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Rabu, 15 Maret 2017

Amalia Rezeki: Save Proboscis Monkeys, Save Everything!

In Borneo, the island with the oldest rain forests nicknamed the lungs of the world - endangered proboscis monkeys have just found their voice in a local, female ambassador. Gorillas had Dian Fossey, orangutans have Birute Galdikas, chimpanzees have Jane Goodall, and the forth largest primates, the proboscis monkeys, have Amalia Rezeki. 

The spokesperson for Sahabat Bekantan Indonesia (SBI), the largest proboscis rehabilitation centre in the world, Amalia is fanatic in her efforts to reshape any false perceptions of the long-nosed monkey - through socialization and weekly appearances in the media. The proboscis monkey has now been made the mascot of her home city of Banjarmasin. Marking the end of the fanatic conservatism of the past, the city's only statue, glowing indigo by night, is a seven meter tall proboscis monkey that spits water into a river.

Amalia spends her days penetrating the shielded public sphere to leave a loaded message of the animals' importance behind in simple, every day language – barbed to be remembered. Quick to kill these great primates like pests, farmers should know that proboscis monkeys have almost no defences, are very timid, endangered, and easy to frighten off. They are also often burnt alive or orphaned in the slashing and burning of Borneo's 140-million-year-old forests for the sewing of cash crops - such as palm oil plantations. Often landowners would rather burn the evidence of endangered species, such as the proboscis monkey or the orangutan, rather than evacuate them.

SBI's campaigns are creative in combating rumours - that eating the monkey's meat will improve stamina, for example. There is also a small population believing a myth that especially evil Dutch colonialists were long ago transformed into proboscis monkeys (note that colonialists wore beige and had long noses, too) – and this kind of slander does not help their plight. It is clear that human ignorance, fantasy, coupled with the primates' own gentle nature, threatens the existence of these handsomely nautical herbivores.

Through the media, SBI's message had already reached the boardwalk community of Teluk Medung when the community discovered tens of proboscis monkeys living on the banks of their riverside settlement. When they contacted SBI for help, Amalia arrived to oversee the animals' relocation to the conservation island of Bakut. In Borneo's economy, to do the right thing - instead of following the usual profit motive – is a deed that should be rewarded. As such, Amalia often brings foreign volunteers from the wildlife rescue centre to spend time with the kids here in the village of Teluk Mendung. The children have met, sung with, been taught by, and received presents from French, German, and Canadian people - all as a result of their conscious decision to draw the line, and stand for the animals.

On the banks of the Barito River these kids await new visitors, ready with a repertoire of songs that Amalia herself has taught them. The time she has invested here is proof that she does not get ahead of herself, but sticks to a ground up approach – albeit under the ambitious slogan:
"Save the proboscis! Save everything!". - David Arthur

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