Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thousands flee as Indonesia volcano erupts eight times

Google – AFP, 24 November 2013

Image taken on November 20, 2013 shows Indonesia's Mount Sinabung, which
has erupted eight times in just a few hours on Sunday (AFP/File, Sutanta Aditya)

Jakarta — A volcano in western Indonesia has erupted eight times in just a few hours, "raining down rocks" over a large area and forcing thousands to flee their homes, officials said Sunday.

Mount Sinabung has been erupting on and off since September, but went into overdrive late Saturday and early Sunday, repeatedly spewing out red-hot ash and rocks up to eight kilometres (five miles) into the air.

Several thousand people left their homes overnight, taking the total number of those who have fled since the volcano rumbled to life to around 12,300, said the national disaster agency.

"People panicked last night as the eruption was accompanied by a loud thunderous sound and vibrations. Then it started raining down rocks," said local government official Robert Peranginangin.

"They ran helter-skelter out of their homes and cried for help."

He added there were no known casualties from the latest eruptions.

The volcanology agency raised the alert level for the volcano, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, to the highest point on a four-stage scale, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent or under way.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the government was calling for people living within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of the volcano to leave their homes.

Sinabung, one of dozens of active volcanoes in Indonesia which straddles major tectonic fault lines known as the "Ring of Fire", erupted in September for the first time since 2010.

In August five people were killed and hundreds evacuated when a volcano on a tiny island in East Nusa Tenggara province erupted.

The country's most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, killed more than 350 people in a series of violent eruptions in 2010.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Extinct frog resurrected with ‘de-extinction’ technology

Hopes Australian Lazarus Project provides stepping stone for other extinct species such as the Tasmanian tiger, Australian Associated Press, Friday 22 November 2013

Southern gastric brooding frog Famous for giving birth through its mouth, the
 native gastric brooding frog has been extinct since 1983. Photograph: Auscape
/UIG via Getty Images
An Australian science project to resurrect an extinct frog species has been named one of the world's best inventions.

The Lazarus Project centres on a genome technology developed by researchers from the University of Newcastle. It was included in Time magazine's 25 Best Inventions of the Year 2013 list because it has been successfully used to bring back to life the gastric-brooding frog.

Famous for giving birth through its mouth, the native frog has been extinct since 1983. The researchers were able to collect DNA from frozen frog tissue stored in a conventional freezer for 40 years. Using a process known as somatic cell nuclear transplantation, they deactivated eggs from the distantly related great-barred frog and swapped the nuclei with that of the gastric-brooding frog.

While none of the resulting embryos survived past a few days, genetic tests confirmed they were full of the genetic material from the extinct species.

The project is led by paleontologist Prof. Mike Archer, who worked in conjunction with cloning specialists and frog expert Michael Mahony.

Mahoney described the 'de-extinction' technology as an "insurance policy" against extinction.

"We need to have some process by which we can prevent extinction," he told ABC Radio on Friday. It was not just about bringing species back from the dead, he said, but making sure technology could address a biodiversity crisis around the world.

"The Jurassic Park scenario is the one people think about when you bring back extinct species," Mahony said. "I actually don't focus so much back on the past, as [on] what is possible in the future."

It's believed the gastric-brooding frog's extinction was caused by a disease that stems from a fungus spread by humans.

The project team say they hope Lazarus will provide a stepping stone for the long-extinct Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine.

Lions whisperer cuddles with wild lions

Related Articles

"Soul Communication" - Feb 22-23, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Text version Part I)

“… Animals. You love them, don't you? What do you know about animals, especially the ones you care for and love, the ones you call pets? They have personalities, don't they? They can talk to you! When they communicate, what does that sound like, dear one? What do their voices sound like? "Well, Kryon, you already know they don't have an actual voice." Oh really? Then how do they "talk" to you? Now it gets good, doesn't it? They communicate through concepts. Their conceptual thought groups are available for you to pick up. So guess where you pick up these thoughts? It's through your pineal, which is the interpreter of multidimensional things in your body. It's not your brain, which is picking up their animal broadcasts, dear ones.

