Bali has got an amazing marine biodiversity and is well-known for the orangutans that live in its forests. However, the way wildlife is taken care of seem to depend on where we are in Indonesia.
Report from Nikki, UK
“So, not a huge amount to report yet, went to the monkey forest in Ubud, Bali. I think it was OK, the monkeys were a bit aggressive close to the entrance and the bananas that people bought to feed them were overpriced and disappeared within seconds of setting foot inside! Other than that, the monkeys were not tame or mistreated and there were wardens there in case things got out of hand! So I think a thumbs up for monkey forest.
Gili Trawangan had a turtle (again I have to use inverted commas) ‘sanctuary’ but I have little doubt it was a scam to get money from tourists and I know of a number of others who came to the same conclusion. It was a few dirty tanks with a bunch of turtles in there and some faded signs about turtles. They also used the same scam for kittens which was sad and no one would look after the sick ones.
The main thing I guess I have to write about is tanjung puting national park where you can go to orangutan feeding stations by live aboard boat. I have to say I was very disappointed and have written to the orangutan foundation to tell them what I thought but have yet to receive a reply. So, I have no doubt that the charity does good work but there is no limit to how many boats can travel to the feeding stations, which means no limit to the amount of tourists.
The guides are not registered and can be from anywhere and don’t explain the reason for the feeding stations or the horrors of palm oil plantations.There are clear signs saying that you are not allowed to touch or feed the orangutans and you must stay a certain distance away. These rules are not adhered to by the guides, until they see a ranger from the park, then they act very official. This leads to the orangutans being crowded around by people and people using flash photography, which you are also not allowed to do but no one tells any of the tourists off for this behaviour. The guides actively feed some of the young apes to draw them closer to tourists on the jetty.
A couple of other tourists who heard me discussing these issues agreed with me about the crowds and I gave them the details of care for the wild. The information stations in the park are run down and so people do not learn anything much about the plight of these awesome creatures. The boats are not very eco friendly either and some just take single people out couples and the river is clogged up by them. There is very little other wildlife to see on the river due to one side being excessively logged and on a night hike, all we saw was a spider and a lizard… Not so good for a rainforest but hardly surprising with all the tourists and guides shouting!
Apparently, there used to be fruit bats in the area we were in but they have been scared away. I felt this whole experience was like ‘tick-box tourism’ where people just go to get a picture with an orangutan for Facebook and don’t really understand the issues. I feel that is the guide’s responsibility and the orangutan foundation should be trying to stop so many boats and people visiting. Maybe it should be a bit more like the gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, maybe make it more expensive and then only people who appreciate the value of the experience will go. The park barely makes any money from these boat tours either! All in all very disappointing and despite getting to see these amazing creatures, I’m not sure I would recommend the trip. I heard from a lot of people that Sumatra is better to see orangutans..
We also saw some people with monkeys in masks on scooters, this was for local ‘entertainment’ but I’m pretty sure tourists would take an interest, if there were any in the area. I just had to glare at them in the hope they might stop but its very doubtful.
In Sulawesi, I didn’t see much in the way of animals used for tourists, no shows or elephant parks. Its a pretty awesome place without them having to resort to that just yet I think. There was the issue of the bufallo and pig sacrifices at the funerals in the toraja……. But they are not wild and it is absolutely a cultural tradition, not for tourists. Not that that makes animal suffering acceptable but I think anyone would be very very hard pressed to try to change these practices. It will have to come from inside the community and speaking to some of the younger generation, maybe it will.
The Togean islands in the north are the best place I have been to in my life and although its not universal, people do seem to be trying to make things sustainable and to protect the reefs as it is their main source of income now. Our boat drivers on trips to atolls and barrier reefs were mindful of the coral, for the most part. Sadly, you could see a lot of evidence of previous dynamite fishing but I think this is no longer practiced. People seemed respectful of the islands and their surroundings but a new airport is scheduled to be built, allowing easier access to the islands and I fear for the future in terms of ecological impact.”