Uncle Sams story cycle -- changing narrative of Indonesias wildlife efforts
Using shadow puppets made of cardboard waste, Uncle Sam tells the story of the many threats to Indonesias natural heritage, in particular the animals which may disappear forever without urgent help.
Samsudin, or "Uncle Sam", is a man with a mission. Seven years ago, Sam left his job as a teacher to take to the road and become a full-time storyteller.
Since then, he has travelled all over Indonesia, encouraging children to be more aware of the world around them and to do what they can to protect the nation's rich biodiversity.
Using shadow puppets made of cardboard waste, Uncle Sam tells the story of the many threats to Indonesia's natural heritage, in particular the animals which may disappear forever without urgent help.
"The habitat for wild animals in Indonesia is threatened. Children need to know about it," Samsudin told Xinhua on Monday.
To the children, the stories are funny, or wise, but the real lives of the animal protagonists are in real danger, as human activity drives them from their homes. His main character is a rhinoceros, critically endangered on the islands of Java and Sumatra. Sometimes he takes to the stage in a rhino costume. He also uses other animal characters such as Sumatran tigers, elephants, and orangutans to do the story-telling.
Uncle Sam is unique among storytellers in Indonesia, said Efi Fatary, who regularly invites him to visit a large housing estate in South Jakarta. "He uses simple words that children easily understand," she said.
In 2016, Sam rode a bicycle from Java to Banda Aceh. His five-month odyssey left him in no doubt about the urgency of the situation. The archipelagic country has lost 300,000 square km of tree cover over the last 20 years, an area bigger than the U.S. state of Texas.
When an earthquake struck Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara province in 2018, Sam came to tell stories to children at evacuation camps. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he continued to tell stories via social media. Now Sam wants to share his message with the world.
"Children's voices must be heard in global efforts to save forests and other habitats," Uncle Sam said.