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Having a wild time on holiday.

Byline: By Tony Henderson Environment Editor

While most people are thumbing through the holiday brochures, Dr Bruce Carlisle has already "booked" his usual summer destination.

The Northumbria University academic will be heading to the remote Indonesian rainforest island of Buton for the fifth time.

Bruce, 38, who lives Whitley Bay, is on a mission to save the rainforest on the small island ( and its 200-strong population of dwarf buffalo, which are under threat from meat hunters.

He has visited the island four summers in a row to assess the damage to the rainforest.

"Last year I decided to have a break to go on a summer holiday," said Bruce.

But his choice was none of the usual sunspots. Instead he went to Rwanda to see the wildlife.

Bruce, a senior lecturer in environmental management, became involved in Buton through Operation Wallacea, named after the 19th Century naturalist Alfred Wallace, which sends students to the island to work with communities on protecting the forest.

Now the World Bank has funded a $1m conservation project on Buton.

The island is under pressure from the Indonesian government policy of population resettlement, where people are moved from densely occupied areas to remoter spots like Buton.

But they clear forest for buildings and farming and hunt the anoa, or 4ft high dwarf buffalo, for meat.

There are only around 2,000 of the buffalo left in the wild and just 200 on Buton itself.

Bruce and students from Northumbria are working with local people to introduce sustainable agri-forestry projects such as cashew-nut growing and processing, with plans to sell the product in student unions in the UK.

"We are helping with seeds and seedlings for other better value crops, like ginger, and plans to introduce livestock keeping so that the buffalo are not hunted," said Bruce.

"The aim is to make it worthwhile for the local people to protect the forest."

The island is 100km long and 40km at its widest, and Bruce treks into the forest to work and sleep in the open air in a hammock and cook over wood fires.

He uses satellite imagery to record the state of the forest over a period of time. Fieldwork involves counting trees, measuring their size and recording their type to get a picture of how good the forest is and how it is being adversely affected.

"Because new families are being moved in, they need to clear space and the result is that the rainforest is gradually being eaten away around the edges," said Bruce.

"You are always wet either from sweating in the heat and humidity, or being sled by the rain or crossing rivers. Then there are the insects, leeches and snakes.

"It is very hard work and when I get back after six weeks I am absolutely shattered. But I am quite an adventurous person and the overall experience is great."

Five-day journey

TO reach Buton from Tyneside takes five days, with flights to either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, then Bali, and another to Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi, which is one of the main Indonesian islands.

Then Bruce faces a 16-hour ferry journey to the settlement of Bau Bau on Buton, followed by a four-hour drive on unmade roads to his village base.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 13, 2007
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