The photo that you are looking at to the left was taken during our trip through Agro Bukit, a massive palm oil plantation initiative. This burnt, desolate looking area fell victim to this year’s forest fires. If you could pan the image to the right and to the left, you would only see the image repeating itself. There are no lines of forest area in the far distance, there are no rolling forest hills, there is no green, and there is no life.
I could not have been prepared for what we saw here. The size of this place could be equivalent to that of a small country; there was no end to the barren landscape as far as the eye could see. Not only did it feel like we were driving through a maze within a war zone, the expressions on people’s faces and the shacks that they called home gave the same feeling. There was no happiness, no one was smiling. What was there to smile about? Surely not their living conditions or the beauty of their backyards.
For all the money these foreign companies have you would think they would at least provide decent housing for their employees and decent roads for them to drive back and forth on. Hitting a hole on these roads is like falling into a small lake. At the corner of each plot, where the roads intersect each other, there is a number. The jungle has been stripped, packaged and numbered.
As we kept driving around every corner, trying to navigate our way to a home that was holding an orangutan captive, we completely lost our sense of direction. There was no clear north and south, and no sun to guide us. That was an eerie feeling. We were officially lost. I felt like an invader, trampling across the burning ground, where thousands of animals had burned alive and perished. The loss of so many lives should stand for something. But there was nothing that I could see, standing lost in the plantation, that justifies so many deaths.
It took us nearly two hours to work our way out into a familiar area, asking for directions at any inhabited shack along the way. A few more wrong turns, and a few more tries at reversing in the thick mud, brought us to the first orangutan to be rescued that day…