Now, some of you are good at this kind of communication. There are ones who are listening to this right now called animal whisperers, and they know exactly what I'm talking about. Why do they call it whispering? I give you my interpretation. It's because the communications are not linear, and they whisper to you through the pineal and not through brain synapse. It comes in thought groups, very softly and all at once, like the smudge. When you pick it up, you know what the dog or cat or horse or hamster or rabbit is trying to communicate. You know the requests they have, perhaps the distress they have, perhaps the celebration or the love they have.

Now, this kind of communication with animals is easy for you, because you all have felt this. I believe you know what I'm speaking about. So apply this lesson, for what I'm teaching today is no different and uses the same process you're going to use in real life and in meditation when you listen to God.

"Kryon, is it true that communicating with animals is soul communication?" Yes, it is theirs to yours, and if you're good at the interpretation of their thoughts, then why doubt yourself about the next step? Practice doing this communication with your own Higher-Self. Your Higher-Self is that part of yourself that vibrates higher than your cellular dimensionality, and it's part of your "soul group". This "soul group" is part of the nine attributes of the Human Being and is the core of you. It is the part that gives you information from the other side of the veil from that which you call God. …”

The Animals are Not Waiting for Us

The 2012 Scenario, Steve Beckow, 28 September 2012

Cross-species friendships are springing up all over. Of them, Matthew said in 2010:

“The innocence of animals, who act from instinct, never from malice, automatically qualifies all except a few species to ascend with Earth. Along the way those who now are wild will become tame, predators will become vegetarians, and all will live peaceably with each other and humankind. Already there is evidence of cross-species friendship, even mothers of one species nurturing infants of another, and instances of bonding between wild animals and humans.”  (Matthew message - Channelled bySuzanne Ward, Aug 13, 2010)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't eat furry friends, activists urge Chinese diners

Google – AFP, 22 November 2013

This file photo shows a man playing with his dog, in Beijing, on July 19, 2013
(AFP/File, Wang Zhao)

Beijing — Animal rights campaigners have launched a poster campaign urging Chinese diners to turn down cat and dog dishes, with the group calling for the creatures to be considered "friends not food".

The 279 adverts were put up in 14 cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Hong Kong-based campaign group Animals Asia said.

Cat and dog meat are not widely eaten in China but can be found at some restaurants, particularly in the south, where they are sometimes considered specialities.

But as the country has grown wealthier pet ownership has increased, and more than 30 million households now keep a cat or dog, according to research group Euromonitor.

This file photo shows a Chinese chef 
showing cooked dog paws at his
restaurant in Tokyo, on January 25,
2006 (AFP/File, Toru Yamanaka)
Animals Asia appeared to be trying to tap into that growing demographic of pet owners.

One poster showed a small girl sitting with two dogs while a human hand aimed a pair of chopsticks at one of the animals.

"What you just put into your mouth could have been a child's partner in growth," the advertisement read.

"Be healthy. Say no to cat and dog meat."

On its website Animals Asia said the posters, announced earlier this month, aimed to inform the public of health risks from eating cat and dog, and were intended "to prompt people to re-evaluate why they?d eat animals they might otherwise consider friends not food".

China does not have any laws to protect non-endangered animals.

The animal rights movement in the country remains small but it is growing, with volunteers banding together to mount rescues of dogs and cats from trucks transporting them to restaurants where they are served as meat.

Around 600 cats stuffed into wooden crates and on their way to such a fate were rescued after a truck crash in January.

A convoy of trucks carrying about 500 dogs to be sold as meat was stopped by volunteers on a highway in Beijing in 2011 and the animals retrieved.

Irene Feng, dog and cat welfare director for Animals Asia, highlighted the uncertainty that accompanies eating such meat.

"The truth is, if you eat dog or cat then you have no idea where that meat is coming from or how safe it is," she said on the website.

Numerous abandoned cats and dogs are taken from the streets while pets are stolen and taken to "horrific meat markets", Feng added.

"We believe that, faced with this knowledge, most people would find such a meal entirely unappetising."

Critically Injured Orangutan Rescued on North Sumatra Plantation

Jakarta Globe, Nurdin Hasan, November 22, 2013

The team of rescuers from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP)
 and the Orangutan Information Center (OIC) evacuate a severely injured male
orangutan from a Salak plantation in Sugi Tonga village in the South Tapanuli district
of North Sumatra on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. (Photo courtesy of the OIC)

Banda Aceh. A grievously injured Sumatran orangutan was found on the brink of death on a salak plantation in the South Tapanuli district of North Sumatra, conservation workers said.

