Through March and April, Orangutan Project have been hosting the Tree Monkey Project – an American based non-profit organisation, bringing the art of tree-climbing to people that need the skill around the world. The creator of the Tree Monkey Project, James Reed, joined us as a volunteer on our project in Ketapang a couple of years ago, and since then we have been mulling over the idea of a skill-imparting tour of Borneo, to train up the various conservation groups in this incredibly useful skill. As a group we are also very interested in working with as many conservation groups as possible and facilitating co-operative efforts between us all. This seemed like a perfect project for these efforts!
As well as planning a route around Borneo to hit as many of the conservation groups as possible – perhaps the first time such a trip has been attempted – we also set ourselves the rather large task of delivering a full set of tree climbing equipment to each of the participating groups. We were able to donate a set to each group thanks to funds we have raised through our non-profit business arm of Monkeebar!
James Reed was joined by three climbing assistants; Jim Cairnes, Wouter Baa and Judah Epstein. We also sent Dominic along for the trip, so that he could master the skill and facilitate the journey through Kalimantan. Dom also had to master his very real fear of flying to join this trip, on Indonesian airlines of all things. This, while attempting to transport more than 250kgs of kit across the island, was no mean feat.
The team landed in Kuching, and the first task on the list was to attempt to re-capture one of our released slow lorises, named Wendy. Wendy was released into Kubah National Park many months ago, and has had a very successful time back in the wild. So successful that she proved impossible to lure down from the tree-tops for re-capture for removal of the radio collar. With a team of tree climbers on site, we thought that attempting to catch her on her level might work. However, the sleepy slow loris spied the climbers coming of course, and when they were positioned high up in her tree of choice ready to grab her, she would slowly and calmly move just out of their reach to another tree. Obviously moving the gear and the climbers into the adjacent tree was a bit more time consuming for the humans than the loris, and unfortunately she kept this game up for the day. So she still resides in the wild of Kubah National Park, in great condition but with a radio collar still fastened around her.
Travel began with a trip to Sabah, where members of staff from the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre and the Tabin Post-Release Monitoring Project joined the training team. From Sabah, they journeyed into Kalimantan, first to Samboja Lestari to work with members of the BOS team and staff from Gabriella Fredriksson’s Conservation Centre for Sun Bears. From Balikpapan they travelled into Central Kalimantan and trained up staff from OuTrop and BOS’ team at Nyaru Menteng. Then onwards to Western Kalimantan, where International Animal Rescue’s staff at Ketapang perfected their climbing skills, and finally they returned to Matang Wildlife Centre to complete a 2 day workshop with staff from Sarawak Forestry. At each step along the way, complete sets of equipment were donated to each group.
It has truly been a collaboration of so many parties, all in the name of improving ourselves and learning new skills to assist the conservation efforts for Borneo’s endangered wildlife. Areas of habitat, literally out of reach of groups before, are now accessible and possibilities of discoveries are almost endless. We hope that everyone keeps their newly acquired skills honed, and continues to enjoy a ranga’s eye view of the forest!