Raw Wildlife Encounters (RAW) was recently highly commended and acknowledged as the leading role model in eco-tourism by Indecon (National Eco-Tourism Body of Indonesia) for their eco-tourism initiatives within North Sumatra, Indonesia.
RAW’s founder and CEO, Jessica McKelson developed her leading edge eco-tourism model from spending four months in Sumatra, Indonesia after becoming the youngest Australian to be awarded the International Specialised Skills Institute (ISSI) fellowship. During these four month, McKelson was able to work closely with leading conservationists, and gained a thorough understanding of how she could work closely with the local communities over a longer period for a positive impact.
Once back in Australia, McKelson founded RAW, and began working closely with the local Tangkahan community to assist and support them in turning their focus from illegal logging and destroying of endangered wildlife for financial gain, to a community that now no longer is involved in illegal logging or poaching. The community, once it understood the damage they were causing, made a remarkable and inspiration decision to become custodians, and be responsible for the forest, and wildlife within their area.
McKelson began to lead eco-tours to Tangkahan, bringing in overseas travellers to experience the wonders of the community, forest and wildlife. McKelson worked closely with the locals, developing and taking them through training programs that provided them with the understanding and skills to become local guides, and share their local knowledge and cultures. With the success of bringing together a local community, and developing the RAW Sumatra Indonesia Programs, McKelson was able to engage in a number of leading edge initiatives that allowed RAW, McKelson and RAWs travellers to give back into these communities they visited. RAW travellers who visit these local communities, provide feedback that they have had life-changing experiences after spending time with these incredible local people.
Due to RAW’s unique style of small group eco travel, they are able to personally connect their travellers with the communities and conservation projects their travel dollars support. In the past six years, RAW and their travellers have generated over $1mil back into the local eco-tourism economy within North Sumatra, and over $500k has gone back into the orangutan and community based conservation initiatives. For this reason RAW Indonesia team are called on to represent ecotourism, and as leaders guide other local communities.