Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Streets of My Homeland

originally posted at Quest2Canaan on Jun 24, 2010

"For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other; they all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from dust, and all turn to dust again."  Ecclesiastes, 3:19-20.

While the quote is proven true so many times, however, the fate of animals around the world does not seem to resonate with the holy warning. Especially in under developed or third world countries, poverty, lack of education, social gap, and corruption often lead to rationalization to abuse natural resources that lead to environmental destruction.

In countries where the lurk of capitalism echoes the promise of better living, what was once the need to survive was manipulated and turned into greed , with most of the time with total ignorance and negligence to nature. People made forget of what they made of, and made to see no existence other than their own race.

Particularly in Indonesia, where I live, schools have never failed to mention that we are blessed with such beauty, that our country was called "tropical paradise" We were taught that our country is rich, that 20% of all the rain-forests in the world lied still on the virgin areas of Borneo and Sumatera, and our rivers richly invested with variety of fish and plants.

Somewhere during the early years in our education, we are made to know that 80% of our nation are made from seas, each with its own uniqueness and natural resources, and never once our teachers forget to tell that all of our island were passed over by all of the two volcanic belts, another generous gift from our Lord that made our land fertile. So fertile that one of our folk song said "throw a rock on the ground, you will grow corn"

The only thing they fail to teach us is that Indonesia also is the country with fastest deforestation (4% a year), a fact that driven our president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to enforce a "one man, one tree" campaign, in (desperate?) attempt to restore our lost forests to plantation and excessive human encroachment.

Though itself bound under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which stipulates that endangered species must not be traded, Indonesia doesn't have animal welfare law to protect its animal diversity, a state that give us the chance to be in constant war against our neighbor: the animals.

By law, only licensed wildlife hunters and traders are allowed to capture and trade animal parts in Indonesia. However, in its investigations released last year,  the infamous animal right organization PETA found most hunters did not have permits.

The Forestry Ministry Directorate General of Nature Conservancy and Forest Protection (PHKA) oversees the licensing and quotas for wildlife trade in Indonesia. PHKA director general Darori said his office provided permits to groups of skin collectors as well as hunters.

Every year, his office releases a quota for the wildlife trade, based on recommendations from the Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI). “LIPI checks whether there is an abundant stock or not. We’re bound to an international convention as well,” Darori said.

Unfortunately - deliberate or not -  he sequentially add that “The ones who trap the snakes and lizards are villagers. They sell the skins to licensed collectors. It’s not possible for every single villager to obtain a permit”

According to the PHKA data, the total quota for 2010 is 430,280 snakes; 413,100 monitor lizards, and 29,500 crocodiles, but the kill number is much higher on the streets.

In the video footage of its yearlong investigation, PETA Asia Pacific released video footage from its yearlong undercover investigation of gruesome killing of snakes and lizards in five Indonesian cities. A National Geographic report shows that Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter of wildlife, including live animals for pets and animal parts.

In one of PETA's footage shows a man in Tangerang chopping off snake heads and skinning their slithering bodies while the mouths of their severed heads are still opening and closing. In another shot, a light green lizard monitor is held by two men while they drain the blood from its throat.

A snake head is chopped off by a man in Tangerang, highlighting some of the gruesome killing occurring in five Indonesian cities. A National Geographic report states that Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter of wildlife, including live animals for pets and animal parts. 
Courtesy of PETA Asia Pacific

 Confronting the finding, Darori said his office made sure animals were not tortured during the killings. “So, when a snake’s head is cut off, it is not tortured,” he said, arguing that Laymen would torture snakes they encounter, out of fear, compared to professional hunters.

“Because the skin is what hunters are after, they do it swiftly so the skin is not damaged. Commoners would batter a snake with a stick if they found one,” he said.

In a more remote part of the country, a wealthy landlord in Medan can be seen bragging his crocodile farm, when piles of saltwater or freshwater alligators been taken captive in filthy condition, piled up one on top of the other, stoically waiting to be slaughtered before their skin is exported to Hermes or other high brand fashion for bags, clothes, or shoes.

Worker picks up a saltwater crocodile (crocodylus porosus) at a crocodile breeding facility in Jayapura, Papua, on Friday. The facility is breeding some 7,500 crocodiles for their valuable skins to make leather products for export to countries such as Singapore, Japan and Italy. 
(Antara/Oka Barta)

Those are just some example, though those who has time to search the internet will be overwhelmed by the result.  The notoriety of Indonesian trade in animal products have been well known around the world, calling various environmentalists and conservationists to spend much, if not all, of their effort restoring what we proudly exploit to no limit.

Ironically, while everyone else were busy fighting for animal welfare for Indonesia, Darori (yes, the director of Indonesia's natural conservatory) instead said that Indonesia’s local fashion industry should use animal parts and develop its own brands.

