“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” — Baba Dioum.
GPOCP’s environmental education program aspires to make conservation an ‘up close and personal’ experience for people of all ages in order to ensure a permanent home for the orangutans of southwestern Borneo. In 2016 alone, we reached nearly 7,000 students from 85 different schools in the Ketapang and Kayong Utara districts through all of our activities: in-school programs, field trips to the National Park and our Bentangor Environmental Education Center, youth groups, SISPALA (after-school “Nature-Lovers” clubs). These connections will pay critical conservation dividends in the future; armed with knowledge and passion, students are able to both influence their parents today and lead their communities to a more sustainable tomorrow.
GPOCP aims to helping local students in grades K-12 understand and appreciate the treasure trove of extraordinary biodiversity found in and around Gunung Palung National Park, with the goal of creating an enduring forest conservation ethic among the region’s population. Through our environmental education programming — in both the classroom and the field — GPOCP is building long-term, grassroots support for the protection of the endangered Bornean orangutan and their threatened forest habitat. We have a variety of approaches; for the younger kids we give puppet shows to teach them about orangutans and the environment, and for older students we hold lectures and field trips. The programs are informative and designed to foster serious discussion about conservation but also keep the students engaged through a fun, interactive environment.
In 2009 we built the Bentangor Environmental Education Center in Kayong Utara Regency. The word “Bentangor” is an acronym for the Indonesian phrase “Belajar tentang orangutan,” which means “learning about the orangutan,” and the goal of our work at Bentangor is to help people in the surrounding communities do just that! Bentangor Environmental Education Center is a focal point of our work Kayong Utara, allowing us to work hand-in-hand with community leaders and villagers and empower them with the necessary knowledge and skills to manage their natural resources to the greatest benefit of current and future generations. The center sits on a 1.2 hectare piece of land; 70% of this is tropical forest dedicated to field activities for school children and volunteers, with the remaining land used for pilot organic gardening activities that local farmers can replicate on their own land. Student field trips to Bentangor are geared toward elementary school students and involve a short lecture followed by an interactive tour of our nature trail, where we have set up sign board and displays to teach the kids about the importance of the forest and its biodiversity. Bentangor also serves as the home for one our volunteer youth groups, REBONK.
GPOCP also hosts multi-day field trips for older students to the Lubuk Baji campsite, at the base of Gunung Palung National Park. These field trips are a popular part of our educational program; Lubuk Baji is situated in primary rainforest, giving the students a chance to experience the forest and see wildlife, including orangutans. Many of the participating students are from villages where local forests have been cut down or degraded, so giving these students a chance to reconnect with nature is crucial to fostering a culture of conservation. We also lead field trips to our Bentangor Environmental Education Center, and to the local beach. In 2016, we hosted 10 field trips, bringing 300 students into the rainforest and other natural areas.
In addition to our school programs, in 2010 GPOCP also created two environmental youth groups: TAJAM, which has over 100 members in the urban area of Ketapang and REBONK, with over 50 members in the Kayong Utara Regency. These groups include youth from local junior and senior high schools as well as children no longer in the formal education system. Under the guidance of GPOCP both groups have developed their own leadership systems and have the capacity to independently plan their own activities. In addition to mentoring these youth, we also provide training in skills such as event management, member recruitment and public speaking. In 2013 the two groups hosted 23 activities and assisted with our in-school programs. They also have been instrumental to the success of our conservation awareness special activities (for example, Orangutan Caring Week, Environmental Day), bringing energy and enthusiasm to our orangutan conservation activities!
Beginning in 2012, we partnered with Orang Utan Republik Foundation and Orangutan Outreach to provide the first ever Bornean Orangutan Caring Scholarships to two students from the regencies of Ketapang and Kayong Utara in West Kalimantan, (Borneo) Indonesia. These scholarships are for students to complete university degrees at the University of Tangjungpura in Pontianak, the provincial capital, with the stipulation that during their holiday breaks the recipients volunteer with GPOCP; this allows them to further develop their skills so they can become the future leaders of conservation in their region. This scholarship program has three main goals: 1) to foster an intellectual generation in Ketapang and Kayong Utara that has a commitment to, and concern for the cause of orangutan and habitat conservation; 2) to provide moral and material support to young people of Ketapang and Kayong Utara for the continuation of their education to the college level; and 3) to promote educational cooperation between parties in Ketapang and Kayong Utara on the topic of natural resource use. Between 2012 and 2017, we awarded a total of 25 scholarships to local students.