A Day in the Life of an RPU Member

By Romiyanto, Rhino Protection Unit, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia

Translated by Sectionov

Today our duty is to survey and monitor rhino habitat in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (BBSNP). As usual, after packing and checking all our stuff and logistics, the others and I start to go to the field.  Our destination at this time is West Lampung.  One of our RPU vehicles dropped us off at the location near a forest that we will enter.  Full of energy, we started walking, monitoring, and collecting all the data that we needed.  

The first two days of patrolling and monitoring went smoothly; we wondered when something would become a problem for us.  As usual, every night we move from one place to another place.  On our third day, we stayed in Mendati (one location in deep forest in the West Lampung area) — we could tell it was going to rain. Everywhere we looked, it was dark and windy. We continued to walk because we hadn’t reached our destination. I still remember that around 5 PM, it was almost dark, but we needed to continue to walk to find our camp.  Suddenly, the rain came, but we had no time to stop because we were in open area and it was now dark.     

I felt cold, wet, and very tired and I think others also felt the same as I did.  I thought about stopping but we couldn’t, because there weren’t any good locations to make a camp.  We tried continuing our walk and kept our thinking positive. 

After one hour of walking, we finally reached the location that we usual make a camp at, but realized a big tree had fallen down in front of the camp.  We made another camp close to the area, and then noticed a group of wild elephants 5 meters away.  Suddenly, the elephants came after us and we all started running away, as far as we could. We even pushed through a huge bees’ nest getting away – and got lots of stings. We didn’t care; all that was on our minds was to get far away from that location. I heard how angry the elephants were.  

After making sure that we were far away from the location, we tried to calm down and step-by-step to make a simple camp to at least have somewhere to sleep that would cover us from the rain.  We didn’t have a chance to cook dinner, we were too tired.  Before sleeping we discussed what happened that day and tried to laugh, feeling hungry.  

Around 2 AM, we heard the sound of elephants near our camp again.  We didn’t know what we should do, so we prayed and tried to get ready to run, just in case the elephants came after us again.  No one went back to sleep; we were too concerned about paying attention to the sound of the elephants. Thank God, nothing happened that night and finally sunrise approached.  Slowly we moved out from the camp and saw the surroundings.  We saw a lot of elephant footprints!

After breakfast and all logistics were checked, we packed up and moved to another area to continue patrolling…… it’s my life!!!

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