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Indonesia - Prigen - Orang Belanda ('Dutchmen') in the wild

How the Indonesian people gracefully named an not-so-pretty creature after their former colonialists


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A warning before you start strolling the pictures. Writing an honest blog with photos means that you show things as they are. There may be one photo that some people (I hope not many) might find a bit offensive. Yet, although nature is threatened, you can't always force animals to behave as some of us might deem appropriate.

This one is still acceptable to everyone I guess...

Indonesia - Prigen (East Java) - lazing on a sunny afternoon

Indonesia - Prigen (East Java) - lazing on a sunny afternoon

When visiting the Prigen Taman Safari park in Prigen, East-Java, we noticed that a pretty sizeable piece of land has been dedicated to a rather unusual primate, the Nasalis larvatus. I don't know how many of you are familiar with the early songs of the progressive rock band Genesis, and in particular the song "Squonk", about a mythical and very sad creature that was said to live in the dark forests of Pennsylvania. But if you do know that song, or if you ever heard about the Squonk, then it is almost inevitable to remember this song when you see our friend Nasalis Larvatus.

The most common English name for this (apologize me) ugly creature is the Proboscis Monkey. If you're English and don't know what a proboscis is, then be informed that the word means "nose", and usually a rather notable one. Now, of course the Indonesian people don't normally use the English or Latin name for this animal. In the colonial times, when the Dutch ruling the country were not univocally popular, local people gave this creature the name "Munyet Belanda" (Dutch Ape) or even "Orang Belanda" (Dutchman).

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There is no unanimous historic explanation of how they came to use this name, but the size of the average Dutch nose, compared to the Asian average may have something to do with it. Or maybe the often pronounced pot bellies of the Nasalis Larvatus made them see a commonality with their colonial rulers.

The consequence is that when I, as a Dutch, would like to introduce myself in Bahasa Indonesia, and say something like: "Salamat pagi, saya Jacques, saya Orang Belanda", they might look me up and down, smile gently (Indonesian people smile a lot), and then giggle their heads off, and say: "ya, cukup jelas bahwa Anda memang Orang Belanda" (Yes, it's quite obvious that you are a "Dutchman").

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The poor creature, however, is having a hard time to survive, due to loss of habitat in Borneo, where they are one of the most characteristic native species. There are many projects where they try to protect them, but at the end it is the wild habitat on which they depend, where they live high in the canopies of tall old trees. So even if deforestation would stop NOW (and it should!), then still it will take decades until the "Nasalis Larvatus" and other species like the Orang Utan can live a worry free life again. Frankly, it should not just be up to the local people. Hopefully, some day, they will manage to confront corruption and permanently kick out those big domestic and foreign corporations that are the driving force behind the total destruction of nature in so many places).

In spite of history, the people of Indonesia still usually welcome us with smiles. I think that especially we, Orang Belanda, Dutchmen, owe them our maximum support in these efforts to keep the country livable, repair ecological damage, and protect the last bits of natural habitat that are still there. I think we have a historical duty.

Posted by westwind57 08:29 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia monkey borneo east_java surabaya prigen taman_safari orang-belanda munyet_belanda nasalis_larvatis endangered_species Comments (0)

Indonesia - Prigen Taman Safari, East-Java

A nice day at out to Prigen safari park, with my daughter and her friend


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After passing the area of Sidoarjo, where the sad events with the mud volcano continue to happen, the scenery became friendlier, and much greener.
On the right side of the road, a solitaire cone shaped volcano (Gunung Penanggungan) peaked high into the sky, and the land was more mountainous as we drove on.

We took an exit into the hills, then reached Prigen vilage and Taman Safari Indonesia II. I am not a fan of zoos, and I somehow had the expectation that the circumstances would not be good for the animals, because the Zoo in Surabaya city seems to have a bad reputation. It wasn't bad though. There are some animals in cages, yes, and aviaries too. And there are a bit too many “shows” for my liking. But on the other hand, they really have made an effort to create habitats, definitely if you compare it with how zoos are operated in some other Asian countries. It is clean, well maintained and spacious. It is definitely not the old concept of zoos like animals in tiny cages.

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The majority of the larger animals live in safari-park style, spacious pieces of land where you drive through. In order to avoid trouble between different types of animals, the route goes through various separated habitat zones. In the center of the park itself there are all sorts of facilities for eating, drinking, toilets, education etc.

