Bornean Orangutans photo via WWF

How Fires in Indonesia & Palm Oil Are Killing Orangutans

An Interview with International Animal Rescue’s Karmele Sanchez


Indonesia is burning.


In what The Guardian calls “the worst manmade environmental disaster since the BP gulf oil spill,” vast swaths of vital forests in Borneo and Sumatra are being consumed by fire. These fires were intentionally set by palm oil and paper companies, simply because slash & burn agriculture is the cheapest, fastest way to clear land for plantations.


But these fires in Indonesia– tens of thousands of them– are raging out of control due to record drought throughout the region. In places like Pematang Gadung and Sungai Besar, where the forests are filled with orangutans and other endangered species, some animals have died from smoke inhalation, while others have been poached or abducted into the illegal wildlife trade. But a precious few are being rescued by non-profit organizations such as International Animal Rescue.


Fires in Indonesia orangutan rescue by International Animal Rescue

Orangutan rescued by IAR


But it’s not just animal life that’s endangered: The toxic haze from Indonesia’s fires has created a thick layer of smog over the entire country. The city of Palangkaraya has become one of the most polluted places on the planet, and locals are literally choking on the devastating effects of unchecked corporate greed. Experts believe the impact of carbon released from these burning peat forests on climate change will be catastrophic if something isn’t done soon.


“The problem with fire and smoke is absolutely dire,” says IAR communications manager Lis Key. “Orangutans are badly affected by the smoke. Some suffer upper respiratory tract infections, which can prove fatal. Some of the babies we’ve taken in recently have been suffering from dehydration and malnourishment through lack of food, as well as breathing problems from the polluted air.”


Last week IAR sent out a desperate plea for help drawing international attention to (and financial support for) their fire-fighting and orangutan rescue efforts. To get a boots-on-the-ground insider’s perspective on the struggle, we spoke to Karmele Llano Sanchez, Program Director of IAR’s Indonesian initiatives (Yayasan IAR Indonesia).

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The Gibbon Project photo via WARF

The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project photo via WARF


Gibbon Conservation

in Phuket, Thailand


[The following is a guest post from Jo Karnaghan, Chief Frugalista at Frugal First Class Travel, a guide to saving money while traveling in style. You can follow Jo on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re a travel blogger interested in guest posting on GGT, please email pitches to Editor-In-Chief Bret Love at [email protected]]   


When we take family vacations, we often go to a resort. We find it a great opportunity to relax and do as much or as little as we like.


While it’s always tempting to spend our days lounging on the beach or enjoying cocktails by the pool, we do make time to find some meaningful activities to engage in as well. But as our daughter gets older, finding fun activities that we all agree on can be more difficult.


On a recent trip to Phuket, Thailand, I knew that visits to Buddhist temples just weren’t going to do it for her.  But when we came across the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre in the Khao Pra Thaew National Park, even our fickle tween was hooked.  Not only did we have an opportunity to see these amazing animals up close, but we learned a lot about the need for Gibbon conservation.

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Manali-Leh 5000m tea lady

Manali-Leh tea lady

Tibetan Culture In Ladakh


Ladakh lies in far north India, in the heart of the Himalaya. The name of the region means ‘land of high passes’, as it’s completely locked by mountains on all sides, and so it can only be reached by air, or via a grueling trip across passes over 5000 meters over sea level.


Ladakh occupies the western half of the Tibetan plateau; its history, language and culture are closely related to Tibet. As such, Ladakh is one of the best places in the world to experience and get to know Tibetan culture, especially in summer when beautiful, colorful festivals take place in monasteries.


However, the future of Ladakh may be bleak. Ladakh is a high-altitude desert, with only 100 mm of rainfall every year. Global warming brought increased rainfall in the region – during the night of August 6th 2010, a year’s worth of rainfall fell in under an hour, triggering mudslides and flash floods that killed over 300 people.

We were in Ladakh that night. This photo story is a tribute to this beautiful land, and to all people that lost their life.

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Kodo: Japan’s Legendary Taiko Drummers


I first discovered the thunderous power of Japan’s Kodo 20 years ago, when the Taiko drumming masters provided the scintillating soundtrack to the Christopher Lambert film, The Hunted. It was like nothing I’d ever heard– epic and exotic, emotionally dynamic, intricate and primal at the same time. I’ve been a devout fan ever since.


Making their debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodo is based on Japan’s Sado Island. They’ve since given over 5500 performances in 46 countries worldwide under the theme of “One Earth,” using music as a universal language through which they connect their traditional Japanese culture with others.  Spending about a third of the year touring overseas, Kodo’s world-renowned performances truly transcend borders, genres and time.



Photo by Takashi Okamoto


Kodo returns to North America this year with their latest production, Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery, which was created by its Artistic Director (and Japanese Living National Treasure), Tamasaburo Bando. A leading Kabuki actor and the most popular and celebrated onnagata (actor specializing in female roles) currently on stage, he has proven a catalyst for Kodo to break new ground in their critically acclaimed Taiko expression.


We recently had the chance to interview two members of the Kodo family, Taro Nishita and Eri Uchida, about the history of Taiko drumming, its mythological origins in Japanese folklore, being ambassadors for Japanese culture, and what life is like on remote Sado Island.

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Palm Fruit

Palm Fruit, photo by Eoghan Rice via Creative Commons

Palm Oil Threatens Palawan Philippines

(and the Planet)


For anyone worried about what GMOs are doing to our agricultural system and how Monsanto is patenting plants across the planet, there’s another dangerous devil on the horizon. Plantation palm oil has been around for years, but its evils largely go unnoticed by the average consumer.


If you’ve not gotten the dirty details on palm oil yet, then buckle up for a bumpy ride we all need to take. Because the palm oil industry is not only endangering Palawan Philippines (named the Best Island in the World in 2014 by Conde Nast Traveler readers), but the health of our entire planet.

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Co-Founded by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel is an ecotourism, nature / wildlife conservation & cultural preservation magazine. More about us.

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Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
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How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
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Whales of Antarctica
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India- Ranthambhore National Park
India- Tibetan Culture In Ladakh
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Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
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Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities


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NY- Going Green in NYC
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Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
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