Rarest mammal in the world caught on video in Indonesia

The Javan rhinoceros is widely considered the rarest mammal in the world. Flirting with extinction for decades, it is estimated that only forty of the beast remain on the island of Java in Indonesia and less than ten in southern Vietnam. Once the most widespread rhino species, poachers and human development have made life increasingly difficult for the small rhino. None exist in captivity.

The enigmatic creatures have eluded documentation, and this camera trap footage is a boon for conservationists. Separate cameras filmed two distinct adult and calf groups. This proves that the rhinos are mating and perhaps even increasing in numbers. According to National Geographic, the footage was shot at the western tip of Java – the most populated island in Indonesia. For rhinos, they sure are cute.

Habitat for Humanity building an eco-tourism village in Indonesia

Habitat for Humanity has partnered with Asia Pulp & Paper, one of the world’s largest paper producers, to bring a struggling village in Indonesia out of poverty in an unusual way: by making it into an eco-tourism destination where visitors can stay with families.

This controversial conversion will take place in Soran, a village where 60 percent of the resident families live below the poverty line, despite their long traditions of creating crafts and music, and their location near to one of Indonesia’s most precious attractions, Prambanan Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Central Java region.

The Soran project will improve living quarters for most families by adding guest accommodations, expanding kitchens for the preparation of guest meals, earthquake proofing and adding laundry facilities. Furthermore, the project will train-to-employ over 250 villagers as laundry management workers (50), cooks of traditional foods (100) and performers and marketers of the village’s traditional arts (100 families). Over 100 villagers will also be trained in “disaster risk mitigation.”

You can watch Habitat for Humanity coordinator Johannes Sigit P. talk about this first-of-its-kind for HfH project in the video above. What do you think?

Volcano grounds jets in Indonesia

Flights between Singapore and several Indonesian cities, including the capital Jakarta, have been grounded due to the latest eruption of Mt. Merapi. The volcano has been erupting for two weeks and has killed more than 130 people and displaced two hundred thousand.

Several airports have closed and while the ash cloud has affected international flights, domestic flights are continuing as normal. So far the suspensions of flights are up to the individual airlines, but major carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa and Cathay have chosen to play it safe.

Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, a giant arch of tectonic activity around the Pacific. Back in 2006, an eruption displaced tens of thousands and prompted local villagers to try animist rituals to placate the volcano’s spirits.

[Image courtesy user Tequendamia via Wikimedia Commons]

Borobudur in Indonesia–a memory maker and other people’s photographs

This essay by Lisa Reed in the New York Times about her return to Borobudur with her nine-year old son reminded me of a couple of points. Mainly, I am reminded about how utterly spectacular this Buddhist temple complex is, and how fortunate I was to have lived in Singapore for three years so that places like this in Indonesia could be seen on a long weekend trip. I’m also reminded of picture-taking.

When I went to Borabudur, Yogyakarta, the city closest to it, was also part of the attraction. Friends recommended this city on the island of Java in Indonesia as a worthy jaunt for the history, the scenery, the food and the shopping. On all counts, my husband and I were pleased with our good fortune. I have great memories of buying an elaborate leather shadow puppet from the man who made it after visiting with him in his shop.

Borabudur was the centerpiece of a wonderful time and we were lucky enough to climb up its stairs early in the morning before the crowds came. We did not, however, get up before dawn to see the sun rise like Reed did.

However, like Reed, we did have the experience of people in Indonesia wanting us to be in their photographs. In Reed’s case, her son attracted attention. In our case, it was my husband.

In Asia he often looked like a toned down Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians, thus, he was the topic of many a conversation and a prized catch for a photo op. Maybe people thought he would bring them good luck, but whatever the reason, there he was on most vacation days in the middle of a group of Asians, smiling broadly, while they captured their image with him for their photo albums back home.

Borabudur, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built in the 8th and 9th centuries and is one of those places that is perfect for picture-taking with or without people. With its 72 rounded stone stupas and Buddha statues that mediate like calm sentries overlooking the valley that is edged by mountains, there is no end of an interesting angle.

Unfortunately, when I went to Borabudur, I was taking slides which are now stored in a box in one of our closets. One day I will go through them, but by reading Reed’s essay, I can see their angles. I seem to remember one with my husband in the middle of a group of Asians.

I’m wondering if the same people are looking at their albums from time to time asking themselves, “Who is this guy?”

The World’s Most Polluted River?

The Daily Mail is reporting on the heavily polluted Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia — so polluted, in fact, that “[locals] no longer try to fish. It is more profitable to forage for rubbish they can salvage and trade – plastic bottles, broken chair legs, rubber gloves – risking disease for one or two pounds a week if they are lucky.”

Just how polluted could it be? Have a look at the photos.

With over nine million people living nearby, and 500 factories using the shores as a chemical dumping ground, it’s no wonder it looks the way it does. Absolutely appalling. [via]