“We can make them as good as international brands. It’s just that our brands are not as big as international labels,” he said.

His statement boldly answered questions of why tiger skin, leopard's fur, elephant's ivory, and rhino's tusk down to the most docile rabbit to tiny hamsters were freely traded and hunted to extinction.

Just like how the crocodiles lives solely as financial means of their owners, cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, birds, reptiles, are exploited to their tiniest being for their mater's maximum profit.

Here in Indonesia, it is the pet who feed the owner, not the other way around. The more exotic the breed, the more expensive, the higher the status of their owner and therefore, the more they can sell their pets.

What happened to the rest is a question of the strength of your gut. Cats are being crushed over, living goldfish thrown to the sewer, and while majority of Indonesian are Muslims who thinks dogs are unholy (haram) their fate is much worse.

Horses are often forced to carry harvests several times their own weight. or beaten to drag the whole carriage-full of the entire neighborhood. The owner beating them to continue walking despite their foamy mouth, and when they are not strong enough to carry anymore, mostly from malnutrition or sickness, they are sold to slaughter, or been butchered by the owner himself , their meat cooked, making room to catch another one.

Rabbits are breeding machines. The older ones were butchered for their fur, while their meat sold by the street as traditional barbecue.

It's not easy to handle, to be frank, and never will be easy. Being an animal advocate in a country with no conscious (Indonesia is the most corrupted country in the Asia Pacific during 2008 - 2009, mind you) means you would have to mend your own heart whenever it breaks along each abuse.

Most often, we are the bullied ourselves. When trying to save an animal, people who thinks we do useless things take out their frustration on us, seeing us more as their enemy. Our lives were deliberately made more difficult, and they wouldn't stop at nothing to break us. After all, when living (read: money) is a hard thing to do, you can't even blame yourselves anymore.

But animal rescue is the blood that has been passed down in my family for generation, starting from when my great great grandfather moved in from Yunan, China, to the day when my Japanese father join the force in saving the non humans: an inheritance I proudly accept, and a purpose I willingly give to drive my life.

So all these years, like my parents and the fathers before them, I have been trying to do whatever in my capability to serve them, although compared to ll the abuse story I hear and witness, my doing would be but a tiny dew in the ocean.

I neglect social networking, and though I am not an antisocial I limit myself from going to the mall and gossiping in the cafe, choosing to work extra hours instead so that I can safe more animals, or pay the vet bills.

I only dreamed of a small place, a tiny house for one or two person with a small garden where all the tired street cats or dog can just escape from their tiresome life for a while and rest while I took care of their wounds. I yearned of a tree where the birds doesn't have to fear of hunter's gun, I relentlessly prayed to give my whole service for those animals: conceived without sin to mankind, yet mortally paying with their life, dying on the streets of my homeland.

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish this race and complete this task my Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying the gospel of God's grace
– Acts 20:24

It's just that, things were going out of the line a little bit, and I was hospitalized with severe typhoid (it's 7 out of 10 in scale of severity) and swollen liver due to overworking.

To make the story more self pity inducing, Indonesia has no social security, so I was also left to pay more than US$ 2,000 for my medication all by myself.

So I have this choice: leaving this cursed "tropical paradise" (or so they said in the tourism leaflet) and return to my father's homeland, or stay in Indonesia with nothing to feed my refugees and myself.

It's an easy choice: I stay.

I do not know how I would live with an empty wallet and zero saving account. I do not know how I would be able to continue feeding my refugees, or pay the vet bill, but I have been taught that the value of one person lies in his faith on his cause.
But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.
~2 Chronicles 15:7
It's a downright stupid choice and reasoning, really. But Japan has Sensui Sannosuke and the many underground animal advocates. My beloved whales had Pierce Brosnan and Paul Watson. Canada has Nigel Barker and Senator Mac Harb defending their seals, Australia, UK, even South Africa has their own fighters, but if I am to go, who will stand for Indonesia?

Taking this path, I know I won't be able to do it alone again, if I want to live long enough to care for the animals, and that is why I confided with one of my very best friends, who then give me her wisdom in appealing for help.

Learning from my previous experience with Paypal (see the post below) I come to learn about ChipIn, a fund raising widget that will allow me to raise fund as a personal and private rescue. Unfortunately, however, my old blog in Wordpress doesn't allow any widget unless I pay more than US$ 20 per month, a sum I would rather save to buy some food or first aid for animals.

So I then choose to move everything to Blogger so that I can fund raise while maintaining information for my supporters.

The big news is, just like I will tell and re-tell,  there's the magic of currency differences that cause 1 US$ to worth 9,000.00 Indonesian rupiah. What about that? not everyday your single dime can turn into a mountainous of good karma, and huge help for a private refugee house, so there's no need to be shy, because even when you enter only half a dollar, it worth one meal for a cat here, and one meal for a cat means another day to live, on the streets of my homeland.

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