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SOS Rhino : In the News : Articles : Sumatran Rhino Survey June 2004

Sumatran Rhino Survey June 2004

June 2004
Joe Schroeder

SOS Rhino Borneo was an incredible experience. I spent three weeks total in Borneo and had the opportunity to do quite a bit with the organization. Upon my arrival I was met by Ann, a local staff member for SOS who set me up in a hotel in the center of Kota Kinabalu. I spent a couple of nights there preparing and waiting for the next survey to get under way. From there i flew to Laha Datu, the closest airport to the Tabin wildlife reserve four hours away,and met up with the director of SOS Rhino, Dr. Edwin Bosi. After a few hours of supply shopping for things like canned food,rice,and rehydration packs, we packed six into the extended cab ford truck and took off for the reserve. The ride was bumpy and full of interestng conversation, most of it coming from Dr. Bosi who had hundreds of stories to tell about his encounters with wild elephants and orangutans. Along the way we spotted lots of wildlife including lots of birds and deer, and came up on a herd of elephants. When we arrived at the local village down river to the base camp, we joined a group of British and American volunteers in a rare feast of chicken wings and beer. The base camp was very slow paced and typical of the area. i spent one day there packing my things before heading out into the jungle for the survey.The crew consisted of Dr. Bosi, the director and lead Veterinarian, myself, two other volunteers, and four all purpose staff members who could do anything. We left early in the morning and stuffed our small wooden boat full of supplies to cruise up the river. the first night we had made it halfway there before camping on the river banks. it was a beautiful ride full of monkeys and hornbills and lizards. When we got there we set out the net and caught about ten fish instantaneously. The food was consistent. ramen noodles in the morning, rice and fish for lunch, and then rice, fish, and fish soup for dinner with steamed fern sprouts. we also drank plenty of nescafe and milo. it was excellent and i never tired of it. Once we got to the core area, the primary forest in the middle of the reserve, we set up camp and relaxed from a long day of boatriding. The next day we left on our first survey which was to cover around ten kilometers of land. the survey was incredible. we hiked in an oblong loop searching for any signs of rhinos, mostly tracks on the ground. This particular survey was the farthest up the river yet, and we were covering ground that hadn't been completely surveyed yet. i was hopeful to find signs of rhinos, but i knew that they were very solitary creatures and also very sparse. I had heard from Dr. Bosi that one man who had been working for the organization spent four years there and only came across five rhinos. Unfortunately that day we found no signs. Although the next day would prove more fruitful. On our second survey we found two different tracks, in two different areas, both of them said to be a month or two old. By the third day i had gotten used to the schedule of early morning breakfast and quick starts. we would break for lunch around noon and usually be back by 4 or 5, in time for a good swim in the river and then dinner. Usually everyone headed off to bed right after the food was gone and got some good sleep before the next day of heavy sweating and fighting leaches. I was lucky enough not to be bitten by a leach, but no one else enjoyed that luxury, in fact they resented me for it. But the group was very fun to be around and the boys were always joking and in good spirits despite their arduous tasks. I spent a total of about one week in the jungle, doing these surveys and enjoying the tropical rainforest, then we headed back to base camp to discuss our findings and record them.

The financial aspect of the trip The money issue on a trip like this one is minimal. Depending how long you are going to stay in the city and eat at fancy restaurants, the most you will need for a two week trip including a couple nights stay at hotels and food expenses along with a week and a half-two in the jungle will be around $600. If you want to take advantage of all the area has to offer like scuba diving, island hopping, and orangutan watching be prepared to spend up to $900. As far as the volunteer program goes, the administration fee is US$200, the food is split up among the volunteers and staff and usually runs you around $20 bucks for a two week period. lodging at the base camp will cost around 4 or 5 dollars a night, and thats about it. there are a few supplies like a mosquito net and some rubber hiking shoes, but they hardly cost anything at all. The plane ticket out there is the most expensive part, but once you get there you will realize how incredible of an experience it really is.


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