of an alluvial floodplain. This is the once-widespread habitat of South-east Asia which in early times (thousands, or at least hundreds. of years ago) was converted to rice paddies. Rice can grow only in open, exposed areas, free of invading tree cover. The ability of certain varieties of rice to grow in flooded land, where few tree species can grow, was a part of the reason why rice expanded as a major food crop through South-east Asia.

It is unclear why lower Kinabatangan escaped human settlement and conversion to rice fields in ancient times. In the ninetieth century, the British administration thought that piracy from the southern Philippines and head-hunting raiders from Kalimantan, were the main reason for the very small numbers of human inhabitants of lower Kinabatangan. More probably, the unpredictable timing and depth of flooding, compared to that generated by the more seasonal rainfall patterns on much of the mainland Asia, made rice growing too risky in the high by erratic rainfall zones of Borneo. Floodplains are not a stable ecosystem. Slow attrition and re-deposition of sediments means that the river’s course changes slowly. A big flood event can cause more rapid change at some localities, especially by cutting through a big bend in the river. Oxbow lakes may be created almost literally overnight, but they remain potentially for centuries before being filled with sediment and pioneered for vegetation.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Photos from Sumatra and Malaysia

Our group is having a wonderful time in Sumatra and Malaysia and learning so much, although internet service is limited and receiving these photos has been nothing but a small miracle. Here are some of the pictures we have received so far from their travels and a short message from our team. We hope you enjoy them.

Yay! We love Malaysia so far. Eighth attempt to send photos is a charm. We miss everyone!!!!
-Dina, Mandy & Tracey

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wild Mother Orangutan and Kids in Sumatra

This is the first video our team on the ground in Sumatra sent today. It is a mother orangutan and her two kids. We will continue to keep you updated as we hear from our team on their travels and learn more about the palm oil crisis that threatens these amazing animals.

Monday, May 24, 2010

We have landed!

Our team has landed in Indonesia and they are sending updates as they can. We wanted to take a minute to introduce you to them and the goals and objectives of this trip.

Tracey Gazibara - Vice President
Dina Brendahl - Animal Care Manager
Mandy Hollingsworth - Primate World Keeper

Also on the trip are Carol Sodaro of Brookfield Zoo, Stephanie Braccini of St. Louis Zoo, and Joel Gazibara.

Trip Goal: To become the authority on Palm Oil and any other major threats affecting orangutans and their habitat by obtaining the latest and most accurate information in the field.

Trip Objective 1: Ground truth the Palm oil crisis in Borneo near areas with known orangutan populations.
- Fly to Kota Kinabalu and meet with palm oil and conservation agencies. (Isabelle from Red Ape Encounters to help facilitate)
- Fly to Sukau to see the Sepliok orangutan rehabilitation facility
- Meet with personal at WWF that are doing work in the area
-Meet with personal from the Borneo Conservation Trust
-Conduct interviews with palm oil plantation owners
-Fly to Ketapang where we will meet with staff at the National Park office.
-In Ketapang we will meet with staff from Flora and Fauna International to discuss their role in the palm oil crisis. Will also speak with other community leaders regarding the crisis.
- We will visit Gunung Palung National Park and possibly see orangutans in the wild.
- Within the Gunung Palung National park we will visit Lubuk Baji—a camp for kids that involves environmental education

Trip Objective 2: Ground truth the Palm oil crisis in Sumatra near areas with known orangutan populations.
- Fly to Medan and meet with Musim Mas, a RSPO certified sustainable plantation and mill
- Visit Batu Mbelin and visit with Ian Singleton at SOCP (Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program)
- Visit Gunung Leuser National Park and see a new reforestation project in the park. The park is also one of the last strongholds of wild orangutans in Sumatra

Trip Objective 3: Research possible solutions for the threats facing orangutans
-Interview (see questions below) Mark and Isabelle in Sukau regarding the work they are doing in this area and see first hand
--Who would be responsible for creating corridors
--Who can ‘fight’ for corridor enforcement in court
--Replanting/reforestation to create new corridors
--Protection (law AND patrolling) of corridor areas
--Visit Gunung Leuser National Park and see project first hand
--Visit Samboja Lestari and see project first hand

Trip Objective 4: Understand how the palm oil crisis is affecting the indigenous people and look for ways to help

-Sustainable handicrafts
--In Sumatra stay at Bukit Lawang at an ecolodge and learn about their ecotourism projects
--In Sukau our accomendations will be a homestay through Red Ape Encounters. RAE is a community based ecotourism/homestay project

Trip Objective 5: Build a media library to help with our awarness campaign upon our return.
-At every location visited, take pictures and video of palm oil plantations, forests after logging, reforestation projects, palm oil factories, orangutan habitat, and orangutan rehabilitation projects.

We will also be sharing the experience and forming partnerships with other AZA facilities - Brookfield Zoo and St. Louis Zoo.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Three years ago, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo became a leader in taking action against the Palm Oil Crisis, which is threatening the very survival of orangutans. You may not be aware that the only place in the world that orangutans exist is on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, and that Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are two of the most endangered primates on the planet. Over the last several years, orangutan populations have decreased at alarming rates because of deforestation for the purpose of creating palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used in many everyday items, from cookies to cosmetics, and as a source of biofuel. In the last three years we have been raising awareness and funds. Now, it’s time for us to take real, tangible action and see for ourselves exactly what’s happening in Borneo and Sumatra so that we can take the next vital steps to ensure orangutans will be a part of the natural world for many years to come.

We have planned a trip that will put us on the ground in Indonesia and Malaysia, seeing first-hand the many facets of the Palm Oil Crisis.

At Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, we believe that we have a responsibility to be a leader in conservation, captive breeding and animal care. The Zoo also believes that people want to make a positive difference in the world through conservation efforts and that we have a unique opportunity to engage, inform and inspire a large and captive audience about issues impacting animals and the environment.