Story written by Nene Haggar
Indonesia isn’t all beauty. It isn’t the poetry of wildlife you hear echo throughout the forests; but rather the sound of chainsaws annihilating them. It isn’t the smell of fresh air in the morning that surrounds your existence; it’s a smoky cloud hovering above you as flames dance landscapes to the ground. These cleared landscapes now stand tall with plantations of palm oil. Spreading like a disease, palm oil takes all of Indonesia’s wildlife along with it.
Throughout the rest of the world, there is a calling. A demand to cuddle an orangutan, to take a selfie with a stupefied tiger, to eat the flesh of a pangolin and rob them of their scales. Indonesia responds to this calling with bloodshed filling their streets as babies are taken away from their mothers and exploited into the illegal wildlife trade every passing day.
Some, such as myself and my colleagues, travel to Indonesia with the hope of saving it. However, placing yourself in Indonesia, you witness all of its destruction. For many of us, being a bystander to the deteriorating state of the environment can be overwhelming; you can feel consumed by it and left feeling numb. We may be left with no direction, not knowing how to take action because we’ve fallen into despair.
While being here, I’ve crossed paths with people who have lost hope. Many have accepted that their children will never see an orangutan in the wild. Are they right to say so? Yes. If no action is urgently taken, then orangutans along with Sumatran tigers and other charismatic species will become extinct.
However, despite the blood, sweat, and tears of being in Indonesia I still believe that we can bring these species back from the brink of extinction. I still have hope.
I have hope because endangered species have bounced back before; but this doesn’t happen on its own accord. It happens because of the hard-working people who dedicate their lives to saving such species. They devote so much time and effort to the cause. Time is something humans often find difficult to grasp, but with just a little patience, people can create change. When you look back at the people who passionately fought to save the black-footed ferret, it took them decades to do so. Success stories are usually generations in the making. If we didn’t have conservationists who kept pushing forward, then we would probably live in a world without rhinos or California condors. Many animals might only exist in zoos… imagine the extent of species that would have already vanished from this planet forever! The people who fought so hard to preserve these species believed in what they were fighting for, they never gave up. These people always had hope, and that in itself is beautiful.
So, my message is that no matter how doubtful or pessimistic you may feel at times, never give up hope, because without people like you in this world, the planet would be a very different place. You and your drive are what makes conservation work so well; it’s literally how we save species from extinction! As Dr Jane Goodall once said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Today, there is a very small portion of forest left in Indonesia. But that forest and all of its beauty is worth saving. I believe that if we all work together and support one another, the animals of Indonesia (and the rest of the world) will win the race against extinction.
For more on Nene, follow her on Instagram @saving.wildlife