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Indonesian Officials Visit Australia Seeking Fire Fighting, Conservation Support

  • Phil Mercer

A senior Indonesian delegation is visiting Australia to learn more about fire prevention and conservation strategies. Their country often suffers from massive forest fires that spread smoke and ash around Southeast Asia.

Indonesia's Director General of Biodiversity and Conservation, Darori, is in Australia with colleagues to assess progress on the nations' joint Fire Watch program. The program aims to help Indonesia manage and control forest fires.

Darori will also visit Perth Zoo in Western Australia and see an orangutan colony that is helping to repopulate the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Indonesia.

Didy Wurjanto, a senior Indonesian Ministry of Forestry official, is part of the delegation.

He says that Australian expertise is helping provincial authorities combat the threat of wildfires.

"Quite often the owners of the lands, the community, were not able to control the fire and then they spread out and then started to engulf the nearby huts, houses and then wind their way to the conservation area. So, the cooperation between Australia and Indonesia give us a more sophisticated approach to fire warning systems," he explained.

Australian fire monitoring experts have been helping the Indonesian government reduce smoke haze and the incidence of fires, which have caused much damage to farmland as well as native flora and fauna in recent years.

Much of the managing of fires is done with the use of satellite technology, which allows officials to see where blazes start.

Nearly every year, Indonesia experiences dozens of forest fires across hundreds of thousands of hectares. The fires destroy homes and farms, and kill untold numbers of animals. They also spread a choking haze that reaches to Malaysia, Singapore and other Southeast Asia nations. The haze can be deadly to those with respiratory diseases or other health problems.

Weather patterns this year have some meteorologists and fire experts in Asia warning that Indonesia may experience a particularly bad fire season.

Australia also is helping its northern neighbor expand the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park to protect the region's iconic wildlife. There have been recent conflicts between villagers and Sumatran elephants and tigers as humans have encroached on the animals' habitat.

There are growing concerns in Indonesia over land clearing in sensitive ecosystems and its likely impact on the critically endangered orangutan.

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