UNTAN learns about Gunung Palung Opportunities

By Terri Breeden, GPOCP Program Director
Last Tuesday, I traveled with Brodie Philp, the Project OH Research Manager, and Beth Barrow, the KKL Research Manager, to Pontianak. On Wednesday, we were scheduled to give presentations to students and faculty about our conservation and research activities at Tanjungpura University (UNTAN). This university acts as our research sponsor, ensuring collaboration between researchers, university students and professors. UNTAN supports our researchers by giving the proper letters and permits needed for foreigners to do research in Indonesia. GPOCP and KKL assist UNTAN students and professors by providing guidance and support to gain their permits to enter the park, transportation, equipment, and scientific advice on project development and methodology. Our presentations were designed to inform the faculty and students about our programs and to facilitate future collaborations.
Wednesday morning we all awoke early and had breakfast with our Research Director, Wahyu. After breakfast, we headed to UNTAN. I must admit, I was nervous about giving a presentation to so many people and in a foreign language. As we walked into the room I felt overwhelmed. It was packed with nearly 100 people, but my nerves started to cool as I recognized so many faces. I was greeted by Dedy and Mita, two of our BOCS (Bornean Orangutan Caring Scholars). We were given a wonderful introduction by Pak Riyandi, a lecturer, and Pak Muliadi, the Assistant Dean of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
Beth Barrow and Terri Breeden listening to the opening remarks before the presentations. Photo © GPOCP
I was up first to present. I went into detail about Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP), why it is such a special place, and the major threats to orangutans and the habitat in and around GPNP, including logging, mining, fires, and people killing mother orangutans to steal their babies to keep as pets. But the photos with the most impact, where I heard lots of wows and ahhs, were of the scale of oil palm plantations in the area. I then explained how we have been working in this landscape for nearly 20 years. Our Environmental Education and Conservation Awareness team hosts week long expeditions to remote villages four times per year, we host weekly radio shows, publish countless conservation articles in print and social media, visit local schools, host field trips, youth group activities, and of course, our BOCS program supported by Orang Utan Republik Foundation. Our Sustainable Livelihoods team works with local community groups to promote alternative, yet sustainable, career paths. We have artisan groups making handicrafts, organic farming, and aquaculture. This program targets the most vulnerable and works with them one-on-one to develop their skills to deter them from environmentally destructive livelihoods.  I also discussed our Customary Forest and Wildlife Investigation Team. We recently secured nearly 7,500 hectares in five villages as Customary Forest and are routinely working with the Management Boards to develop their capacity to sustainably manage these forests and maintain their incredible biodiversity (as mentioned in last months article!) Our investigation team spends a lot of time in the field searching for people who have illegally held animals. The participants were also quite shocked seeing such magnificent wildlife locked up in cages.
An orangutan kept illegally as a pet and rescued because of investigation work by GPOCP. Photo © GPOCP 
Next to present was Brodie. He talked about the research occurring at Cabang Panti for Project OH (short for Orang (H)utan). He started with an introduction about orangutans and their current status as critically endangered, and how Cabang Panti Research Station was established in 1983 and has eight distinct habitat types with 60 kilometers of trails through those habitats. He described some of the difficulties in studying wild orangutans, such as their elusive behavior hiding in the tree tops, and went into more detail about how and why we take the samples that we do. These samples include urine for hormone analysis, feces for parasites, fruit and plant samples to determine nutrient consumption, as well as behaviors, such as their location in the tree and body position. He also spoke about the many UNTAN students who have come to do their own research at Cabang Panti.
A young orangutan trying to be elusive in the tree tops of Gunung Palung National Park. Photo © GPOCP
Beth Barrow followed Brodie to present about the KKL Project. We are often asked what is KKL, it stands for Kelasi and Kelempiau, which is the Red Leaf Monkey and the Bornean Agile Gibbon in Bahasa Indonesia. This project focuses on ecological systems including distribution and populations of both plants and animals. The KKL Project also records temperature and rainfall at 12 weather stations positioned strategically over the two ridges of Mount Palung and Mount Panti.  It is very interesting to see the differences in rainfall and other variables between each station considering their relative close proximity!  Beth explained their five different methods used in the field (phenology, camera traps, census routes, behavioral follows and weather stations), all aimed at collecting data on factors limiting vertebrate population dynamics in GPNP.  One of the most interesting aspects of the KKL Project, and their most recent addition as of 2015, is their camera trap program. She included some interesting footage of elusive species that had never been recorded at Cabang Panti before.  Beth then went on to outline some results from their research into gibbon and leaf monkey population dynamics and the factors limiting them.  Specifically, those habitats over 800 meters in elevation are of extremely low quality for these two primate species.  Populations there would likely cease to exist if it weren’t for immigration from the lowland habitats.
A mother pangolin carrying her baby on her tail at Cabang Panti Research Station in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
A mother pangolin carrying her baby on her tail recorded at Cabang Panti Research Station in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Video courtesy of 

Project KKL.
We ended the presentation with a quick review of how the students can work with us and conduct research at Cabang Panti. We also held a question and answer session with some intriguing inquiries about each program that we were all happy to answer. It was exciting to see such enthusiastic students and we hope everyone went away better informed about our conservation and research projects. We look forward to continuing our work with our current students and hope these presentations inspired a new generation of students to study conservation and to conduct wildlife research.
The project managers with some of the students after the presentations. Photo © GPOCP.