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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)

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