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) and the Orangutan Information Center (OIC) received reports on Monday from the North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) of an orangutan in distress. The organizations put together a joint team, which conducted the rescue on Tuesday, said OIC director Panut Hadisiswoyo.

“Based on the observations of BKSDA staff, the Forest Police Partners Society [MMP] and a team from the Sumatra Rainforest Institute, the orangutan suffered… serious injuries on his body and needed medical treatment,” Panut said in a statement on Friday.

MMP volunteers stood watch over the suffering orangutan while the rescue team drove north from Medan, which took 12 hours, he said.

“The MMP team said the orangutan was isolated in a field and severely injured,” he said, “as he was probably trapped in a snare or hit with a sharp item.”

The rescuers found the primate in a tree, six meters from the ground. They tranquilized him and caught him as he fell.

“An examination by a team of veterinarians found that the orangutan suffered wounds on his forehead and on the back of his head,” Panut said. “The wound was a cut, and there were maggots in it. He also suffered wounds on the right side of his back and on his mouth.”

Panut said the team predicted that the primate had been suffering for the past two weeks as his body weakened due to a lack of food.

The orangutan was brought to a SOCP facility near Medan for treatment.

“He was in a very critical condition and we can not predict if he will survive or not,” said Yenni Saraswati, a senior SOCP veterinarian.”

Shrinking habitats have increased contact between the forest-dwelling orangutan and villagers and is the primary cause of an upswing in human-on-animal violence in Indonesia, Panut said.

“Why would people try to kill an orangutan like this and not try to handle the conflict without hurting the orangutan?” Yenni asked. “It is better for them to call a relevant NGO or the local BKSDA chapter before taking any action.”

Only around 6,500 Sumatran Orangutans remain in the wild, Panut said. Orangutans are among humans’ closest cousins, surpassed only by chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas in genetic similarity.

Coconut farmers face ruin after Philippine typhoon

Google – AFP, Martin Abbugao (AFP), 22 November 2013

In this photo taken on November 19, 2013 shows the barge which was washed
 ashore amongst coconut tress at the height of super Typhoon Haiyan in Quinapundan
town, Eastern Samar province, central Philippines (AFP/File, Ted Aljibe)

Burawin — The super typhoon that slammed through the central Philippines laid waste to a vast region of coconut farmland, eradicating in one fell swoop the livelihoods of tens of thousands of smallholders.

"It's all gone," Glen Mendoza said, gesturing towards the collection of snapped and toppled trees that used to be the small but reliable grove that fed and supported his family.

"My daughter might have to stop going to college," he said. "These coconut trees are our only hope and now they're gone."

Mendoza's plight is shared, not just by the farmers in his coconut-growing town of Burawin, but by tens of thousands of others across the island of Leyte.

A major coconut-growing province, Leyte accounts for one third of all the fruit produced in the fertile centre of the country, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

The particular problem facing farmers like Mendoza is that there is no short-term solution to the loss of their groves.

Replanting can begin very soon but, depending on the variety, coconut trees take between five and ten years to reach maturity and bear fruit.

More than 208,000 hectares (515,000 acres) are planted with over 22 million trees in Leyte, providing a living for 122,000 families, or around 600,000 people, said Joel Pilapil, a senior PCA official in the province.

There are no firm estimates yet on the full extent of the damage, but ground reports and aerial views of Leyte and nearby Samar island tell the same story -- coconut trees either toppled, snapped or sheared when Typhoon Haiyan scythed across the region on November 8, packing winds of up to 315 kilometres (195 miles) per hour.

"I've spent 21 years in the industry and this is the first time that the damage has been this heavy," Pilapil told AFP in an interview at the PCA's typhoon-damaged building in the town of Palo.

"It hurts... Coconut farming families are going to go hungry," he said
Cipriano Alibay, 73, a farmer in Dagami town near Burawin, used to harvest 3,000 coconuts every three months from his now destroyed two-hectare smallholding.

