It is imperative that any conservation programmes are carried out in conjunction with education activities. IAR began running education programmes in West Kalimantan as soon as we began our rescue and rehabilitation programme, providing information on orangutan conservation issues and the legality of ownership to orangutan owners during rescues, and socialisation work with people living around our original orangutan transit centre.
When it became clear that we would have to substantially expand our education activities if we were to stem the tide of forest loss and orangutans arriving at our centre, we put together a specialist team of local education practitioners. The team, in collaboration with our Human Orangutan Conflict Response team, travels to communities in or near to orangutan habitat, schools, universities and popular social spots in Ketapang to spread our message.
One of our most successful recent programmes involves our conservation camps, which take place in the forest of Pematang Gadung. These camps are targeted at local teenagers, to develop and foster their interest in conservation, encourage them to become active stewards in the protection of Ketapang’s natural resources, and show them how decisions they make in their everyday lives can impact on the environment. Each conservation camp lasts three days and includes many different interactive activities, games and presentations, with the main event occurring on the second day, when participants are taken into the forest for a trek, visiting three pre-prepared learning posts. Teams are divided into three learning groups, so they reach the forest learning posts at different times, reducing the noise impact on the forest.
The first forest learning post is all about forest ecosystems, and participants are taught about basic forest ecology and the ecological services the forest supplies. The second post is specifically about orangutans, their ecology, the threats to their survival, how to protect them, and the work IAR does to conserve them. The added benefit of conducting these activities in the Pematang Gadung Community Forest is that wild orangutans are often spotted, giving us a very useful free teaching assistant. The third learning post teaches about sustainability and green living, and the 5Rs of environmental practices - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Replant and Replace.
The camps have been a huge success and many of the teenagers who have taken part have remained involved with IAR, forming local conservation groups. These groups have been instrumental in devising and implementing outreach activities to celebrate International Orangutan Day, and Orangutan Awareness Week, organising concerts, poetry competitions, film screenings, and sports competitions, to name but a few.
In 2016, IAR developed an afterschool programme to provide a curriculum of environmental education, using outdoor activities to get our message across. The programme delivers materials about the forest, peat land, orangutans, the overall environment, the 5 Rs and how to adopt a greener lifestyle. Every meeting begins with an ice breaker, to energise the children and get them in the spirit, and begins with games, including Running Forest, Find and Match, and Twister. The children taking part, usually pre-teens, are called our Pongo Rangers!
IAR has also begun a regular radio show, using West Kalimantan’s most popular radio station to spread our conservation message far and wide. In one of our most important developments, we have also launched a religious education project, using religious texts and leaders of the two predominant religions in the area, Islam and Christianity, to encourage followers to think more seriously about environmental issues. This project also has a component that involves working with Dayak elders; although many Dayaks have converted to Christianity, they hold on to many traditional beliefs and customs, and working within these customs has been a useful way of increasing awareness among Dayak communities. This has been incredibly important, as Dayaks are the ethnic group in Kalimantan most likely to hunt orangutans.