Sri Suci Atmoko
    Category: Inspiring Women By : Ulisari Eslita Read : 276 Date : Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - 21:13:02

    Toto Santiko Budi for Forbes Indonesia

    Orangutans are an endangered species, yet this fact has sadly not stopped the continued killing of the great apes. One tragic example came in February, when an orangutan died in the Kutai national park in East Kalimantan after being shot at least 130 times with an air gun. Orangutan conservationist Sri Suci Atmoko says that while there are laws to protect orangutans, they are rarely enforced. “We have the laws, but the courts have never issued a verdict for cases like these. If a verdict can be issued, hopefully it will have a deterrent effect,” says Suci, 51.

    Suci’s view is worth a listen. She is one of the world’s leading experts on orangutans, having studied them for nearly 30 years. Her scholarly research on the primates has become among the most widely cited in the world, and has helped shape orangutan conservation policies. Last year, she was one of 32 nominees for the Indianapolis Prize, supported by the Indianapolis Zoo, considered the most prestigious conservationist prize in the world.

    Now a research associate and lecturer in the Faculty of Biology at Universitas Nasional in Jakarta, her love for the primates started when she was an undergraduate biology major at the same university. She joined a primate study group, called Lutung, which brought her to the forest to see orangutans. In 1990, she was selected as a student counterpart for a PhD student from Utrecht University whom was doing research about Sumatran orangutans. During the research, she discovered that there were few local researchers in wildlife conservation, particularly for orangutans. “I have a dream that, one day, Indonesians shall become experts about their own environment, not just the foreigners,” says Suci. She eventually got her doctorate in socioecological aspects of Indonesia orangutans and gibbons at Utrecht university in the Netherlands in 2000. At least one week every month she is out in the jungle, studying orangutans.

    Many challenges face those selecting a career as a conservationist, she notes, including limited salaries, funding and budgets. In her initial days as a young researcher, Suci couldn’t afford to hire an assistant, so she had to do her research by herself in the woods. “Being alone in the woods was not a problem. On the contrary, it helped me focused on collecting data,” she says.

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