Debbie Martyr – Kerinci Tiger Protection & Conservation
One of the interesting things about going shopping in Indonesia – well, in rural central Sumatra at least – is the near total absence of price tags.
Everything has a price of course, the problem is, you are expected to know it already – or at least have a good idea. And if you have to ask the price..well, it basically means you don’t know the price and if you don’t know the price….well the old adage of a fool and his money is one that comes to mind.
This makes one of the key duties of team investigators – to secure valid information on prices asked – and secured – on the blackmarket for illegally traded wildlife so that trends can be monitored and responded to more challenging than at first might be assumed.
It also made shopping for a new jeep for the team with funds generously donated by Auckland Zoo through 21st Century Tiger an interesting and unexpectedly time- consuming endeavour that required team investigators’ skills
We knew, of course, what we needed: – a four-wheel drive, double-cabin jeep (so comfortably sitting four or more rangers off on patrol, their gear and the driver plus anybody else coming along) and, in the event of emergencies, an open back for transporting rescued animals (experience advises it is rather difficult to get a tapir into the back of an ordinary jeep, although, with patience and water melons, it can be done).
Spare parts had to be easily available given the rather ‘interesting’ condition of roads at park-edge while we needed to be able to drop the jeep off for service at local garages if necessary and not drive hundreds of kilometres to a provincial service centre because local mechanics raised their hands in the air and professed ignorance.
Setting the guidelines was the easy bit. Then we had to actually find the jeep. And that was when it started to get interesting. First of all, unlike in UK, vehicles for sale on garage forecourts don’t have prices on their windscreens. And cars advertised for sale in local papers don’t actually tell you the price asked….just ‘Price:Nego.’ Meanwhile where prices were openly advised by people reportedly planning to sell a car, they seemed, on occasion, to be based on the premise of think of a sum and then double it ..or, in the case of vehicles being offered through an intermediary, treble..
That meant that before the search really got under way we had to find out what other people had paid for a vehicle of the type and age we hoped to buy and then add at least 10% because, of course, it appeared most everybody claims to have paid less than they actually did, just in case they paid too much.
Then there were all the other interesting little things to be taken into account. Like, for instance, who actually owns the jeep that is being sold – if they do actually own it – and why is it being sold for what seems to be a sensible price..I mean, if the car is in good condition and is for sale at what seems like a reasonable price or even a great price, why is it for sale in the first place??.
Finding that out was interesting …and we got the low down on one currently emerging corruption scandal even before the local press while a ride back to Kerinci in a ‘travel’ minibus stuffed full of motorbikes hidden under tarpaulin and a very nervous bus driver clearly suggested that any vehicles for sale through the person awaiting delivery of the bikes would be best avoided.
But finally – and approximately five months later than expected – Success. Thanks to Aan, Jambi teams’ coordinator. He heard of a 2010 Mitsubishi Triton being offered for sale at rather a smart price ‘for quick sale’ by a rather senior provincial government department honcho.
The vehicle is, I fear, a bit dead flash actually. I mean, there are no dents or scratches (well not yet anyway) and the engine is so quiet you can talk to the person next to you without shouting.
You don’t have to cross fingers and touch wood when you turn the key to start the engine and the headlights and the side lights work. All of them.
If you use the brakes, the vehicle slows down – in a straight line without mad swerves to right or, sometimes, the left – and apparently the brake lights at the back work as well which I supppose will be nice, if a bit boring, for any motorcyclist or other fool silly enough to tail-gate a TPCU in a hurry.
And if you are bored, there are loads of little lights and electric graphs and things on the dashboard although none of us are quite sure why or for what but maybe for entertainment on quiet stretches of road.
It will, of course, make the everyday routine of getting TPCUs to the field a little less exciting and I think I shall not miss those phone calls of the ‘I’ll be late back from …as one of the wheels fell off/thick smoke is coming out of the dashboard/odd noises from the suspension’ type that have been a bit of a feature recently.
And so, a huge thank you to everybody at Auckland Zoo – and 21st Century Tiger – for this brilliant help in getting the boys safely back on the road in a jeep they can trust – rather important when dropping teams off or picking them up from patrol can involve a 200Km round trip.
Now, I suppose, I had better start to think about how to start marketing one slightly (ok, very) rusty jeep, ownership papers not entirely complete (ok, some missing entirely) and colour not entirely in keeping with the papers there are and a rather wonky tax history….. Hmmm, so if we take RpX million as the price I think we want, add Rp10m for negotiating discretion and Rp5jt for luck, then cut Rp7m to get the poor fool of a prospective buyer on side…hmmm