We love it when new images from our camera traps come in – clandestine photos taken of the hidden world deep within our rainforest projects, revealing the wildlife that calls the forests home and that we rarely get the privilege to see. Amongst the hundreds of photos that come in, there’s one or two gems that completely blow us away.
One such photo was the amazing shot of the forest chimpanzees taken in the Gola Rainforest National Park which we shared with you last Christmas. In fact we loved the photo so much that we entered it into the BBC Wildlife Camera-trap photo of the year competition. It looks like the judges loved it too as we were awarded commended in the animal portraits category, which isn’t too shabby at all considering the competition!
All the winners, runners up and commended photos are now up on the BBC Wildlife website for you to see so if you’ve got a spare couple minutes, grab a cuppa and enjoy! We'd love to know which one's your favourite...
Harapan is the Indonesian word for hope. The fact that our flagship tropical forest project in Indonesia bears that name couldn’t be more appropriate this week as this amazing place is once again under threat. Despite opposition, there is a proposal to build a 50km road through the middle of Harapan Rainforest, effectively cutting this area in two and putting the already-threatened wildlife and the indigenous people who call this area home under even greater pressure.
Rest assured we’ve formally objected to this proposal and we’re working with our partners on the ground to do everything we can. We’re optimistic that the company concerned and Indonesian authorities will understand the consequences of allowing such a proposal to proceed. It’s not just the immediate threat to the critically endangered tigers, elephants, tapirs, clouded leopards, and pangolins from 850 coal trucks a day passing through the forest that’s the problem. We’re also concerned that this gash will inevitably allow easy access for illegal loggers and encroachers, as well as invasive plant species to put further pressure on this unique forest and its inhabitants.
Importantly, not only would driving a road through Harapan be like driving a dagger through its heart, but it would also put at risk the other projects that have followed in the footsteps of Harapan’s success. Harapan really does present “hope” for the restoration of millions of hectares of forest in Indonesia, and it’s vital that it continues to lead the way rather than being sacrificed for short-term gain.
We’re as shocked by the application as no doubt you are and we can’t understand why the road development proposal has even been considered, as already existing routes exist outside the boundaries of the forest. This really is make or break for forest conservation in Indonesia – we believe that any decision to permit the road would reflect badly on Indonesian commitments to restore degraded forest, where as rejection would confirm a commitment to the environment and a sustainable future. Now really is the time to hope that the right choice is made.
Photo by Clare Kendall (rspb-images.com)
Guest blogger: Hannah Chisholm, education volunteer in the Gola Rainforest National Park
Since arriving in Sierra Leone in January, I’ve mostly been working on an educational road show for forest edge communities around Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP) to show them the breadth of our work and help answer any questions they may have.
Every road show has been different, but they all follow a similar structure so here’s an idea of what typically happens....
Before each road show, Eddie (the education officer) goes to the community to get everything ready and make sure people know we’re coming. The rest of the team and myself then pack up the car with everything we’ll need for the day and hit the road.
After a couple of hours bumping along, we reach the village and even if I’ve never been there before I always know when we arrive as we are greeted by a crowd of people. There are leaf devils, grass devils, kids with tribal face paints and a group of local musicians. I’m dropped off at the parade start point and the rest of the team go ahead to the community barray to get ready. There’s then a parade through the village, which is one of my favourite parts of the day as it’s an opportunity for me to get really involved and people coming out from their houses to join in or to watch. We make our way through the village to the barray, dancing and singing as we go. The songs are all in Mende, but I’m pretty sure that they sometimes make up a song about me as I hear Hannah or pumoi (white face) mixed in with all of the local words!
When we reach the barray there’s an opportunity for the traditional dancers to perform – masked devils and leaf devils dance around the circle that has formed, moving their feet at lightning speed and shaking so hard that the leaves from their costumes start to fall to the ground. After a while we move everyone in to the shade of the barray and start the proceedings with introductions from the GRNP staff, local leaders and village elders.
We wanted the road shows to be as interactive as possible so that the community people share knowledge with each other. The first group to contribute are students who are members of the recently formed GRNP Nature Club. They have been asked to prepare some art/drama/music to present to the community and I have been so impressed with how well they have done. It seems that people out here are natural public speakers and the kids love getting on the microphone!
Other activities during the day include demonstrating how a camera trap works and showing pictures of the animals that have been snapped, a quiz, a Q&A session, and time to share stories and knowledge of the forest. In the evening, as the sun starts to set in the sky we set up a projector screen and show two short films introducing the rest of the GRNP staff and the amazing forest and wildlife they’re working to protect.
To finish off, we use the PA system to play music late into the evening so that people can dance and enjoy themselves – I’ve even had a go myself! It’s really important to give the communities a positive experience of GRNP to build on our relationship with them. It’s been a really exciting, though challenging, project and hopefully it’ll have a lasting impact.
To follow Hannah's adventures in Sierra Leone, check out her blog.