Water filters enhance rhino protection

 The Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) programme was initiated in Indonesia in response to the catastrophic decline in Sumatran rhino numbers. It works to strengthen the protection and management of the National Parks. RPUs exist in Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas National Parks in Sumatra, and Ujung Kulon National Park in Java.

“My name is Sugondo and I have been a member of the Way Kambas Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) for ten years. I live in a local village near Way Kambas National Park and was recruited to join the RPU through a special selection and training process. Our RPU consists of four people and we spend 20 days each month on patrol in the forest. When we are on patrol, we make camp in the forest each night, near the river, and make rice and coffee or tea for dinner. We have to use water from the river to drink and cook, because carrying water with us would be too hard and too expensive.

“In Indonesia we have a rainy season and a dry season. During the rainy season, we can find fresh, clean water to drink, but during the dry season, it is very hard to find fresh water. The water we have to use during the dry season is often muddy and polluted, but we have no choice – we have to use that water. Every dry season, at least one or two members of the RPU become sick from drinking the dirty water, and miss patrol days. This is bad for us, and bad for the rhinos!

RPU staff using water filtersRPU staff using water filters - Credit Rhino Protection Unit Programme

 “In March 2009, Save the Rhino donated 20 water purifiers to our Sumatran RPUs. Each unit now carries a water purifier with them on patrol. They are very practical and easy to operate. Now we can easily turn muddy, polluted water into clean water that is safe to drink, and we don’t get sick anymore. Having the water purifiers also means we don’t have to spend as much time looking for fresh water and can spend more time doing surveys and patrols. Thank you, Save the Rhino!”

(A version of this article was originally published in The Horn, Autumn 2009. Author: Sugondo and Sectionov (Inov) RPU programme Way Kambas National Park)