Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Guerilla Radio

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Guerilla Radio

Article excerpt

You might not associate Justin Bieber or Rihanna with environmental causes, but in one part of the world their music is helping save primates. In the breaks between a heavy rotation of teen ballads and angst-ridden rock songs, Indonesia's Radio Kalaweit, which means "gibbon" in the local dialect, champions the cause of endangered gibbons to its youthful audience.

In one public service announcement played between pop tunes, sounds of gunfire are punctuated by gibbon cries and a voice that warns darkly: "For one baby, five gibbons are killed." Another message talks of how "God did not create wild animals to serve as garden decorations."

"We know that if we just preached directly about animal rights, listeners would flee," says Aurelien Brule, a French national who founded Radio Kalaweit in 2003. Brule, who goes by the nickname "Chanee" (gibbon in Thai), has been working since he was 18 to protect gibbons in Kalimantan, the Indonesian section of Borneo where deforestation has decimated the ranks of the tree-dwelling primates.

The station uses entertainment to educate listeners about the endangered species without beating them over the head, he says. With the help of what Brule calls "sexy packaging," Radio Kalaweit targets the 15 to 22 age group "an age when it is not yet too late to change attitudes." The strategy seems to have paid off. The station is among the most popular in Kalimantan. "Since 2003, we have been number one," says Willius Tinus, Radio Kalaweit's musical director. The station's audience averages between 10,000 and 15,000 listeners a day, and commercial advertising ensures it is self-financing. …

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