November 7, 2009

Orangutan Project in Borneo

Our new contact number in Singapore is: +65 94 60 60 74

A historical moment: After 7 years on the expedition Rosi and Ernst, Sabine's parents, visited us for the first time and couldn't wait to see Noe. Together we were celebrating first Dario's - and then Andri's birthday. Just before we had to say goodbye to all our new friends in Bali. Jacqui and Annemarie joined us again for the next leg to Borneo and Singapore. From Singapore we continue to India and towards Everest, - our next TOP and big clean up project.

P1050041.JPG Not even 3 month old, Noe sailed already 2485 nm and 7450 nm in total (plus 4965 nm in Sabine's belly).

From Bali to Borneo and up the Kumai River it was a little bit more than 400 nm.

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The biggest challenge was to avoid the Indonesian fishing vessels. Some didn't have had navigation lights! Thanks to the Katadyn Combi Pump we had always healthy water for our kids and Jacqui was a great teacher.

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On the 5th of November Pachamama crossed the equator the second time after being in the Southern hemisphere for more than 5 years. Jacqui was baptized by Neptune and Neptuna to "Sea Horse", Annemarie to "Manta", Andri to "Nemo", Salina to "Mare maid" and Noe to Orca.
We arrived safely in the Nungsa Point Marina on Batam Island. Tomorrow we clear out of Indonesia and make our way to the Raffles Marina in Singapore. Download our activity and event agenda in Singapore here.

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A brief on Tanjung Puting National Park, Kumai River, Borneo:

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Tanjung Puting National Park is absolutely one of the biggest highlights of Indonesia. The park is one of the largest protected areas in the whole of South- East Asia. Situated on the Southern coast of remote central Kalimantan, - the Indonesian section of Borneo. It compromises of 750 000 acres of tropical forest and swamp forest, the park is home to more than 600 species of trees, over 200 species of orchid, at least 220 species of bird, 28 spices of large mammals, - the rare clouded leopard and crocodiles for example and 9 primates including the endangered and beautiful orangutan, proboscis monkey and gibbon. It also contains hundreds, if not thousands, of different plant species used in modern medicine! But on top of all its uses, it is one of the most scenic tropical rainforest on earth!

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The orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra are the only great apes outside Africa. Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas, a Canadian researcher has studied and worked closely with the orangutans of Indonesia Borneo most of her life in their natural habitat, and today she is the world's authority specializing in orangutans. In 1971 Galdikas met Dr. Leaky, Kenyan anthropologists who helped her to find funding for her studies through what was called "The Leaky Foundation". As he had previously done with both Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey for their studies on chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.

In the early days of her research she spent weeks tracking wild orangutans, and was the first to discover many unique traits of the animal. For instance, she was the first to document that the birth interval for the ape is about 1 in every 8 years, making them extremely vulnerable to extinction. Today we also know that orangutans are very affectionate! They share kisses and take wonderful and loving care of their offspring. They are also very intelligent creatures, with the skill to make their own tools for gathering food or building shelter!
Along with her research, Dr. Galdikas had originally set up Camp Leaky to reintroduce orphaned and rescued orangutans into the wild. Under the supervision of researchers and rangers, juvenile orangutans are taught to live naturally in the forest by gradually introducing them to wild surroundings. Today, there are a number of research stations and feeding grounds where bananas and condensed milk are given as a supplement to their diet.

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The situation for the orangutan is far more complicated now than when Dr. Galdikas started work 38 years ago. As a result of poaching and habitat destruction, caused by farming, and palm oil plantations, orangutan populations are on the edge of extinction. In fact, it is thought that the entire species could be completely wiped out within 5 to 10 years. Although the population in Tanjung National Park continues to grow, there is barely any possibility for the National Park area to increase, and therefore there will not be enough territory and food to sustain the increasing population.

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Things have been looking better for the forest of Kalimantan since the new president was elected 5 years ago, at least in theory! But in Kalimantan's vast interior, illegal logging continues to exist. With poor local people trying to make quick cash, corruption is common, even at the edge of the national park. Fortunately however, some progress is being made in tourism, as we were told by Harry who manages and organizes klotok tours into the forest on Sekonyer River with his brother, Jenies Subaru. ( www.orangutan-tours.com +62 (0) 8125086105). These growing tourism dollars enable more and more local people to feed their families, without resorting to the destruction of such fragile and indispensable rainforest.

