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!

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