"My investment is gone. I don't know what to do," he said.

According to Pilapil, the government is ready to provide free seedlings, but the ground must first be cleared of thousands of toppled trees, ruined buildings and other debris.

Trees that are still standing but have no hope of bearing fruit need to be cut down, he said, adding that the clearing operations could take months.

Pilapil said some of the felled trees could provide timber for rebuilding houses destroyed by the typhoon.

As well as the farmers, many others relied on the coconut industry, including Rodolfo Ortega, 54, who buys dried coconut meat -- called copra -- from farmers and sells it to millers.

Copra extracts can be used in a variety of products, including soap and shampoo.

"It will probably take 10 years before coconut farmers can get on their feet," Ortega told AFP as he and a few of his workers stood idly outside his warehouse in the town of Dagami.

He warned that with so many people dependent on the industry, the government must act fast to prevent social consequences.

"If people have no jobs, that can create social problems," Ortega said, adding that the government should teach farmers to plant alternative crops while they wait for the seedlings to grow.

For coconut farmer Alibay, there is no choice but to keep going.

"We need to be strong in order to go on living," he said.

Related Article:

Leonardo DiCaprio boosts Nepal bid to save tigers

Google – AFP, 21 November 2013

Leonardo Dicaprio speaks during a movie premiere on November 1, 2013 
in Los Angales (Getty/AFP/File, Jason Merritt)

Washington — A foundation set up by actor Leonardo DiCaprio pitched in $3 million Thursday to save tigers in Nepal, whose plan to double the big cats' population has shown success.

The "Titanic" heartthrob warned that "time is running out" for tigers, whose global population in the wild has dwindled to an estimated 3,200 after years of poaching and habitat loss.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation channeled the $3 million through the World Wildlife Fund environmental group for improvements in the Terai Arc Landscape, a stretch of ecologically diverse protected lands bordering India.

"I am hopeful this grant will help them exceed the goal of doubling the number of these noble creatures in the wild," DiCaprio said in a statement.

The grant will fund improvements in border posts and more sophisticated tools to monitor poaching.

Nepal has set its goal of doubling the big cats' population by 2022, the next year of the tiger in the Chinese zodiac.

Nepal's government said in July that its population of Royal Bengal tigers in the wild has soared 64 percent to 198 in just four years.

DiCaprio, who stars in Martin Scorsese's upcoming film "The Wolf of Wall Street," in May led an art auction that raised $38.8 million for environmental charity work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hamas announces birth of two lion cubs in Gaza

Google – AFP, 19 November 2013

Two-day-old lion cubs Fajr and Sijil are fed at a zoo in the northern Gaza
Strip town of Beit Lahia, on November 19, 2013 (AFP, Mohammed Abed)

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) — Gaza's Hamas-run authorities on Tuesday announced the birth of two lion cubs in the Palestinian enclave, named in honour of the last bout of fighting between the Islamists and Israel.

The cubs were born less than a week after the first anniversary of the eight-day conflict between Hamas and Israel in November 2012.

"The lioness gave birth yesterday (Monday) to two cubs, one male and one female," said Nahed al-Majdub, head of the "Bissan" amusement park, set up by the Hamas-run interior ministry.

"They were named Fajr and Sijil," said Majdub, Arabic for dawn and clay.

The names refer to the Fajr missiles Hamas fired at Israel in the conflict in November 2012 and the name the Palestinian Islamist movement gave to the fighting, "Operation Stones of Clay."

Two-day-old lion cubs Fajr and Sijil are seen at a zoo in the northern 
Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on November 19, 2013 (AFP, Mohammed Abed)

"It is the first time lions have been born in the Gaza Strip," Majdub said, adding that the cubs' parents were imported from Egypt four years ago.

Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, congratulated itself on having smuggled the cubs' parents past the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The group said on Twitter that "Despite Israel's unjust siege, Palestinians managed to smuggle these 2 lions to draw a smile on faces of Gaza kids."

More than 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed when hostilities erupted after an Israeli missile killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari last November 14.

