The people at Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) are busy bees and beavers. Besides the conservation work they do with Bali Starlings at Nusa Penida and other release sites around Bali, and the reforestation efforts at Tanjung Puting national park in Central Kalimantan, they are also in the business of rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming endangered wildlife most of which are the victims of illegal poaching, trading and trafficking. Most of these animals are confiscated by Forestry Department officials from markets, private homes or businesses where they have been kept as pets or for entertainment. Some of the animals are also handed over to the Rescue centre voluntarily by the public.
Under the leadership of Drh. I. Gede Nyoman Bayu Wirayudha, a Balinese veterinarian, founder and CEO of FNPF, this group of dedicated professionals, staff and volunteers, are running the Bali Wildlife Rescue Centre (BWRC) on the outskirts of Tabanan City. This is an existing facility previously managed by another local NGO which they took over on request of the Australian Humane Society International in 2011. Since then they have streamlined the bloated operation and focused entirely on the care and rehabilitation of the animals under their care.
The BRWC site is an attractive, spacious and verdant area of 33 are which accommodates a menagerie of various birds and animals. Roomy cages and aviaries house almost 20 species of assorted birds like parrots, cockatoos, Brahminy kites, hornbills, peacocks, a White Bellied Sea Eagle, and starlings, both the gorgeous white and blue spotted Bali Starlings and the very rare Black Wing Starling which has an uncanny ability to mimic the human voice.
Other enclosures lodge primates and mammals: Sunbear, bear cat, leaf monkey, a few pig tailed macaques, and a lone crocodile that came from a park called Penyu Dewata at Padang Galak. The sunbear has been there for 3 years and is difficult to release because the Centre is still looking for a suitable home for him. The government restricts the available spaces in sanctuaries and national parks in Kalimantan and Sumatra- which is his natural habitat – due to saturation and overpopulation but does nothing to offer other solutions. In fact, they decreed that any rehabilitation of rescued wildlife must be done outside the boundaries of the national parks which makes it very difficult for NGOs like FNPF as it requires a huge investment to recreate a suitable habitat to rehabilitate a singular animal like the Sun bear. When an animal is deemed rehabilitated, it can be released in the parks. However, as a result of massive deforestation in Indonesia for the benefit of palm oil plantations, mining and other commercial interests, there simply is not enough wild space available to create sanctuaries and habitats to accommodate the rescued wildlife.
Crocodiles are no longer native, nor welcome to Bali – the last one was spotted and killed in the 1950s – and must be released elsewhere, which is an expensive undertaking. National parks and wildlife sanctuaries are not exactly rife in Indonesia so the options are limited. Only some sites in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua and Borneo are able to receive rehabilitated wildlife and then only on a restricted basis. Due to its small size, overpopulation and saturation of tourists, Bali has practically no available release sites for animals other than certain birds.
A lot of the animal boarders at BWRC are difficult to release even in good available habitats. Some because suitable habitats are already overpopulated; others due to the danger posed by rabies, and many others because they have become too tame as pets and could no longer survive in the wild. Parrots for instance can only be released in areas where they are native to the area and then only when the available habitat can support them. Cockatoos are difficult to rehome because a lot of them have never learned to fly, having been chained to perches or confined to cramped cages from a young age. A lot of the rescued birds and animals are too old or injured for rehabilitation and will stay at the centre as permanent house guests for the rest of their lives.
The caretakers at the Bali Wildlife Rescue Centre try very hard to rehabilitate some of the birds, even teaching them how to fly and forage for food. Other wildlife is carefully prepared for release and transfer to new homes or their place of origin. Releasing rehabilitated wildlife in is not a simple matter. Some animals, especially primates and mammals, have to be released far from human habitation as they are attracted to human food and company.
