For the last four months OFI staff have been fighting fierce fires in the middle of Tanjung Puting National Park, on the eastern side of the Park where some of our Release Camps are located, and in the Orangutan Legacy Forest. These fires are extremely difficult to eradicate because they simmer underground in the peat. As soon as these fires are put out, they often spontaneously emerge from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix, and begin life anew in a different location. Fighting the fires non-stop for months has been a demoralizing and challenging process. Our staff are tired and weary. Many of our staff, including myself and my husband, have been badly affected by smoke inhalation. Our hopes had been buoyed by the fact that the rainy season was coming at the end of October and the coming monsoon rains would douse the fires completely. Although every day was a struggle, we felt we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Imagine our shock and surprise a few days ago when NASA and other climate monitoring institutions changed their predictions. The “official” word now is that the rains will not be here until the year is done. Nature will not douse the fires until sometime between January and March of 2016. No matter how hard we fight, without the rains, the fires cannot be completely put out. OFI has expended enormous resources as well as the strength and energy of our local staff fighting fires day in, day out, for the last four months. Now that the drought, complicated by the El Niño effect, is going to stretch for many more months and the fires will continue to blaze, OFI needs your help more than ever.
We need to upgrade our fire-fighting efforts. This will necessitate buying heavy machinery, more protective gear for our fire-fighters, and replacing all of the equipment that has been destroyed in the flames. For instance, hoses and plastic buckets may last only a few weeks as they cannot long survive the high temperatures of the fires.
This is an emergency. Local people are reporting wild orangutans killed by the fires. Unless we continue fighting the fires every day, to keep them back while we wait for the rains, much of our work protecting forest will be for naught. OFI and its supporters made a focused effort to buy forest for the orangutans and other wildlife. If these forests and the forests in the Park burn down, our efforts will have been futile. As we watch the forests go up in flames our hearts bleed for the orangutans. Please help us. Please help the orangutans. Please help OFI protect not only orangutans but also their habitat. Without the forests orangutans will not survive.