Related Article:

Monday, November 18, 2013

‘Sokola Rimba’ Shows What School Can Mean in a Sumatran Jungle

Jakarta Globe, Lisa Siregar, November 18, 2013

A still from ‘Sokola Rimba,’ starring Prisia Nasution as Butet Manurung, a
 teacher who has lived with indigenous people in the Sumatran jungle for
14 years. (Photo courtesy of Miles Films)

An 11-hour drive from the city of Jambi in Sumatra brings you to the home of an indigenous community called Orang Rimba , or the people of the forest.

Living in an isolated area deep inside the jungle of Bukit Duabelas, the Orang Rimba have been largely untouched by modern values, peacefully going about their traditional way of living.

But the world has been changing, making it more difficult for them to hold on to their way of life. For the past 14 years, environmental activist Butet Manurung has been slowly transferring much-needed knowledge in literacy and advocacy to help the Orang Rimba deal with these changes, but without affecting their local wisdom. Butet’s Sokola Rimba , or Rimba school, serves nine indigenous communities around the 60,000 hectares of the forest.

Butet also wrote a book about her experiences, whose English version “Jungle School” went on sale last year.

Her unique experience with the Rimba people was the inspiration behind an upcoming film by Riri Riza, called “Sokola Rimba.” It took Riri and producer Mira Lesmana several months to prepare to produce the film. When they met at the Ubud Writer’s Festival last year, they agreed to go on with the project. Prisia Nasution (“Sang Penari,” “Laura dan Marsha”) assumes the role of Butet in the film.

Beyond the theme of deforestation, “Sokola Rimba” is a film about the daily routines of the Rimba people and about one woman’s choice about what to do with her life. Just like in real life, in the movie Butet works as a volunteer with a local conservation nonprofit organization as a teacher.

The movie, which will be released on Thursday, portrays Butet’s first four years with the NGO before she finally sets up “Sokola,” a group of people who aim to continue assisting with educational activities for indigenous and marginalized communities. The organizational conflicts portrayed in the movie are fictional, Butet said, but she gave her blessing to Riri and Mira to develop their own plot.

“The place where I worked didn’t have the same problems, but I think Riri tried to make the story easily digestible for everyone,” she said. “He interviewed me so many times, and I felt that Riri captured the essence of what I am doing.”

Like his previous works for the films “Atambua 39 Derajat” and “Laskar Pelangi,” Riri is once again using indigenous cast members to play local characters. Another protagonist in the movie is Nyungsang Bungo, who plays himself as a young Orang Rimba man who thirsts for education. Though he was restricted by the law of his local tribe from receiving a modern education, Bungo had a hunch that his people were being cheated by palm oil planation owners who force them to keep moving around.

When casting for the film, Riri said he had his eyes on six Orang Rimba children that he felt had a natural talent for acting, story telling and responding to camera movements.

“Climbing trees, walking and running around, nothing I asked them to do in the movie was difficult for them, because they are used to it,” he said.

In promoting his films, Riri said there is a common problem among urban film enthusiasts who expect his indigenous cast to act. But, just like in his previous movies, that was exactly what Riri was trying to avoid.

“I want them to play their own story,” he said. “We don’t want to change them to fit our perspective of actors.”

Bungo’s character in “Sokola Rimba” is inspired by Butet’s real student named Gentar. But since years have passed since she first worked as Genter’s teacher, he is now too old to play himself in the movie. Butet has known Bungo since he began learning to walk.

“She’s just like my own mother,” Bungo said shyly at the press conference.

Riri visited the Orang Rimba three times last year before he finally began filming in the jungle with a crew of 25.

He took time to sit down with the Rimba people, sometimes for hours, to understand their lifestyle and later incorporating everything into the screenplay.

There was no electricity where they lived, so sometimes, Riri said, he and a few Rimba people would talk to each other in the dark. Even so, he wouldn’t call the finished film a documentary. He prefers the term neorealism, which is inspired by the Italian neorealism movement, a film genre that emerged after World War II and usually portrays the stories of lower-class people using non-professional actors.

“I relied on their proximity with and honesty towards me, but working deep inside the jungle, there was only so much that I could control,” he said. “There were a lot of retakes and remakes because we had to adjust to their way of life.”

Every dialogue that involves indigenous cast members is delivered in the local language. It took Prisia one month to learn the language, while the shooting took three weeks to finish. Around 80 Orang Rimba helped during the filming.

