As part of International Women’s Day 2019 and our series profiling and celebrating women working in climate change and forest conservation, we introduce you to Dieka Pertiwi, Supervisor for International Animal Rescue’s Orangutan Survey, Release and Monitoring Team in Borneo.
My name is Dieka Pertiwi and I have been working with International Animal Rescue (IAR) in Indonesia since 2016. As Supervisor of the ‘Orangutan Survey, Release and Monitoring Team’ for Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (BBBRNP), my job is varied, busy and challenging at times, but very rewarding.
Many of the orangutans I monitor have either been kept illegally as pets, found alone in destroyed rainforests, or victims of forest fires. Where we can, we translocate rescued orangutans directly into healthy rainforests nearby. For those that are badly injured or too young to survive alone in the wild, we bring them to our Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Ketapang, West Borneo. When the time is right and after many years of rehabilitation, we reintroduce orangutans into BBBRNP to live a wild life once again. I feel a great sense of pride and responsibility when the orangutans take their first steps into the expanses of the rainforest. It is always a very special moment.
However, the very real threat of climate change is apparent here in Indonesia. With a high population density, together with 80,000 km of coastline, Indonesia is one of the most vulnerable countries to experience the impacts of climate change. To tackle this and to raise awareness on a local scale, we work closely with communities to engage people with our conservation work through talks, reforestation programs, boot camps and film nights.
Two villages in particular stand out to me. For years, the local people living in these villages relied on illegal logging to feed their families – a practice which destroyed hundreds of acres of pristine rainforest. By providing alternative farming methods and recruiting young people onto our orangutan conservation program, we have, and still are, actively changing mindsets and attitudes towards habitat and wildlife protection. It is such an honor to be part of this program and since launching our monitoring program, we have given more than 50 local people employment opportunities, many of whom were working as illegal loggers before the launch of our program.
Our ultimate aim is to ensure that all of the orangutans we reintroduce survive and thrive in the wild. To do this, we monitor the behavior, feeding patterns and sleeping routines of the orangutans. My role is to ensure the team are prepared and fully equipped to monitor the released orangutans every day – from the moment they wake up to the moment they build their nest each evening. Data is recorded every 2 minutes for up to 2 years! However, data collection can be very difficult at times as we must cross a rapidly flowing river and walk many miles to follow the orangutans.
Regularly, I visit the monitoring camp, which entails 3 hours of trekking through the rainforest. I do this to ensure each orangutan’s data is recorded correctly. It can be a bit of a logistical nightmare following the orangutans, but you get to know their different characters very well!
In the 3 years I have been part of the IAR team, I have seen many developments on the ground and within the local communities to tackle climate change. The local people who are now invested in this program have new livelihoods, which means they are helping protect the natural habitat they rely on so heavily, not only for their families but for future generations too.
Changing attitudes remains a difficult challenge for us all in Indonesia. However, by empowering the local community and giving people a sense of ownership and responsibility, we are slowly turning the tide on traditional farming methods and protecting this precious ecosystem for years to come.
I will continue to advocate for the protection of orangutans and make people aware of the importance of their role in the wild. We all depend on the forests for our survival, wherever we are in the world. I am proud to be a part of shaping Indonesia’s economic and environmental future.
Happy International Women’s Day to all the women in the world. Women are able to stand on the front line to save nature!