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In the early morning of the 30th of October 09, Jenies Subaru, our tour guide, fetched us all from Pachamama with his "klotok tiana"; a long boat built out of local iron wood. It served as our transportation, restaurant and accommodation for the next 3 days!!

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During our time on this 3 day adventure, we also had the opportunity to visit a school in a local village; Tanjung Harapan. There are around 450 people living in this small village, and 48 kids attending the local school.

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It was the perfect location for volunteer Annemarie to "premiere" her unbelievable puppet show, educating the children about Climate Change, and promoting the health and protection of our environment. The show consists of 8 handmade leather puppets and 1 full-scale character costume as "Pachamama"!

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Translated to the Indonesian students by our tour guide, they were all delighted by the performance! Dario gave a presentation and helped run a small scale clean up of the village. The children, ranging from 5 to 12 years old, were inspired to take part in the drawing contest, and Sabine was extremely impressed with some of the artistic entries to find some solutions for our planet!

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In all, the school visit was a worthwhile success!

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But along with visiting this local town, what was also important was the time spent at Camp Leaky. To get there, we left Kumai River and entered the smaller Sungai Sekonyer, a brown muddy river flowing through the surrounding dense forest. We soon discovered that this is not the natural color of the river, and that further upstream Mercury used in the gold mining is dumped directly into the river! Nonetheless beautiful however, fire flies glow by night along the bank of the river on the leaves of the Nepah palms. Sometimes you can get a glimpse of a proboscis monkey jumping or swimming over the river, or even a wild orangutan!

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We were lucky enough to see many stunning fluorescent kingfishers swooping through the canopy of the palms. We were glad to also see some police stations along the water, to warn people off illegal logging.

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After an hour we entered a smaller branch of Sekonyer. It stunned us all, how the water suddenly became immediately clear and naturally deep red from the tannin of the wood, in comparison to the murky brown mud just meters away, because of the gold mining. After an hour we entered a smaller branch of Sekonyer. It stunned us all, how the water suddenly became immediately clear and naturally deep red from the tannin of the wood, in comparison to the murky brown mud just meters away, because of the gold mining. There Salina got her first snake bite! It was a small yellow snake and we were lucky that it was not venomous.

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After a trip up the crystal cool river, we reached camp leaky and the feeding station. Jenies was a super guide, particularly because he has worked already with his father and grandfather for years in the park. He knows all the stories and names of each and every orangutan. To see the animals up close in the wild felt like such a privilege, and it will surely be something that we will not forget for many years to come.

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Even newborn baby Noe shared the experience, as Sabine saw the similarities in affection with a mother and her young; the famous "Princess" orangutan.

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On the second day we visited a reforestation camp. The camp consists of 49 hectares, where saplings of different rainforest trees are being re-introduced in an effort to rehabilitate the areas affected by logging, and the 1997-1998/2008 forest fires. Here, we were witnesses to the impact logging has had on the environment: the loss of the humus layer due to heavy rainfall left nothing but an arid landscape. The rangers pointed out the last remnants of the previous forest; stumps, cut down and burnt.

It was like walking on desert, where it should have been lush rainforest. The reforestation is a long and difficult process that involves watering every day and tender loving care for the saplings, with some species only growing one millimeter a year! It is heartwarming and very impressive to see the work of such researchers and rangers, and we all must appreciate their utmost dedication to the conservation of the national park. We thank you! You are a positive example for us all!

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As one of the children put so elegantly in the drawing contest;

"The orangs need the Utans ~ and the Utans Need the Orangutans!"
(The people need the forest ~ just as the forest needs the orangutans!)

For more information about the research done at Tanjung Puting contact the Orangutan Foundation International; www.orang-utan.org. And for more information about reforestation see www.fnpf.org and www.regenwald.org.

Remember: When you safe the Orangutans, you safe the forest and the forest in Borneo is crucial for our global climate!

Posted by dario at 2:04 PM

November 13, 2009

TOPtoTOP - Borneo Montage ~ Kumai River

TOPtoTOP - Borneo Montage ~ Kumai River.

The first peek at footage from the Kumai River, Borneo, one of the places visited by the TOPtoTOP Global Climate Expedition...



Credits: Jacqui Hocking

New article in "Schweizer Familie"!

Posted by toptotop at 11:50 AM

November 26, 2009

Singapore

Many many thanks to Raffles Marina and family Deborah Bruggmann who made our stay in Singapore a highlight!

