By Bill Konstant
We’re Indonesia bound and bound to see badak, which means “rhinoceros” in Bahasa Indonesia, the national language. In all likelihood, we will come face-to-face with badak sumatera – Sumatran rhinos – but don’t have much of a chance of laying eyes upon one of the world’s last remaining badak jawa – Javan rhinos. There are less than 50 of these rare creatures left in the world. More on that later. For now, let’s define “we”.
“We” are an eight-member tour group of rhino enthusiasts. Our Indonesian guide, Inov, and I work for the International Rhino Foundation. Then there’s Logan Agan and Gil Myers, a sea lion trainer from the Oklahoma City Zoo and a keeper at the National Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Center, respectively. They were among the four top fundraisers in last year’s Bowling for Rhinos events, which collectively raised more than $300,000 for rhino conservation projects in Africa and Asia. Bowling for Rhinos is a signature program of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), whose goal is to eventually generate at least a half million dollars each year to help save rhinos from extinction. Gil and Logan are joined by Jennifer Ludwig, formerly with the Maryland Zoo, Lynn Blattman of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Species (CREW), Lynn’s husband, Gary, and Rhishja Cota-Larson, founder of Annamiticus, an educational non-profit organization that provides information about endangered species, illegal wildlife trade, and wildlife crime. Rhishja will be filming a series an educational web series called the Ancient Rhinos of Southeast Asia.
Our tour begins in several cities spread across the United States, with us non-Indonesians meeting up at Singapore’s Changi Airport, where we spend some time taking photographs in the Butterfly Garden.
From Singapore it’s on to Jakarta, where we’re met by Inov, and then on to Lampung Province in southern Sumatra. This region is known for its rich natural wonders and critically endangered populations of Sumatran elephants, tigers and rhinos.
Tomorrow we’ll make our way to Way Kambas National Park, home of the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and some of the world’s best known Sumatran rhinos. This is going to be a great adventure, so check back in a day or so for an update on our 2013 Bowling for Badak Tour.