A postal worker in Jakarta hears an odd noise as he enters the mailroom. His ears lead him to a medium sized post box wrapped in brown paper and wedged into a corner of the room. As he grows closer the noise distinguishes itself as a soft, whimpering chirp. He looks at the sender’s address: Sumatra. Inside sits a tiny, orange orphan, her mother killed, each a victim of the illegal wildlife trade in Indonesia.
Rescued by Cikananga Wildlife Center, Rosie is one of two baby orangutans currently housed at the reserve. They are not alone. From macaques to crocodiles, birds of paradise to sun bears, gibbons to cloud leopards, and cassowaries to peacocks and exotic reptiles, CWC is currently home to over 300 confiscated animals from more than 54 species, all protected under Indonesian law. Missioned to save and conserve Indonesia’s protected wildlife, and overseen by Willemijn (Willie) Eggen, a Dutch veterinary assistant, the center provides facilities, medical care, and the necessary manpower to care for confiscated animals. It also coordinates rehabilitation and release efforts with other wildlife organizations in the region.
CWC was recently visited by budding middle school conservationists from Jakarta Intercultural School. Their mission? To have an up close look at what it takes to run such a center. Students spent the weekend cleaning cages, preparing food, and creating enrichment activities used to stimulate natural behaviors in animals. They learned about medical care and the role observation plays in determining if an animal qualifies for a release program - of the 3, 750 animals rescued to date, each year approximately 40 are released into the wild and 15 are translocated. Students also spent time with volunteer staff and local gamekeepers to gain more knowledge about the center’s breeding programme for birds in danger of extinction; offspring are reintroduced into the wild. Before leaving for Jakarta, Eggen engaged students in discussion about the need for wildlife centers to promote animal awareness and education for host country nationals. She noted the need for Western countries to avoid the exotic pet trade, and she encouraged all travelers to stay clear of tourist activities that include wildlife.
Rosie and her friend, Fahme, are too young now to be released into the wild, but there is hope. After attending “Baby Orangutan” classes, CWC will organize a return to the island of Sumatra, where they will engage in further rehabilitation at another wildlife center to determine if they can return to their true home, the forest.
Jakarta MS Student Visitation Team 2017