Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.
Educating Future Conservationists
Rendra Bayu works as a Field Coordinator with Yayasan Konservasi Rare Aquatic Species of Indonesia (RASI). He specializes in government and private sector engagement for protected area management and public outreach. He also helps run an English tutoring center for underprivileged students. Rendra’s education background lends itself well to spreading awareness of conservation and the species he works to protect.
Why did you become a conservationist?
At first, I was interested in learning more about Pesut Mahakam (also known as the Pesut River Dolphin) and other endangered species from Kalimantan. Growing up, I only knew of their statues and that they were extremely rare. When I started browsing the internet, I came across RASI and learned about their conservation activities and wanted to get more involved.
Because my background is in education, I wanted to spread the message that the Pesut is not extinct yet and that with the help of local communities we can spread awareness and make a change. I feel inspired that I have the opportunity to share about the unique and endemic species of Kalimantan with the Fellow international network.
Video from RASI of a Pesut River Dolphin rescue, untranslated.
Tell us about a time that you felt you had made a difference as a conservationist.
When I campaigned to raise awareness in schools along the Mahakam River. I can see that many more young people understand and care about the Pesut River Dolphin. They have started uploading videos or photos on social media when the dolphins pass their village.
Also, I once assisted in rescuing a river dolphin that got trapped behind the river bank and was cut off from the river. After our team removed all the obstacles on the flooded bank we were able to make the dolphin move through a small opening and get it back to the main river.
What is the hardest part of your job?
When doing surveys and observations from early morning to late afternoon in tropical heat, it can be quite challenging, but fortunately we do surveys as a team so we can motivate each other and keep focused.
Tell us about a conservation success.
We just finished three sub-district workshop meetings, which were very successful. Twenty-six villages all signed to be part of a protected area. We even got additional reserve size for core zones.
Also, we managed to change thrashing behavior in 100 floating raft households for the moment and aim to add at least 400 more within the protected area.
What has surprised you the most in the field?
When I was doing interviews with 80 gillnet fishermen, I realized that I was lucky to have my boatmen who were able to speak the local language. The local dialect is so different from mainstream Indonesian so I was able to learn and understand it better.
Header image: Rendra conducting a study on the Mahakam River. Photo by RASI.