A couple of months ago, I was bored. I was waiting to go to Indonesia for three months. Now I am on Borneo, and to be honest – it is rather awesome!
For the next 130 days (until end of august) I will do research in the central Kalimantan on the Bornean orangutan. Together with a small research team, I work here to help finding out more about the species. Every two minutes, 12-14 hours per day, I will note what they are doing. I will note if they are eating, pooping, swinging in lianas or making love. They will literally be a part of my life during this time and I will be a part of theirs.
How would you prepare yourself for an expedition to the peat swamp forest? I promise, it easily happens that to forget to buy some things. If it is not the vaseline, it’s the de-worming pills. I have kind of done similar things before, but in smaller scale so I still miss t a lot of stuff. For example I forgot to check the glue in my boots – the acid swamp can apparently dissolve many types of glue due to the pH-value. At the moment the water levels are supposed to be pretty high in the peat swamp forest – so I might just as well wear my running shoes instead. However, I can’t buy new shoes here since I got too big feet x). Size 43…I’ve loaded up with 12 bottles of mosquito repellant, new camera equipment and about 1000 caramels in preparations. I hope that will be good enough! (1000 caramels / 120 days = 8.3 caramels/day)
I have previously been describing what I will be doing briefly with the Orangutans, but I will give you some more details about why this is interesting!
Orangutans are one of the great apes, closely related to humans. They currently are in great danger due to the ongoing deforestation and the making of new palm oil plantations. There are two species of orangutans; the Bornean and the Sumatran orangutan.
The orangutans are using tools, they are building nests and have many other fantastic abilities. However, unlike the other great apes orangutans are not particularly social. They live solitary most part of their life (though the females bring up their young for ca 7-8 years), so the possibilities for learning and interact between individuals are few.
I will work as a research assistant for Anna Marzec from Poland. My part of the research will be to collect and administrate data of how the orangutans build their nests, what they eat and how they are eating it.
And here comes the cool stuff: Some orangutans pour water over their fruits before eating, some use leaves as napkins or gloves and some use sticks to “fish” termites. The orangutans eat differently and build their nests for several different reasons and design their nests differently. They can make nests for sleeping as well as for sun shading. They can make bridges for walking between trees even! They make nests with pillows and some may roll a little ball of leaves to hold onto at night like a little teddy bear. Isn’t that awesome? But all orangutans cannot make these different nests. The nest-building skills are highly personal and the two orangutan species are differently advanced when it comes to making nests etc. So, what we are aiming for is to identify cultural units in orangutans.
Currently there are 8-10 people working in the remote little camp: My supervisor Anna Marzec, Wendy Erb who does research on the male orangutan long calls, Julia and Yann who are research assistants like me and about five Indonesian assistants I haven’t had contact with yet.
So now I am finally here! The first thing I did arriving to the island was to go to a traditional Borneo-wedding. I met some Finnish guys on the plane, and long story short: They knew a guy, who was related to a guy…and he suddenly had to go to a wedding! Since we were all sitting in the same car, we were all invited! We were a popular attraction on the wedding for everyone, and we were all asked to take pictures with the new married couple and danced the traditional dance of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).
I will now head out in the field with the orangutans in a day or two. Here on Borneo, the geckos are squeaking in the roof and cicadas are playing in the trees. Bats gives me wind in my face as they fly around my head, while trying to capture a tasty meal with their sound waves. The locals are friendly and generous who gives me meat although I am vegetarian. (I know I have to suit myself, they really are super nice!). Soon I will be in the dwindling heart of Borneo together with its soul – the orangutans.
P.S Here you have a small galleri with more pcitures I didnt fit in: