Wednesday November 15th, 2006 -- Berastagi, Sumatra -- The conference was officially opened today by Adi Susmianto, Director of Biodiversity Conservation at PHKA (Forest Protection and Nature Conservation) under the Ministry of Forestry, Republik of Indonesia. Dr. Gary Shapiro followed with his signature male Orangutan Long Call and an opening speech. Dr. Gary's opening presentation was received well and raised spirits prior to the status presentations that followed ....

The day is split into Status Presentations in the morning and Education Solutions in the afternoon. Even though I do not speak Bahasa I could tell by the tone of the voices that the problem is far more serious than most people outside of Indonesia realize. The images in the presentations confirmed what I had deduced.

Morning Presentations: Legal Aspects of Forest Protection-Adi Susmianto, M.Sc. (PHKA); About the Sumatran Orangutan Education Conference, Workshop and Summit-Gary Shapiro, Ph.D (OUREI); Knowing the Sumatran Orangutan:Biology & Ecology-Sri Suci Utami, Ph.D; Threatened Orangutan-Hardy Baktiantoro (BOSF); Strategic Problems in Gunung Leuser National Park-National Parks official.

Afternoon Presentations: Orangutan Conservation-Ian Singleton, Ph.D (SOCP); Film as an Education Media in Rural Areas-Madelaine Westwood (GAFI); Mobile Awareness Unit-Panut Hadisiswoyo, M.A (SOS-OIC); Field Conservation Education Methods-Trisna Nando, M.Sc (FFI); Education and Awareness Program-Fransisca Ariantiningsih, M.Sc (YEL).

These islands had an ecosystem that worked. The flora and fauna lived co-operatively and the environment was self sustaining. Once humans decided that they had to have furniture, floors and other products made from hardwoods the forest was at risk.

Careful stewardship of the forest with selective logging accompanied by replanting and other actions that would support the forest's survival would have made a major difference. Sadly the people that instigated the market for hardwood and subsequently palm oil appear to be more interested in the short term gain than the long term preservation of Indonesian heritage.

The purpose of the conference is to determine what forms of education work best with each group of people that are involved in the rainforest and of course the preservation of the Orangutans.

The desire is that through raised awareness of the consequesnces of today's actions that the choices will be ones that favour rainforest and all its inhabitants including the people that live in and around it.

After the conference ends and everyone has had dinner a selection of DVDs were shown in the hotel's movie theatre.


Some of the conference delegates in a group photograph