The participants of the Bukit Lawang trekking are in front of the entrance to the Gunung Leuser National Park in Bohorok, North Sumatra. (Source: KEHATI)
30 Aug 2023
Cartoons are an effective medium to raise awareness about sensitive and ironic issues to the public. Through cartoons, we are invited to smile, despite the bitterness, when faced with complicated and difficult problems.
One crucial issue that often grabs attention is the loss or decline of key species populations, including orangutans. Human activities that are excessive and unsustainable have caused the orangutan habitat to be increasingly threatened. Deforestation, illegal hunting, and the conversion of agricultural land are all threats to the extinction of orangutans.
Through the “Protect Our Home” Cartoon Competition, the KEHATI Foundation, together with The Body Shop Indonesia, invites young artists to voice their concern for the preservation of orangutans in Sumatra. The winners of this cartoon competition, along with the winners of the reels competition, will then join an expedition trip to Bukit Lawang in North Sumatra, the habitat of Sumatran orangutans.
Indonesia is home to three species of orangutan: the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), and the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis). All three of these orangutans are classified as Critically Endangered (CR) according to the IUCN Red List. This is due to the increasing loss of their forest habitat, even though orangutans play a crucial role in maintaining forest regeneration by dispersing seeds.
This competition is part of the Tapanuli Orangutan Care campaign, which has been running since May. The campaign, organized in the form of an animation competition, has attracted 125 participants between the ages of 17 and 35 from all over Indonesia.
Lusiana Indriasari, the Digital Communication Manager of KEHATI, revealed that the idea of bringing cartoons into the realm of conservation arose because issues regarding orangutans and other endangered species have always been sensitive and not openly discussed in this country. “With cartoons, we can express orangutan issues with a touch of humor,” said Lusi.
Lusi also noticed that the art world has not been closely connected with the conservation world so far. However, these artists have a sensitivity in viewing issues, including environmental damage. Nature serves as an atmosphere for artists to create their works. This is what we want to introduce to young cartoonists, by inviting them to experience it firsthand.
A cartoon competition will be held from May 1 to June 15, 2023, aiming to encourage young cartoonists to raise their voice through their creations in addressing ecological threats, specifically focusing on orangutans. Additionally, their artworks will serve as a light-hearted visual method to raise awareness among the community.
Participants of the competition can submit a maximum of two artworks using any presentation technique, whether manual, digital, or a hybrid of both, in either landscape or portrait format. The winners will receive e-certificates and have the opportunity to join an expedition trip to the orangutan habitat in Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang was chosen for its high chances of encountering orangutans in their natural habitat.
The different experience
The expedition took place from August 18th to August 22nd, 2023, and was not only participated by the five winners of the cartoon and reels competition, but also involved influencers Ade Putri and Laode. Laode admitted that he didn’t expect to see orangutans in their natural habitat. This sentiment was also shared by Sherlly, one of the cartoon competition winners. Sherlly mentioned that until now, she had been creating her artwork based solely on literature she had read, but this time she had a different experience.
The participants were flown from Jakarta and stayed in the city of Balige, right on the edge of Lake Toba. After exploring Balige, which is known for its rich and flavorful Andaliman spice cuisine, the participants then attended the Orangutan Festival in Tarutung City to commemorate World Orangutan Day, which falls on August 19th every year.
During their three days in Bukit Lawang, the participants were engaged in various activities, including educational sessions about orangutans conducted by Rio Rovihandono, the Forest Program Manager of KEHATI Foundation. Rio revealed surprising facts about orangutans, such as their ability to imitate human behavior. “Therefore, when encountering orangutans in their natural habitat, we are required to keep our distance to avoid direct interaction between orangutans and humans,” Rio explained.
The trekking in Bukit Lawang started at 9:00 in the morning and ended in the late afternoon around 4:00. The participants were excited to join the trekking despite the risk of encountering leeches, the blood-sucking creatures, along the way. “We saw orangutans even at the first checkpoint. Remembering the stories shared by Rio, I felt sympathy for them,” said Adhi Sujanto, a video reels content creator who frequently shares tripventure content.
There are several criteria that need to be considered when evaluating a cartoon. First and foremost is the originality of the artwork, which should be accompanied by a clear statement. The second criterion is the skill involved in crafting the cartoon, ensuring that it is well-developed and aesthetically pleasing. Lastly, the cartoon must convey a message about the environment, incorporating humor as a distinctive characteristic of the cartoon world.
According to Thom, with the rapid development of ideas and skills in the era of information technology, accessing and showcasing these talents through the internet has become effortless. The use of computer-generated or digitally printed images has greatly contributed to the production of high-quality cartoons. In fact, cartoons have even made their way into the field of education due to their potential as highly effective message conveyors.
Thom noticed that the participants in the competition were very enthusiastic about creating art about orangutans and learning about them. This competition is an invitation for cartoonists to participate in orangutan conservation efforts through their artwork, in the hopes of raising awareness among the public.
“So their task is solely to create artwork as cartoon artists. KEHATI organizing a cartoon competition with the incentive of a travel prize is a great idea, as it allows them to get closer and better understand orangutans, their functions, and the threats they face.”
“Cartoons serve as a means of communication that captivates people’s interest in orangutans. Consequently, any cartoon enthusiast would delve deeper into their fascination with these incredible creatures. Who knows, perhaps this passion for cartoons could give rise to future environmental conservationists. The individuals who create cartoons for orangutans deserve recognition and support,” Thom concluded his explanation.