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The fact that it is beautifully located on the slope makes it even nicer. At the same time it means (especially when it is hot), that a guy like me from the flattest country on earth may have a sweaty experience at times, climbing the uphill paths :P

201010 surabaya prigen 34 - my daughter and her friend

201010 surabaya prigen 34 - my daughter and her friend


201010 surabaya prigen 41  -  they found each other

201010 surabaya prigen 41 - they found each other


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This morning it was really quiet. The park is really large and it has facilities to handle crowds, but I am glad that we had decided to go this early!
It was a very hot day but being in the mountains with a light breeze and just taking it easy, we had a great time.

Posted by westwind57 18:39 Archived in Indonesia Tagged mountains animals birds road_trip park indonesia friend volcano zoo safari tiger orang_utan daughter east_java surabaya spacious monitor_lizard prigen staphanie fresh_air Comments (0)

Indonesia - Sidoarjo, East-Java - A modern-time Pompeii

I felt the need to spend some words on a tragic, probably man-made disaster


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After a full day of visiting my daughter’s boarding house, friends and the university, I got up early. My daughter and her local friend Stephanie had invited me to join them on a popular day trip for Surabayans: a nature/safari park in the mountains, a few hours south of the city.

On the way down there we passed through a town where something tragic happened in May 2006. It hardly made the news in Western media, but the story made an impression on me, so I wish to write a few words about it.

I saw the first signs of this when we drove near a town called Sidoarjo. Everything became more and more muddy in color. Along the left side of the road there was a long and high levee, like the dikes that we know in the Netherlands. However, here everything was brown, grey, dirty and muddy. People stood on the levee at several places, staring at something. We passed some desolate, dirty villages, a few shops, and there were many political slogans. The typical Indonesian smiles were not to be seen on people’s faces here. The whole place gave a feeling of sadness and apathy all around.

Steph explained: On that day in May 2006, a big oil company was drilling for gas in what used to be a productive agricultural area. Something went terribly wrong. Ever since that day villages have been destroyed completely, slowly but unstoppable. The lives of the people have changed in a dramatic and sad way. In fact, the biggest mud volcano in the world was created here. The word “created” seems appropriate, at least according to the local people and many scientists.

A huge so-called blowout happened, when the oil company was doing deep test-drilling. Suddenly, hot volcanic mud and toxic volcanic gases started to erupt. This phenomenon spread at more and more places. In a few days the mud eruption reached its peak with 180,000 cubic meters (!) per day, and this continued for years. Any idea how much that is? These 180,000 cubic meters equal 2,700 forty feet sea containers of hot and toxic mud; every day!

Most people here are convinced that it was caused by this human activity, and not by natural earth tremors, as the oil company tries to tell people.
The mud soon took several villages, more than 16 of them. Destroying homes, crops, farm land, rice paddies, fish ponds, ecosystem, infrastructure and nature. Eight villages were completely lost at the very beginning. More than 11,000 people had to leave their homes and land. The entire evacuated area of many square miles had to be surrounded by levies to contain the continuously rising mud.

Five years later, in 2011, the quantity of the daily erupted mud had declined to about 10,000 cubic meters per day. That is still a lot, and the mud flow continues. Also, explosive toxic gases continue to come out every now and then. The geological structure of the area has cracked and weakened. Nobody really knows what is exactly developing, just under the surface. The whole area has become a caldera. Some scientists believe the underlying bedrock may eventually completely collapse under the growing weight of the mud.

There are also risks for major roads (the road from Surabaya to Probolinggo for example) and for railroads, which need continuous extra monitoring.

I did not take any pictures. However, I would like to make an exception to my own rule, by posting a picture from Wikipedia here with the appropriate credits to the owner/creator of the photo.

I hope the website allows me, because I believe this picture is more illustrative than all my words, to describe what has happened to what once was fertile, rich, green and lush agricultural land, on which more than 40,000 people made their living.

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Credits for this picture: By Crisco 1492 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30736065

The oil company still maintains that it happened because tremors of from a distant earthquake. Many scientists and the general public are convinced that irresponsible drilling caused this to happen. No wonder that many controversies and political disputes have arisen ever since.

Wikipedia gives an extensive overview, also about the controversies: please click here

This website tells about the status per end of 2016:
click here

And to get a visual impression, see this website:
http://www.stormchaser.ca/Environmental_Disasters/Sidoarjo_Mud_Flow/Sidoarjo.html

It is up to everyone whom to believe about the cause and the aftermath. I just did not want to leave this unmentioned. We were underway to a nice location, and I will write about that in my next entry, but passing through here made me silent for a little while.

Posted by westwind57 17:47 Archived in Indonesia Tagged villages indonesia java roadtrip east_java disaster caldera surabaya mud_volcano geological sidoarjo mud_flow oil_company man_made Comments (2)

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