It’s dawn. The frogs fall silent while gibbons tell everybody about their territories and the sunrise. The night-shift is over and the day-shift begins.
I have now been at Harapan Rainforest for more than a month as Senior Technical Adviser, bringing the experience gained in 12 years of conservation work in Indonesia.
Most of my career has been managing pristine habitats protected from clearance, like national parks. However, Harapan Rainforest is about bringing damaged habitat “back to what it was”. For me, that is really exciting. The gibbons that wake me each morning are a bonus – I simply love them!
If we can rehabilitate Harapan Rainforest it will show that a degraded forest can be restored. I recently walked out of camp and noticed the forest floor was covered in seedlings, showing the forest is regenerating. It will need help; the task is huge but progress this far shows it is achievable.
Well, it’s time for breakfast – fried rice and a coffee, unfiltered of course. We are, after all, in Indonesia.
It is a big relief to be at the end of the rainy season. Following a long dry season when our fire fighting teams were on high alert, we have experienced long periods of extremely heavy rain which brought a different challenge. Travel to and from, and within, Harapan Rainforest has become increasingly difficult, with roads and bridges being completely washed away or developing deep pot holes, some larger than the vehicles themselves. This has meant the usual two and half hour journey to the nearest city can now take up to nine hours! Within Harapan Rainforest our forest patrol, restoration and research teams have had to walk much further to get to parts of the forest that would normally be reached by 4x4 vehicles, but with extra effort everyone has continued their work as usual. The task of rebuilding roads and bridges now begins to ensure we can carry out our activities effectively as the dry season approaches again.
One of the most amazing things about working in a tropical forest is the ever-present thrill of what I might encounter next. On our last field trip, myself and our six research assistants woke up just before dawn to the unmistakable, deep resonating growl of a tiger, less than 200m from our tents. It was a little unnerving as it seemed to be circling us, but we knew it was just letting us know that we were in its territory. As the week of field surveys went on, we heard the tiger a number of times and saw many fresh tiger prints, but did not see it directly. However, it was captured it on a camera trap and now know that it is a new adult female for the site. With a global Sumatran Tiger population of less than 700, it’s excellent to know Harapan Rainforest is providing an important protected area for its conservation.