For Riri, the movie shows the complexity of Indonesia as a nation state. The difference between urban and jungle people is very wide, but it’s not in our place to see them as “inferior,” he said.

If anything, “Sokola Rimba” fights the notion that we should feel pity for the Rimba people, who live inside the forest with no modern facilities. “We cannot apply the same pattern of education and development for every group or community in this country,” he said.

Riri’s stance in this regard is similar to Butet’s. Having been with the Orang Rimba for more than a decade, Butet said their biggest challenges are religions, politics and commercial offers from the outer world, which is confusing for them.

Orang Rimba do not use modern measurements and events, rather than numbers, mark their lives. According to Mira, Bungo and the other indigenous actors involved in the film were not paid with money. Instead, they were given things they consider valuable, such as cloths.

In the end, Butet said, the Rimba people must decide on their own whether they want to adopt a modern lifestyle.

“The education that I gave is a tool for them to deal with changes, but whether or not they want to follow our way of living, it should be their call,” she said.

Indigenous People Fight for Rights Online

Jakarta Globe, Jacqueline Pham, November 18, 2013

Shamans from the Salakhirat group of the indigenous Mentawai tribe
practice a Bilou dance in Siberut, West Sumatra. (EPA Photo)

Indonesia loves its social media. In a country that hosts 64 million active Facebook users, 29 million Twitter users and 1.7 million users of LinkedIn, the statistics speak for themselves.

Once it was a good way to waste some time but increasingly, the internet and social media is being used to mobilize social action, facilitate political participation and share beyond geographical constraints and across national borders.

From as early as 1994, with what started as a local struggle for the indigenous people of Mexico’s Chiapas and grew to become the transnational Zapatista movement, to the public demonstrations of the Arab Spring that spread across the Middle East from December 2010, the internet and social media has become one of the essential tools for modern social movement.

The indigenous people of Indonesia are not excluded from this activism phenomenon.

Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court delivered a historic ruling on the 1999 Forestry Law, following a submission by the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara – Aman), a national membership-based organization representing over 2,000 indigenous communities.

The Constitutional Court Decision 35, as it is often referred to, declares the word “state” in Article 1(6) of the Forestry Law to not be legally binding. So where it previously read “customary forests are state forests located in indigenous peoples’ territories,” the ruling declared that it should simply read “customary forests are forests located in indigenous peoples’ territories.”

For the estimated 50 to 70 million indigenous people in Indonesia, the decision was met with much praise.

It gave a glimpse into something of a brave new world: the denial of government ownership over potentially 40 million hectares of forests, and with it, their ability to grant concessions for mining and logging.

It also meant that the possible stewardship of customary forests is now completely in the hands of local indigenous communities who have lived and managed these forests for generations.

Yet the welcome was met with equal reservation.

“What the indigenous people need immediately is a concrete mechanism in the field, indicating that the government and its relevant agencies comply with the Court’s decision,” said Abdon Nababan, secretary general of Aman, at a gathering of civil society organizations following the ruling.

Taking to Facebook

It wasn’t long before Aman members began erecting placards in customary forests that read “ Ini hutan adat kami, bukan hutan negara ” (this is our customary forest, not a state forest).

Photos were uploaded to the Hutan Adat Kita (Our Customary Forest) Facebook page, an initiative started by the Indigenous Youth Front, the youth wing of Aman.

“[Hutan Adat Kita] was created to raise awareness among indigenous communities as well as the broader public about the Constitutional Court Decision 35.

“The photos are there to affirm that customary forests are forests on customary land and publicly show that indigenous people are eager to reclaim their forests and have the forests returned to them,” said Simon Pabaras, chairman of the Indigenous Youth Front.

Closely tied in with the recognition and practical application of indigenous sovereignty over customary forests is the fundamental recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples themselves.

Lack of commitment

Since 2011 the bill on the Recognition and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has sat with the People’s Representative Council. It is a single piece of legislation that will formally recognize and protect the rights of indigenous people in Indonesia.

Currently any legislative protection of indigenous people is sectoral based and largely peripheral.

