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“This is my first time seeing an orangutan in the wild with my own eyes,” said Tian.
Tian is one of several students involved in ASRI Teens, an after-school conservation education curriculum for high schoolers through ASRI's Planetary Health Education Program. Similar to ASRI Kids, which targets primary and middle schoolers, the ASRI Teens study issues related to health and our environment. They also go outdoors to learn, and last November went on an overnight field trip with International Animal Rescue (IAR).
The trip consisted of eight ASRI Teens and seven staff members who together traveled to Pematang Gadung. The village has a natural peat-swamp forest which is home to many animals such as orangutans, maroon leaf monkeys, and long-tailed macaques. To get there, we first drove to Ketapang and then took a 3-hour boat ride, during which we saw bekantan (proboscis monkeys) and owa kelempiau (grey gibbons). Once we arrived, we put on our boots and the students enthusiastically hiked their way through the muddy peat-swamp as the IAR staff taught them about the forest and animals they were seeing.
In the afternoon, we arrived at IAR's amazing camp, which is in the forest and next to a peat river, which several ASRI Teens and staff swam in after lunch. Then in the evening, we watched a documentary about IAR, which tells the story of their efforts to rescue, recover, care for, and release orangutans into safe habitats. It was sad to see the fate of the many orangutans who lose their forest homes to deforestation, or their lives to poaching. After watching the movie, we discussed it with the students. “I never would've known about what orangutans are facing if I hadn't joined ASRI Teens. I am so grateful can be part of this program,” said Vera.
The next day, we hopped on a boat and traveled deeper into the forest, hoping to see orangutans. After 15 minutes, we found what we were looking for! Just ahead of us were two beautiful orangutans, swinging from one tree to another.
At the end of the trip, none of us wanted to leave. The ASRI Teens told us that it was an amazing experience, and they could hardly wait for the next field trip. "I'm so happy that my students enjoyed the trip. With field trips like this, they can learn directly from the forest," said Etty Rahmawati, the Education Coordinator. We are also very grateful to International Animal Rescue for hosting us, and to the donors who make field trips like this possible. Thank you!