By Stephanie Boltje
A small group of Indonesian tour guides are buying up forest lands in a bid to protect wildlife, including sun bears and orangutans, in the world's top palm oil-producing country.With the help of money from tourists, the 28 local guides, known as the Orangutan Green Team, are buying land along the river opposite Kalimantan's Tanjung Puting National Park, in the heart of Borneo.
Leaving the port at Kumai, tourists board their traditional river boat or klotok, gliding through the wide river before turning down narrower dark brown river through the national park.
The calls of monkeys, the singing of birds and roar of intermittent speedboats fill the air.
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Five years ago Suherman, 31, gave up work at a tyre factory in Jakarta, swapping the big city for life in the national forest.
He began as an assistant captain, learning English from tourists and the internet.
He only recently was promoted to tour guide.
"Every trip is different tourists, different experience I get from guests, also different boats, and different language I get also, I love my job," he says.
Thousands of tourists travel along the river each year, gathering to see daily orangutan feedings.
Photo: An orangutan and baby which guides hope to protect by buying up land along the river bank (ABC News: Stephanie Boltje)
"Our team collects money to buy some land, then we buy on the other side of the national park, 73 hectares now, just to protect against palm oil getting close to the river," Suherman says.
"That is our initiative because we also have family and we give some money for my family and separate our money and give to Orangutan Green Team to buy some land."
About 11.4 million hectares is dedicated to producing palm oil in Indonesia.
It is the most widely used vegetable oil worldwide, and according to the World Wildlife Fund, its usage expected to double by 2020.
By buying up forest and raising awareness through eco-tourism, the guides hope to protect the home of 200 bird species, as well as other wildlife, including the thousands of orangutans estimated to live in the 400,000-hectare park.
The Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry has announced plans to issue a five-year moratorium on new palm oil plantations over 3.5 million hectares nationally in August.
It will also stop approvals to extend planting into forested areas.
Photo: One of thousands of orangutans who live in the 400,000 hectare Tanjung Puting National Park (ABC News: Stephanie Boltje)
"In the big river there is so much pollution about palm oil plantation and also mining of gold. The palm oil plantations they make a big kernel (container) and then they throw big dirty water to big river," Suherman says.
"One tree palm oil, they need 30 litres [of water]. In the summer everything is dry and it's very easy for fire to come to the forest and I think everything will die."
According to the WorldBank, in 2015 2.6 million hectares was blackened, destroying thousands of hectares of habitat home to native wildlife.
Like other Indonesians, for two months Suherman volunteered on the frontline trying to stop the pace of the fires.
"I put out the fire by a long stick because we don't have much water. Just a stick and I could not put it out, the fire, just make slowly come to our forest," he says.
Photo: Suherman worked at a tyre factory in Jakarta before becoming a river boat tour guide (ABC News: Stephanie Boltje)
Despite the risk of snakes, tarantulas and other wildlife, Suherman and his friends slept on a mattress out in jungle.
"We could not sleep well because the fire always comes close to us," he says.
"In the jungle, [everywhere] is smoke. You cannot see...just two metres you can see people or orangutan.
"When I bring some water to put out the fire, an orangutan stopped me...I was very scared because I thought maybe she would attack me but no she just needs some water to wash their face and shower because too hot and you cannot breathe."
But Suherman says that is not the only threat facing his home.
"The forest is very important for me and probably for everyone in the world...we don't know the prediction of the weather now because of global warming," he says.