A special committee, comprised of the minister for forestry and the minister for law and justice among others, was established earlier this year to oversee the bill. However, when the bill will be passed is as unclear as when the Constitutional Court Decision 35, which was announced six months ago, will be implemented.

“The government has not shown the will to implement the Constitutional Court Decision 35 or adopt the bill on the Recognition and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Simon said. “We don’t have a lot of time left.”

Petitioning power

In danger of being drowned out as political preparations and campaigning for the 2014 election begin to ramp up, Aman has circulated Petisi 35, a petition to push the government to pass the bill on the Recognition and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous People and implement the Constitutional Court Decision 35. Accompanying the paper-based petition is, of course, an online petition also.

Currently there are more than 2,000 signatures from both the online and offline petition.

Aman hopes to receive many more signatures from Indonesia and around the world. The effect of social media will play its part in achieving that.

“We are asking for the support of justice for indigenous peoples and their rights over land, territories and resources including customary forests…

“We urge the government of Indonesia to immediately implement the Constitutional Court’s decision and to recognize and protect indigenous peoples’ rights by adopting the bill,” Simon said.

For the moment, Aman acknowledges that its offline campaigning activities for Petisi 35 have gathered the most support because of the spread of its member communities across the archipelago living without internet access.

Likewise, poor signals where there is internet access has been an obstacle for some communities sending through their photos to the Hutan Adat Kita Facebook page.

Despite this, Simon acknowledged the continuing significance of social media and the internet in supporting the indigenous movement in Indonesia.

“We can strengthen the indigenous movement through online networking and connecting with other organizations like workers, farmers and fishermen.

“But we also know that many people use social media in Indonesia and it has become a potential arena for campaigning.”

As another tool for the modern activists and advocates, expect to see more frequent appearances of the indigenous movement in the online arena.

Jacqueline Pham is a volunteer working with Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (Aman), a membership based organization representing and advocating on behalf of indigenous people in Indonesia.

Petisi 35 is available in both Bahasa Indonesia and English. To sign the online petition Petisi 35, please visit The Hutan Adat Kita Facebook page can be visited at

Mount Merapi Erupts Sending Ash Cloud as Far as Solo

Jakarta Globe, November 18, 2013

Mount Merapi near Yogyakarta erupted on Nov. 18 at sunrise, forcing villagers to
temporarily leave their homes. (JG Photo/Boy T Harjanto)

The Central Java volcano Mount Merapi erupted early Monday morning, forcing villagers to evacuate their homes as wind carried a cloud of ash down the eastern and southeastern slopes of the volcano.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the Solo office of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said the eruption took place between 4:50 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., and that the agency had detected a series of small seismic quakes in the minutes before the volcano erupted.

Sutopo said in a written statement that this morning’s event shared similar characteristics with the 2,914-meter-high volcano’s July 22 eruption, but that the latest was marginally stronger. The eruption had softened by mid morning and the agency was evaluating whether Merapi would continue to pose a risk.

The ash cloud blew as far as Solo and blanketed Boyolali in ash. Villagers in Glagahharjo, Sleman, and several small communities around Boyolali’s Selo subdistrict left their homes to fixed evacuation points. The affected residents, were, however, able to return to their homes by mid morning.

The Geological Disaster Technology Research and Development Agency (BPPTKG) in Yogyakarta said that the ash traveled as far as 61.9 kilometers from the peak.

“Multi-phased quakes occurred 10 times before 04.58 but at on insignificant scales. No volcanic quake was recorded before the ash eruption,” said Lasiman, an officer at the Merapi Monitoring Post in Kaliurang.

Mount Merapi’s last major eruption was in October, 2010 when an ash cloud killed 32 people on its slope and forced more than 50,000 people to flee their homes.

—With additional reporting by Ari Susanto

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Indonesia’s Forest Communities Victims of ‘Legal Land Grabs’

Jakarta Globe, Silvia Giannelli, November 16, 2013

Sesaot, where a village committee has managed a forest reserve extending 3,600
hectares for over 50 years. (IPS Photo/Amantha Perera)

Indonesia’s rainforests are facing “legal land grabs,” nongovernmental organizations have alleged. Its ancient communities are finding that ancestral lands are slipping into the hands of foreign companies for oil palm cultivation, as demand for the product grows in Europe, India and China.

