MEET THE ILLEGAL LOGGERS: Before reporter Dan Murphy plunged into the rainforest of Gunung Palung National Park in Indonesia, his guide, Andi, who is also a park ranger, gave him a last-minute briefing on jungle safety. "Remember: If you want to take pictures of the illegal loggers, you have to ask for permission first.'' Andi never wears his uniform when going into the forest, because he doesn't want to provoke the loggers. "We don't have guns or arresting authority,'' he tells Dan (Dan's self-portrait, at left).
But Gunung Palung, while receiving almost no publicity, is Indonesia's most endangered national park (pages 8 and 9). Researchers estimate that at current rates of logging, which has been going on for two years, the richest jungle in the lowlands will be gone in six months. "On our five-hour hike into the park, we saw at least 20 log-rafts being floated down-river, and more than 50 illegal loggers. Almost every logger said: 'If I weren't cutting these trees, someone else would. ' ''
Later, as Andi and Dan hiked out of the park, they came across a man lounging at a bus stop. He was a former park ranger, who'd quit six months ago. He flashed a fist-thick wad of 20 million rupiah ($2,000) in 100,000 rupiah notes when Andi asked him how he's doing. That's six years' salary for a park ranger.
Dan asked how he got the money. "Oh, I'm a coconut farmer,'' he replied. Dan remarked that it's unusual for a coconut farmer to have that kind of money. "Oh, that's because the coconuts here are especially expensive and delicious,'' he said, laughing hard at his ruse.
"It's the kind of black humor that makes me feel blessed to have seen Gunung Palung while I could," says Dan.
DEADLINE PRESSURES: Journalists often have to contend with various distractions when writing. Perhaps the most irritating is the call from an editor asking if the story is done yet. But yesterday the Monitor's Cameron Barr faced a new distraction. He was in an empty restaurant in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, writing today's story (page 1) when his attention was drawn to an AK-47 pointed his way. The Palestinian proprietor had 'borrowed' a policeman's rifle and was playfully aiming at the wall near Cameron. "It was obviously unloaded - the ammo clip was missing. I put my hands up in mock surrender and laughed," he says.
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