We have been stationed in Jakarta for two weeks now. Our base is the Schmutzer Primate Centre in the heart of Ragunan Zoo. Whilst the main zoo is run down with archaic enclosures for sorry looking animals, the primate centre is a 3 year old facility that has a wonderful collection of rescued animals and primates in herited from the main zoo. The charitable funding for the centre has resulted in a world class facility, and it is from here that we have been working through the bureaucracies involved in filming in Indonesia.
We have started to shoot the documentary. Our first footage was a disturbing undercover operation to document exploitation of orangutans in the circus. We managed to film both the performance and gain access to the backstage area to find how the orangutans were housed when not performing. Orangutans are the largest arboreal species living today. Yet these naturally quadrupedal animals are forced to walk on two legs and dress in clothes, drink soft drinks and once the performance is over they are put back in a small cage. Animal welfare laws do not exist in Indonesia. Keeping orangutans is illegal, but it is possible to obtain permits for keeping them. How these permits are obtained is something we are investigating. We have also built up a network of local environmentalists who are helping us to understand the traffic of endangered species in Indonesia. This animal trade has a direct correlation to oil palm concessions – as more and more incursions are being made into primary forest there is an increase in human-wildlife contact.
We leave for Kalimantan tomorrow. We had a message from the rescue centre that an orangutan had been attacked last week. Its hands had been bound so tightly that they were almost severed. The orangutan died en route to the clinic at the rescue centre. In the same area there are three more orangs in immediate danger. We are preparing ourselves to film this sort of terrible story.
It has been fun getting down to filming. Jakarta is hot and humid, and you feel it even more when you have your eye pressed against the viewfinder of the camera. Up on the keepers' walkway over the orangutan enclosures here the heat is baking. We've had to start putting an umbrella up to keep ourselves and the camera cool. The keepers' wall was very high, so we used the tripod to it maximum extension to get the pans of the enclosures. The humidity has made some of our kit stiff, but our tripod has remained smooth and is performing well.
Life in the zoo has been quite surreal. We are surrounded by 22 different species of primates, mostly native to Indonesia. We have a natural alarm clock in the dawn chorus of the gibbons and siamang, in the evening we hear tigers roaring in Ragunan. The other night we were stuck for dinner, so we raided the gorillas' store room and ate a good casserole. We have made many friends here, both human and non-human primates. We will be sad to leave tomorrow, but excited to get to the real jungle. Our filming is filled with a sense of urgency as we see what is happening here. Indonesia's wildlife is in a state of crisis – luckily we are meeting a number of very passionate people who have dedicated their working lives to work against the destruction of one of Indonesia's most valuable resources – its biodiversity and potential for a booming eco-tourism trade.
Want to know more?
Nick and Evie have even more up-to-date events that happening on their travels while making this documentary and you can visit their online updates at the address below
For online project updates please visit: www.cockroachproductions.blogspot.com
For a project outline please visit: www.anothercrudeoil.nicklyon.orchardhostingS4.co.uk