“There are 33,000 villages in Indonesia’s forest zone and many thousand more in areas marked for agriculture,” said Marcus Colchester, a senior policy adviser at Forest Peoples Program, an international NGO.

“The government allocates these areas to companies without even consulting the communities. So concessions have been handed out over lands where these communities have lived for hundreds or even thousands of years,” he told IPS.

On Friday, Colchester flew to Medan to present the findings of his research, carried out in conjunction with two local organizations, on the impact oil palm cultivation has on the lives of Indonesian communities.

“It is being left to the conscience of the companies — whether they want to give a fair deal to the communities and recognize their rights or not,” Colchester said.

“What our study shows is that the communities’ rights are not being adequately recognized. The people lose access to the land they have traditionally depended on for forest produce, for hunting, fishing, medicines, agriculture and many other purposes.”

According to Sawit Watch, an Indonesian network against palm oil plantations, the country already has 3.2 million hectares of oil palm plantations, mainly located in Sumatra.

Oil palm is known as ‘Sawit’ in Indonesia. Every year, 330,000 hectares of forest is targeted for conversion into new plantations and 650 investors, 75 percent of which are foreign companies, apply to convert forests into oil palm plantations, according to the network.

Palm oil companies and the government are both involved, alleges Augustin Karlo Lumban of Sawit Watch.

Companies first ask communities to release their lands, saying they are taking it [to] rent, he said. But later, when the same people want the land back, they are told it belongs to the state. The government, in turn, puts a business permit on the land and gives it to companies.

“This is land grab[ing] by legal means,” Lumban told IPS.

For some time, the palm oil industry has been criticized by human rights and environmental organizations for its operations in Indonesia.

It has also triggered a debate in the scientific and political arena.

Mark Winslow, communication consultant at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics, an organization that works on sustainable ecological farming, says there are many ways of producing palm oil.

“Palm oil is generally considered the most energy-efficient biofuel and has the highest yield per unit of land area. The problem is that its cultivation is carried out in a very sensitive ecological area — Indonesia and Malaysia,” Winslow told IPS.

But there are alternatives to land grabbing, Winslow said. Data from the World Resources Institute shows that there is at least six million hectares of degraded land in Indonesia.

“These lands are not used at all because they are covered in dense grass called ‘alang alang,’ but if you use herbicides to kill it, you could then plant oil palms there without clearing any new forest,” he said.

Also, rainforests are not the only option for oil palm plantations. “The oil palm is a forest tree by nature, but it has potential to expand into drier areas which have a lot of rivers, or underground water, especially in Africa,” Winslow said.

Oil palm is an edible crop. Its cultivation has gone up vastly over the last decade, reaching 50 million tons in 2012 to become the leading vegetable oil in terms of production and trade, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

In 2011, Indonesia and Malaysia accounted for 85 percent of worldwide palm oil production.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, 80 percent of palm oil is used for food, the rest is used in oleochemistry, for products like cosmetics and soaps, and increasingly, for biofuels.

After India and China, Europe is the third top importer of palm oil, according to FAO data for 2011.

As part of the so-called “20-20-20″ climate and energy targets, the European Union aims to raise the share of its energy consumption from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020, out of which 10 percent is for the transport sector, according to European Commission data.

While this directive has made the projection for future palm oil import higher, signs of a course reversal are coming from the European Parliament.

“In September, the European Parliament adopted a position that caps first-generation biofuels, stating that within the 10 percent target of renewable source, only six percent can come from first-generation biofuels,” Bas Eickhout, a member of the European Parliament with the Greens, told IPS.

But no measure is in sight as far the social impact of biofuels like palm oil is concerned.

“As far as including social standards in the sustainability criteria goes, unfortunately the European Union is not moving at all,” Eickhout said.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an organization that represents all stakeholders throughout the industry supply chain.

“RSPO is not yet ready to show that palm oil is sustainable in climate terms,” said Colchester.

When it comes to the social dimension, RSPO certification should be enough to prevent human rights abuses.

“It would, if they were complying,” Colchester said. “=Our report shows that even companies that are members of the RSPO and are certified still have problems in the way they deal with the communities,” he said. “And that’s what is so shocking.”

Inter Press Service