Welcome to our new supporters "SWISSPRO" and "Huber + Suhner" optimizing the drinking water system and the electirical cabling system on Pachamama!

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What a great arrival in Singapore on the 10th November 2009!
We had hardly fixed Pachamama in the Raffles Marina as already the employees of swissnex with the director Suzanne Hraba-Renevey showed up in order to give us a warm welcome with an excellent lunch at the Marina Bistro. Swissnex Singapore is an information, coordination and networking platform of the Embassy of Switzerland, bridging knowledge and competences in science, education, art and innovation between Switzerland, Singapore and South East Asia. The marina, which is located at the west coast of Singapore, is an excellent place with all facilities you need to have a boat berthed. A huge thank for the great hospitality and generosity to Prakash Reddy from Raffles Marina!

We did not really have time to relax - a tight program including presentations at schools and universities, boat visits, events with sponsors and interviews with newspapers and TV channel were organized by swissnex for us. These 3 weeks in Singapore were as busy as the town itself!
In just 150 years Singapore has grown into a thriving center of commerce and industry. And incredible, too, that there was once a rainforest with orang utans, tukans and white tigers! These animals and plants can still be seen at the beautiful zoo, the botanic garden and the birdparc.
Singapore is the busiest port in the world with over 600 shipping lines sending supertankers and containers and is also one of the most important financial centers of Asia with more than 130 banks. It has endless shopingmalls, traffic, people, building sites. Not easy to get used to this fast and busy lifestyle!

Our first exciting event was the dinner at the residence of the Swiss Ambassador Joerg and Madeleine Reding together with the consul and the Ambassador of India.

After an interview at Raffles Marina for an article in the magazine „Nautic" we went the following day, the 17th November, to the Swiss School in order to give a presentation in front of the pupils and parents. They even visited us on the boat.

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This excellent school under the direction of Hans Huerlimann and Bjoern Egli was founded in 1967 with 20 students. At that time nobody could have foreseen the incredible development of Singapore nor the progress of the Swiss School. Today 31 teachers are looking after more than 190 students. Salina and Andri had the great opportunity to visit the Kindergarden during several days. Thanks a lot to Hans Huerlimann, Bjoern Egli and the wonderful teacher Wendy.

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In the afternoon Dario gave another presentation in front of 250 students at the Nanyang Polytechnic organized by James Soh from NYAA Council. The students were very interested and the discussions about climate change continued even after the talk.

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On the 18th we had the great opportunity to join the Fair of the „Clean Energy Expo Asia" as visitors and guests of swissnex and with a presentation of Dario about Toptotop Global Climate Expedition organized by Jacqueline Kaiser from swissnex. At the Swiss booth swissnex presented innovative cleantech projects from Swiss universities and research institutes.

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Katadyn/Swisspro organized the next day a big event for 150 persons from Singapore Polytechnic in collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic. The Swiss Katadyn Group is the world's Number One for individual water purification systems and products, with a global market share exceeding 50%. We are very thankful to Marco Preisig from Katadyn Singapore that we got the new purification system for Pachamama. It is of big importance that we have good water on Pachamama, especially when we soon will be traveling in India.

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One big event chased another: SGS, another big sponsor of the Toptotop Global Climate Expedition organized an event at Raffles Marina with a boat visit on the 20th November. SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) is world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company with 1000 offices and laboratories globally and 56'000 employees, including engineers, doctors, chemists and inspectors, founded in 1878 in Geneva.

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Between these events June, an independent writer was filming on Pachamama in order to propose a new environment show in Singapore next year.

On the 23rd Sabina and Dario were at the studio of Channel Asia News giving a live interview on the Primetime Morning Show - Only arrived one minute before the show started this morning was quite exciting for all of us. Thanks to Joanne Leow Chuang Ching for the very well done trailer.

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At the same day delegates from different Swiss Associations and Singapore environment group representatives visited the boat at Raffles Marina and Dario gave another fascinating presentation. After the talk we could all enjoy an excellent dinner organized by Peter Zimmerli of the Swiss Embassy.

Many thanks to the staff of the Indian Embassy for the efficient work to get all our visas.

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And last but not least Dario got invited to the Rotary Club of Marina City where he told the Rotarians about the expedition during their lunch meeting before setting sails for Langkawi/Malaysia the next morning.

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Welcome to Matteo Miceli joining us today for the trip to Everest!

Posted by dario at 11:20 PM