Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Insights of a Local Community Leader

In the process of planning our trip we had told Dr. Isabelle, a world renowned French primatologist and Director of Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP), that we would like to speak with a community leader if possible. She arranged for us to meet with Suali bin Adai, the Muslim leader in Sukau.

We quickly learned why Suali bin Adai is considered a wise man. We asked him many questions about what he has experienced with the development of oil palm plantations in Malaysia over the years, and also the changes he has seen since KOCP and Red Ape Encounters were established. The biggest changes he has seen since palm oil plantations replaced some large forested areas are obviously loss of habitat, increase in high winds (which is not normal for these areas), and he said “it is much hotter than it was in the ‘old days.’” When asked if peoples’ attitudes about orangutans have changed since KOCP has been active for the last twelve years, he had this to say:

Years ago we saw orangutans sometimes but it was just an orangutan. We did not have an intention to kill them (note: Muslims do not hunt orangutans for food). After they came (Dr. Isabelle and Marc) we found out that it is important for them to be here. It is good that they are here.

Mr. Adai is a dignified man who was easy to talk to (with Mincho interpreting) and he has a great sense of humor. He has embraced eco-tourism, and when asked if he thought that more visitors should come to Sukau he said, “Yes! They should come!” Mr. Adai’s answers were very insightful and helpful in our understanding of the realities people face in Sukau.

While we do not have a picture with Mr. Adai, this is a picture with Mincho, our guide.

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