This week at the Trust, we have been focusing heavily on practical Conservation methods.
Last weekend, I was scrolling through Instagram (always a good use of time) when I came across a photo of someone holding hands with an Orangutan. After seeing this photo, I began to scroll through the Bukit Lawang location tag on Instagram – only to realise how many pictures showed bad practice with wild animals. Having spoken to many of the local guides here in Bukit Lawang I found how touching orangutans harms them – it puts them not only at risk of human diseases, but it also reduces the chances of them learning to naturally forage for food.
Having pointed this issue out to our Head of Conservation (who wastes far less of his time on social media than I do) we devised our new #lookbutdonttouch Campaign which Sam launched on Monday.
From conversations with guides during our time here, it has become clear that many of the guides feel pressured to get their clients up close and personal with wild animals. This expectation is fuelled, in part, by the multitude of images on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, of bad practice in the form of touching feeding and holding wild animals in the Jungle. Our goal with the #lookbutdonttouch campaign is to work together, to educate people, which in turn should reduce the pressure on guides here in Bukit Lawang and further afield. We invite everyone to join us in our campaign, commenting on any photos of unethical practice which we see online. For anyone interested in aiding Orangutans and other wildlife here in Sumatra, feel free to donate £1 to our Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will use this money to plant a tree here in the Leuser Eco-system, but don’t forget to add your name and the #lookbutdonttouch so that we know to set this money aside for tree planting!
As part of our campaign, we have been commenting on photos on Instagram using our own hashtag, #lookbutdonttouch, as well as partnering with Green Hill Bukit Lawang and sharing their existing hashtags - #badselfie #keepwildlifewild #bukitlawangisnotazoo #selfieaware and #selfishselfie. I am however, extremely disappointed by the number of people who have chosen to simply delete our comments and leave their Instagram posts up, rather than taking accountability for their actions and admitting that they have made a mistake. Your Instagram should not be worth more to you than the life of an entire species.
On a happier note, every day this week we have been taking our students up to the edge of the Jungle. This has been fantastic for everyone, and the students have been putting into practice all of the skills they have learnt on their Youth Ranger Programme with Sam, like remaining quiet in the Jungle, using hand signals and spotting animal tracks on route. Its been a real joy to watch these children develop a sense of responsibility for the Jungle and to see them crowd together around animal tracks, trying to identify them and to watch them hush one another into an excited silence as they tried to spot wild pigs, monkeys and snakes!
Last night, we held a Halloween party here at the Trust – A pretty alien concept here in Indonesia. We carved watermelons instead of the traditional pumpkins and our costumes consisted mainly of face paint from Kindergarten! The staff here were a little scared, but the girls joined us in some traditional European Halloween games and indeed beat us at many of them!
After a week of trekking to the Jungle every day, we are all very ready for a weekend of rest!
Terima Kasih Banyak for reading!
Rosie – Head of Education