My Journey to Becoming an Orangutan Field Research Assistant

By Aynuddin, Field Research Assistant

My name is Aynuddin, but I am usually called Udin. I come from Dusun Tanjung Gunung in Kayong Utara Regency. This is the story of how I began working at the Cabang Panti Research Station (CPRS).

Before I worked at CPRS, I was just an ordinary person who worked different odd jobs as a construction worker. Part of the reason for this was that I only completed junior high school. For many years, I was willing to do any kind of work. As long as it was lawful, I would do it. But then, my story began to change.

In August 2018, I received news from my friend that there was an opening to work as a Camp Maintenance Assistant at Cabang Panti Research Station. My whole life I had lived in the village that directly borders the National Park, and many of my family members and other people from my village had worked over the years at Cabang Panti. So, this was an exciting opportunity that I wanted to take. A few days later, I received news that I was accepted for this position! I felt so lucky to be able to work at CPRS.

Since then, I have worked more than four years as the Camp Assistant. I gained many experiences and felt the joy of living in the forest. I also met so many nice people, and gained new friends who have now become my family.

Udin drives a motorized canoe downriver from Cabang Panti Research Station, with Indonesian university students and Cabang Panti field staff accompanying.

But the story does not end there! Over time, I became trusted by the Orangutan Project. I learned a bit about what Field Research Assistants did each day, and this interested me. Excitingly, in early 2023, I was accepted to join as a Field Assistant for the project!

I soon started my training period of three months. I participated in observing orangutans and learning how to take phenology data. I quickly learned that following orangutans was both fun and tiring! Little by little, I learned more about orangutans and how to collect all the necessary data. I found this new experience to be very personally rewarding.

I think that every orangutan has a different character and personality, almost the same as humans! Some orangutans are easy to approach, and some are difficult to approach. The difference between older (habituated) orangutans and newer (unhabituated) orangutans became very clear. Habituated orangutans have long been used to seeing humans and so they are easier to observe and follow. Unhabituated orangutans, however, are a little bit difficult to observe and follow because they might be scared when they see us.

Udin collects data during an orangutan focal follow.

So far, being a field assistant has been fun and exciting, but also challenging when we are in the field and when we are sometimes alone observing orangutans. I had to learn to be brave when working alone in the field. But for me, it is a challenge that must be faced.

I am grateful for all the experiences I have gained so far during my time at Cabang Panti and excited to keep continuing my journey. Thank you to the project and to the entire Keluarga Cabang Panti (Cabang Panti Family)!

Management of Cabang Panti Research Station is conducted by the Gunung Palung National Park Office (BTN-GP) in collaboration with GPOCP/YP. Scientific research is carried out in conjunction with the Universitas Nasional (UNAS) and Boston University.