OCTOBER, 2013 – When Australian artist Geraldine Simmons got up close with Indonesia’s endangered orangutans she had no idea just how it would change her life.
As part of a one week trip to Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, Geraldine spent five days at Friends of the National Parks Foundation’s (FNPF) orangutan rehabilitation center. At the time we were running the center, in Tanjung Puting National Park, on behalf of the government.
Making a surprising connection
Geraldine got closer to two orangutans than she ever expected. “One grabbed my hand and pulled it towards him between the bars with vigor. He looked at my hand studying it; comparing it to his own,” she says. ”His hand was warm and his palm felt like a leather cushion. His fur felt like thin wire, with auburn highlights that sparkled when caught by the sun. I was so amazed by his curiosity and persistence.
“When he let go the other orangutan came over and pulled my hand in, only with more force. This one wouldn’t let go for quite a while and was more interested in playing than studying my hand.”
An idea is born
That experience, a decade ago, has stayed with her, and combined with the passion she developed for FNPF’s conservation efforts in Kalimantan, and her love of cycling, led her to set up an annual fundraising and awareness-building event for our work.
Riding for Rangas, a 330km cycle from Canberra to Sydney, is held yearly around April or May. The two-day ride, which will be in its fifth year next year, has raised thousands of dollars to help to save Indonesia’s threatened species including the orangutans, Cloud leopards, and Bali’s national emblem, the Bali starling.
Planning is now underway for the 2014 event – with a fundraising target of A$10,000. Anyone keen to get involved, by cycling, donating or helping out on the fundraising committee can contact Geraldine on firstname.lastname@example.org. Tax deductible donations can also be made via the Humane Society International Australia and transferred to FNPF.
From the grassroots up
FNPF, a grassroots Indonesian NGO, works in Kalimantan’s Tanjung Puting National Park, the largest national park in South East Asia, and Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve. We work to protect endangered wildlife, restore decimated forest, and improve the wellbeing of local communities.
Almost two-thirds of Tanjung Puting’s forest, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and more than half of Lamandau’s has been cleared or is severely degraded. The destruction threatens the survival of not only orangutans, but the gibbons, macaques, leopards, sun bears, crocodiles, and hundreds of bird species who live here.
To date FNPF has replanted more than 415 hectares – that’s equal to about 775 football fields – of forest in Kalimantan. And while we no longer work directly with orangutans, after changes in government regulations, we translocate any we find to safe areas within the parks.
Facing the challenges everyday
Geraldine, also known as Geri Roggiero, says each year between seven and 11 cyclists take part in Riding for Rangas – anymore and Geri would need to apply for permits, adding extra costs to the event.
“I am in awe of the commitment, passion and tenacity of Bayu (FNPF’s CEO and Founder) and the staff of FNPF who soldier on day after day, despite how large or small the challenges may be. It is amazes me how FNPF grew from the actions of a few passionate vets to what it is today.
“All donations will be forwarded directly to the FNPF, who will ensure that they are used to promote community development and education programs in the area, continuing to build the good relationship they have with the village communities around the park,” she says.
FNPF’s work in Kalimantan is supported by donors such as the Humane Society International (Australia), who has worked with us for more than 14 years, Boeing, Taronga Foundation, Buy One Give One, Save Indonesian Endangered Species, Eco Future Fund Japan, and many others.