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Indonesian uses puppets to teach menace to the world’s rarest rhinos

#Indonesian #puppets #teach #menace #worlds #rarest #rhinos

In a small Indonesian fishing village, a man with a fake rhino head perched on his own performs a puppet show for a group of eager children.

Former teacher Samsudin educates kids about the plight of the endangered Javan rhino — the world’s rarest — and uses cardboard cutouts, comical expressions and over-the-top voices to spread his conservation message story by story.

The 50-year-old asks children in the western Javanese village of Indramayu to imitate the animals and teaches them the importance of guarding the forest and the unique wildlife it contains.

“I want them to know that rhinos need pristine forests and that humans are not the only creatures on earth,” he told AFP.

“I want children to love nature and grow into people who are aware of and care for our natural resources.”

Javan rhinos — one-horned mammals that can weigh up to two tons and have folds of loose skin resembling armor — were once numbered in the thousands across Southeast Asia.

But they hardly cling to existence now, having been hit hard by rampant poaching and human encroachment on their habitats.

After years of population decline, it is believed that only 75 of the mammals remain in the Ujung Kulon Sanctuary – their last remaining wild habitat – on the westernmost tip of the island of Java.

– ‘Before it is too late’ –

Samsudin, who uses only one name like many Indonesians, decided to devote his time to protecting Javan rhinos and other endangered species in 2014 after learning of their precarious situation.

Since then he has traveled the archipelago on an old bicycle, putting on free puppet shows at stops along the way to teach children about the animals.

“I want them to know about rhinos before it’s too late. I don’t want them to only see rhinos from textbooks or cartoons,” Samsudin said.

Samsudin makes his puppets from cardboard because it is readily available and because he is opposed to the use of leather, which is used in traditional Javanese puppet theater performances, for conservation reasons.

Using visual storytelling makes the message more digestible for children and creates a stronger bond between him and his young audience, he said.

“Children have short attention spans; I have to be creative to distract them from their devices,” he said.

Conservation of rhinos is particularly difficult because of the animals’ long gestation periods and their tendency to roam, often separating males and females during the mating season.

Samsudin is also determined to challenge cartoon depictions of rhinos as lazy and stupid.

“Rhinos are very shy and have an unusual appearance, but there are very few of them left in the world, so I want to improve their image and make them special and wise creatures,” he said.

– ‘Follow in my footsteps’ –

After the coronavirus temporarily halted his performances, Samsudin is now back on the road performing for children.

His show casts the Javan rhino as the main character, with a macaque and a Sumatran tiger as sidekicks, and a hunter as the villain.

One lucky spectator was Gelar Dwi Titar Syahputro, an elementary school student, who was watching the puppet show with his friends.

“It was funny and hilarious. I learned something new. History told me not to throw anything away and promise to protect nature,” Syahputro said.

Samsudin wants his young viewers to one day emulate him and join his mission to spread environmental awareness through folklore.

“I hope that out of the hundreds of kids I’ve met, one or two will follow in my footsteps and join me in spreading conservation messages,” he said.

Social Tags:
#Indonesian #puppets #teach #menace #worlds #rarest #rhinos

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