Stupid Coconut!

On the road …again!!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


 Stupid Coconut!


When the senior Swiss researcher saw a coconut that had washed ashore at high tide, he was delighted to know that he would soon have a fresh snack.  Despite being in a tropical forest that most people would label as rain forest, the presence of coconut palms on peninsular Ujung Kulon was spotty at best, even along the miles of coastline that encased the peninsula that largely defined the boundaries of the heavily forested Ujung Kulon National Park.  Although the primitive tropical high forest was designated by the Indonesian Government as a National Park as late as the 1990s, the area had previously been recognized as a game reserve that protected the habitat of the one-horned Javan rhino and other exotic animals such as panthers and Javan Wild Oxen.

Any one of the half dozen game wardens who lived and worked within the confines of Ujung Kulon would have snatched up the coconut; such was the rarity of seeing one on the ground during the course of their daily patrols.  Even if it meant packing it all the way back home along the three mile trail from where it was found, edibles were always appreciated, wherever in the forest they were discovered.



old coconut, young coconut


Alas, in the open glade living area on the adjacent island of Pulau Peucang where they lived and had their headquarters, there was but a solitary coconut palm tree to provide for their needs. 

Supplementing their dietary needs was an obvious issue, but in past decades the management objectives of maintaining a nature reserve atmosphere precluded, or at least discouraged, planting fruit trees for their dietary needs.  That, and the constant predations of mouse deer, rusa deer, and muntjak deer; wart hogs and Javan macaques that also lived on the tiny island; and all looking for food to supplement their own diets.





In contrast, the even much smaller island of Handeuleum only ten miles away by boat had at least 25 coconut trees that were planted and maintained by a much smaller game warden staff.  Not only did the planted coconut palms provide fresh coconut water for drinking and coconut meat for a variety of prepared dishes, the few game wardens that tended the trees also sold excess coconuts at market on the mainland.

Inasmuch as the Swiss researcher who came to monitor the administration of a grant to Ujung Kulon National Park visited both Pulau Peucang and Handeuleum many times over the years, he knew plenty about how to husk a coconut, tap it for its water, and how to get down to the meat on the inside. Getting inside an older coconut with its tough husk is never easy. The older the coconut, the tougher the husk becomes. But getting cut with your own golok in the process does not make the coconut stupid.  The researcher thought so, and he said so, “stupid coconut !”   


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