A New Journey During the Pandemic

By Ahmad Rizal

My name is Ahmad Rizal. I am working with the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program as the Assistant Field Research Manager. I work at the Cabang Panti Research Station, located in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan. Gunung Palung has some of the best flora and fauna diversity in Indonesia, and one of its greatest treasures is the Bornean Orangutan.

Rizal crosses the suspension bridge, located at the entrance of the research station.

On August 25, 2020 my journey began. I received an offer to work with GPOCP. My love and desire to take action and contribute to conservation, especially orangutan conservation, made my acceptance of this offer an easy decision. I was also motivated to come back by my love and longing for the Cabang Panti Research Station. I continue to be charmed by the extraordinary beauty of the forest, the exotic flora and fauna. Cabang Panti also holds a special place in my heart thanks to the community that feels like my family and the inclusive environment at camp.

The Cabang Panti “family” with Rizal in the middle row, second from the right, October 2019.

What makes my story interesting is that I started my journey in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most people had to stay at home, I was able to travel from my home in East Java to Kalimantan to start my work. It was a long and tiring journey to get back to Cabang Panti. Despite the condition of the world, I was excited to begin my journey, and go through the various protocols before getting permission to enter the Park. I also had to isolate in the town of Ketapang before travelling to Cabang Panti.

I started my job at Cabang Panti with great joy. When I arrived, I was surprised to see the new look of Cabang Panti, which coincided with my new journey. The Gunung National Park Office reconstructed all of the facilities at Cabang Panti to better support research activities.

Together, with GPOCP Research Director Wahyu Susanto and Field Laboratory Assistant Sumihadi, I began training on everything related to research management. I learned to process orangutan samples in the field and in the field laboratory, as well as search and find orangutans, and collect data on orangutan behavior. I am so excited as I continue on with this new journey, and motivated to continue to research and conserve wild Bornean orangutans.

Rizal hikes towards Cabang Panti, with the silhouette of the Gunung Palung mountain range in the background.