The Gunung Bondang Bio-Cultural Survey was a hugely ambitious project, combining the usual rigours and demands of a large expedition into a remote area of rainforest, with the complications of organising and managing a truly multidisciplinary project. I’d say it was our biggest and most exciting project to date, and we’re almost ready to start publishing some of the results.
The expedition included 5 young Indonesian scientists from our partner universities, 2 anthropologists from our local partner NGO the Borneo Institute, 2 photographers/filmmakers, 2 leaders, 10 local guides, 4 cooks, and innumerable porters.
Our biologists were studying birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, vegetation, and invertebrates, while the cultural research was focused on recoding the origin myths connected to the mountain, as well as some of the ceremonies that must be performed by those wishing to climb to the summit.
The expedition was organised in partnership with The Borneo Institute, Universitas Tanjungpura, Universitas Negeri Semerang, Beyond Exploration and the University of Exeter, and so for ten days we also hosted 40 students and 5 staff from English and Indonesian universities, which was a fantastic way for our expedition team to engage with the next generation of conservationists.
From an organisational point of view the expedition was a great success. The research was going incredibly well, with many exciting discoveries and the cultural research proving to be very interesting. Sadly, however, we had to make the decision to disband the expedition early, cutting short the biodiversity research by a few weeks.
It is no secret that corruption is a big issue in Indonesia, but this was our first experience of it up close. It was upsetting for everyone involved, especially the biologists whose work was going incredibly well until that point. But we refuse to pay bribes and will be working with the relevant authorities to provide evidence against the people who we believe were involved in attempting to extort us.
We are currently designing a new website to host the results and the media, but if you want to see the original goals and objectives to this expedition you can check out this page which goes into some detail about the work we were planning to do.
Special thanks goes to our partners in this venture – The Borneo Institute, Universitas Tanjungpura, Universitas Negeri Semerang, and the University of Exeter – as well as our many sponsors, without whom we couldn’t continue our work.