Feeding, transport and rehousing costs are a big expense factor for the Wildlife Centre. Monthly feeding costs for a Sunbear run up to IDR 2.500.000 and can vary due to the price of honey, a mainstay in its diet. On the other hand, a Starling will only pick IDR 150.000 from your pocket. Crocodiles eat sparingly for about IDR 500.000 a month when compared to a pigtailed macaque whose monthly food bill is IDR 800.000. All the others fall somewhere in between.
In order to transport rehabilitated wildlife to a new territory special cages or enclosures are needed. Some have to be custom built to accommodate animals like crocodiles. Last year the Centre was able with help from JAAN (Jakarta Animal Aid Network) to transport 6 crocodiles from BWRC along with 8 crocodiles from the Forestry Department facility in specially constructed cages to a sanctuary in Sumatra at a grand cost of IDR 140 million which included cages, transport, labour, medical supplies and sundry provisions. Crocodiles require big strong cages at IDR 4 million per cage. Bird cages cost less; a hornbill transport for instance costs about IDR 1.7 million per bird. Smaller birds can travel in simple boxes.
As we know, animal rights law are practically non-existent in Indonesia and animal protection laws are very weakly enforced. Conservation work is difficult due to entrenched corruption where only big money will grease the wheels. The bureaucratic processes and paperwork are horrendous and stifling due to the many government agencies involved, especially for inter-island transfers and resettlements. It takes months to arrange a resettlement and reams of paperwork. The fastest response the Centre has ever recorded on a request for transfer was 2weeks and that was just an acknowledgment of their request. Most of the time, says Drh. Bayu, it takes 2 months to get an answer. The actual process of transfer can sometimes take a year or more. In a worst case it took 7 years before a Grey Headed Fish Eagle could be lifted to his new home.
The Foster Programme and other ways to support the work of the Bali Wildlife Resue Centre. The centre receives no government funding and relies solely on the support of volunteers and donors. In order to mitigate the high costs of food and transport Drh. Bayu has created an adoption plan whereby animal lovers can “adopt” one of the animals at the centre and assume the cost of its room and board. Optionally you can also shoulder the cost of resettling the animal in sanctuaries and natural parks in Indonesia. Besides the adoption programme, the Centre’s wishlist as seen on their website, contains various items you could donate or finance. Or you could help in the making of bigger enclosures or enhance the natural environment of the site.
Outright donations are always welcome of course and you can easily do that through their website via Paypal of direct bank transfer. Local donors should remember that direct bank transfers are always preferable as Paypal will dink the centre for 7% of the donated amount.
Another way to support the centre is by volunteering to help the staff take care of the animals, and learning about animal conservation in the process.The volunteer programme can accommodate a maximum of 7 volunteers at a time. Most volunteers come from outside Bali and stay at the site where there is dormitory style accommodation. Due to training time and familiarisation with the animals, one week is the minimum. No special skills or animal care experiences are necessary. However, if you have a particular skill or talent, the Centre will be very happy about that. If you are an avid gardener you can come and help with groundscaping and maintenance. The volunteer fee of USD 150 per week includes accommodation and contributes to the running costs of the centre and supports the projects they work on.
You can also volunteer at any of the other FNPF sites as the money received from the volunteer programme helps to cover the costs of the many FNPF activities that do not get sufficient funding through donor contributions. Check out www.fnpf.org/get-involved/volunteer-in-indonesia.
If you just want to visit the Centre to see what it’s all about, you are welcome to do that on weekends. It’s by appointment only so call or contact Drh. Bayu on WA at 0811-398-052 and arrange for a fun filled encounter with the boarders at Bali Wildlife Rescue Centre.
A word about helping the rescue work of FNPF by buying that cute baby monkey at the local bird market: DON’T. Your heart may push you to give that baby a better life than being chained up in a cage day after day, but your good intentions are backfiring the moment you do this because it just encourages that trader to replace that monkey with another, thereby perpetuating the illegal poaching and trafficking of defenceless animals. If no-one buys the captured monkeys the trader will cease selling them, thereby sparing the life of countless primate mothers who are getting killed so poachers can steal their babies for the illegal wildlife market.
By Ines Wynn
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