Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Headed to Tangkahan

On Friday we flew from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, to Kuala Lampur then on to Medan, Indonesia – on the island of Sumatra.  We had visited Sumatra in 2010 and spent a little time with Ian Singleton of SOCP, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.  We were able to meet up with Ian for dinner on our first night in Medan, and deliver some veterinary supplies and medications being donated by Seneca Park Zoo, Kansas City Zoo and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  These items will be used at SOCP’s orangutan rehabilitation center, Batu Mbelin.  Ian updated us on various things such as orangutan releases and law enforcement issues.

On Saturday we drove to Tangkahan and stayed at the Mega Inn, an ecotourism site.  We went to a scheduled Sumatran elephant bath.  We came away with mixed feelings about this program.  When we arrived we were not very surprised to see barbed wire and electric fence surrounding the elephants’ area…but we were surprised to see that all of the elephants were chained.  We were told that the mahouts unchain the elephants twice per day to walk them down a trail for their scheduled bath/swim in the river.

We met with the head of the tourism board in Tangkahan.  He told us how the ecotourism that has been happening in the area has really helped with the local economy.  We’ll be able to share more details when we have more time…

The next morning we took a hike through the rainforest along rubber tree collection trails.  The amazing highlight of this hike was hearing wild Siamangs and white-handed gibbons vocalizing for over an hour!  We did not see them but the calls alone were so cool to hear!  We saw Thomas’s leaf monkeys and long-tailed macaques.

We’ll send more updates when we can, need to load up in the van shortly!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Seafood for Thanksgiving

RT9 (RSPO) Conference has come to an end and we feel we have gained a wealth of knowledge.  It was amazing and inspiring that nearly 1000 people from 50 countries came together to discuss how best to continue to move certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) forward, but it was also very clear that there is still a lot of work to be done.  We heard varying opinions on the best ways to ensure a better future for not only the palm oil industry, but also the environment as a whole. There were many discussions surrounding environmental issues like deforestation, greenhouse gases and HCV (high conservation value) areas.  There are solutions but will take all stakeholders setting aside their differences and working together to make the changes that are best for everyone involved.  Another interesting thing we found was that the US was very under-represented at the conference although we are one of the top consumers of palm oil in the world.  This makes us realize is that the problems of palm oil are still not widely known or understood in the US, and consumers have yet to inform their favorite companies that they will only accept CSPO in the products they purchase.  Help us spread the word to giants like General Mills, Pepperidge Farms, and Pillsbury that joining the RSPO and using 100% CSPO is the right thing to do not only for the survival of endangered species such as orangutans, rhinos, and tigers but also for the health of the planet.

When we applied to join RSPO we had a choice to join as affiliate members or ordinary members.  We chose to pay a higher membership fee in part because we felt it was crucial to be able to vote in the RSPO General Assembly.  So it was extremely gratifying to be able to vote in the 8th General Assembly on numerous important resolutions.

On Thursday night we did not exactly eat a typical Thanksgiving dinner…we ate at a seafood restaurant!  We had a great conversation with Isabelle Lackman of Hutan, an orangutan conservation organization here in Malaysia.  This morning we spent some time with Adam Harrison of WWF, who is on the RSPO executive board and is a great resource regarding palm oil sustainability issues.

We are flying to Sumatra today to begin the next exciting part of our journey!

Find out more about palm oil and orangutans on our palm oil crisis page and check back soon - we’ll send updates when we can!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Malaysia!

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Arrives in Kota Kinabalu for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Meeting
by Dina Bredahl, Animal Care Manager and Palm Oil Awareness Team

What has Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Palm Oil Awareness Team been up to? Planning another trip to Indonesia and Malaysia to learn more about palm oil issues and how we can help wild orangutans.

During our first trip to Indonesia and Malaysia in May/June of 2010, we learned so much about palm oil production and issues, as well as many other factors affecting the people and wildlife. We did not think we would be returning again anytime soon. But then Cheyenne Mountain Zoo became the first zoo to join the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). We decided to attend RT9, the 9th annual RSPO conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. This would be our first opportunity to attend an RSPO meeting as members, and be able to vote on issues in the general assembly!

In recent months we planned a trip to not only include the RSPO meeting but also to visit Sumatra and work with a conservation group we have never worked with before, Orangutan Information Centre (OIC). We have an exciting itinerary planned over the next two weeks.

After leaving the US on November 19th, and traveling for 37 hours, we finally made it safely to our hotel in Kota Kinabalu (with all of our luggage!). We attended the first day of RT9 on Tuesday, we are definitely learning a lot. We split up for the preparatory clusters topics in the morning; Tracey went to Biodiversity High Conservation Value, Debbie and Antonia went to Smallholders (these are often individual family-run small plots of oil palms), Liz and Lori went to RSPO 101 and Dina went to palm oil greenhouse gas issues. The keynote speaker, Jonathon Porritt, gave a very inspiring talk about environmental issues on a broad scope, how RSPO fits into the big picture, and how other crops/industries will be modeling their sustainability programs after the RSPO.

Find out more about palm oil and orangutans on our palm oil crisis page and check back soon - we’ll send updates when we can!

First day of RT9, the RSPO conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
From left: Antonia Alvarado (El Paso Zoo), 
Lori Perkins (Zoo Atlanta), Liz Harmon (Kansas City Zoo), 
Tracey Gazibara (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo), Debbie Fenton 
(Cheyenne Mountain Zoo) and Dina Bredahl (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)