Orangutan Caring Week Expedition

By Simon Tampubolon, GPOCP Environmental Education Field Officer
I am Simon Tampubolon, and one of the GPOCP Environmental Education team members. I joined GPOCP in February 2018, but originally hail from Lake Toba in North Sumatra. While in Sumatra, I worked at an NGO leading children’s educational activities, like youth groups and after school activities. I came to GPOCP with the goal to learn more about orangutans, their habitat, and to share my expertise in conservation education. Since joining GPOCP, I have participated in many activities such as puppet shows for young children, environmental lectures for middle and high school students, field trips for hands on learning, mentoring our youth groups, and our environmental education expeditions. But my favorite activity is to follow-up on school lectures with a field trip to the rainforest. I love seeing the students recognize the plants and animals they learned about in lecture -bringing hands on practice to the classroom theory.
Simon on top of Mount Semeru, in East Java, Indonesia,  representing GPOCP/Yayasan Palung with his Save Orangutans message.
Every year GPOCP celebrates Orangutan Caring Week, an event to raise awareness around the world about the many threats orangutans face. This year’s theme is ‘Valuing Orangutans Over Profits to Avoid Extinction.’ We decided to hold a 5-day environmental education expedition to the remote village of Jelai Hulu in the Ketapang regency. The expeditions are another favorite activity for me, and during these events we socialize and invite people in the area to be more concerned about the existence of life, especially orangutans and forest protection. Through the expeditions, I am able to see how people view wildlife and other protected animals, learn about their cultures, and try to share knowledge about how we can work together for conservation.
In Jelai Hulu, we visited 4 puppet shows featuring our orangutan, hornbill, and proboscis monkey puppets. Before getting started, we always ask the students to fill out a pre-test to find out their level of understanding of animals, especially orangutans. Initial results showed that many students did not know the difference between a monkey and an ape (the answer is look for a tail, monkeys have tails whereas apes do not!). So, in the puppet show, we explained the differences between the two. This activity is very helpful for students to better understand the animals found in their local forests, why these animals need protection, and why these animals are critically endangered.
GPOCP Education Team giving a puppet show to young students describing the differences between a monkey and an ape.
In addition, we also held two discussions with the local community. Through these discussions we were able to find out the latest information about conservation issues in their village. In one discussion, several people mentioned that they had never participated in a socialization event such as this and did not know that some of these animals were legally protected. I like to think we did a good job of sharing relevant knowledge that personally applies to this village and the animals found in the local forests.
The parents and adults of Jelai Hulu get together to learn about some of the laws regarding orangutans and other threatened wildlife found near their village.
In the evenings, we host environmental film screenings. We feature a variety of films, mostly in Indonesian, that explain about forest destruction caused by palm oil plantations, environmental impacts from land clearing, and the plight of orangutans.
The community of Jelai Hulu gathering together to watch an environmental film.
On the last day of our expedition, we visited a local high school and hosted two workshops, “how to make a conservation campaign” and “using recyclable materials for crafts”. The campaign workshop had 25 students who learned how social media can be used to increase awareness and education about orangutans. The craft workshop also had 25 students who learned how to make flower pots out of plastic water bottles.  Overall, our latest expedition was a success! We inspired the local community to care more about the rainforest and orangutans, showed them ways to be more environmentally friendly, and how to advocate for conservation!
Students from Jelai Hulu High School showing off their flower pots made from old water bottles. Photos credit Simon Tampubolon.