Helen has been leading SOS since 2005. She has been responsible for developing several programmes and partnerships which are making a substantial contribution to the protection of Sumatran orangutans, their forests and their future, and is passionate about breaking the link between development and deforestation. Helen has a Masters degree in Primate Conservation, has conducted research examining the impact of the expansion of oil palm plantations on the conservation status of orangutans. She says:
“We’re thinking long-term, big-picture, striving to bring about fundamental changes to the way that Sumatra’s forests and wildlife are valued, managed and protected. “
Koen joined the SOS team in November 2020. He brings over two decades of experience in the management and protection of the natural environment, working with international NGOs, private sector, and international institutions, including UN agencies and IUCN. He has worked on a broad range of topics including species conservation, protected area management, natural resource management, environmental conventions, climate change mitigation and adaptation, community based conservation and development, and social and ecological assessments. With extensive field experience in Asia and Africa, including more than 15 years in Indonesia, he combines strong practical knowledge on the socio-economic challenges with an in-depth understanding of the complex structural problems impacting orangutan conservation.
“The mission of SOS, to secure the future of Sumatran orangutans and their forests, I consider to be critically important for sustaining both ecosystem health and human wellbeing in Sumatra. Only by understanding and effectively addressing the socio-economic drivers of the threats facing orangutans will we be able to ensure their long-term survival. As SOS’s new Conservation Director, my aim is to continue strengthening SOS’ innovative and holistic approach, through close partnership with a broad range of stakeholders, including civil society, government, private sector, and local communities. I am privileged to be joining a highly motivated and dedicated team and I will ensure that SOS remains well equipped and positioned to support Indonesia’s commitment to protect orangutans.”
Sarah has two decades of experience in fundraising, communications and partnerships management. She has a passion for grass-roots social justice and for protecting the planet and most of all for trees! She has supported local, community-powered conservation activity as Director of Fundraising & Communications at Avon Wildlife Trust, and has supported dryland reforestation and community livelihoods in West and East Africa at TREE AID. Sarah is a specialist in major donor fundraising and in partnership development.
“I am so inspired by all of the fabulous supporters who care about protecting the precious Sumatran rainforests so wild orangutans can thrive. Together we can protect, restore and connect the forest, ensuring this unique landscape is safe for all of our futures.”
Sophie has 7 years of experience in conservation and research, working to protect wildlife and its forest home in Indonesia. Having studied Anthropology as an undergraduate, and then Human Evolution and Behaviour as a masters student (where a healthy obsession with primate behaviour was developed!), she is fascinated by the way that humans interact with their environment, and their wonderful great ape cousins – orangutans! Recently, she has worked in NGOs ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Kew Gardens and FFI (Fauna and Flora International) supporting conservation in Indonesia.
‘I am so excited to draw on all my experience, from spending long days in a swamp forest researching orangutan behaviour to providing project support from behind a desk, to help SOS to realise its ambitions and to do all I can to see orangutans thrive in the wild’
Rhia has always loved telling stories and inspiring people. She is an advocate for helping people discover what they are passionate about and inspiring them to make the change they want to see in the world. This is why fundraising is such a good fit! She has been working in fundraising since 2016 and is excited to be able to bring her skills and enthusiasm to SOS. As a lifelong animal lover, Rhia is excited to be able to help protect orangutans, their forests and their future. And she can’t wait to meet as many like minded supporters as possible too!
Liz has a passion for trees, woodland and wildlife and has spent 24 years raising millions to create, conserve and restore woodland in the UK.
She is very excited to have joined SOS where she can apply her skills to building long term relationships with trusts and foundations to protect forests on the other side of the world. The
prospect of conserving the only forests on Earth where orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos co-exist is especially alluring for someone who spends their spare time creating wildlife studies in clay.
Liz applies her creativity to writing compelling and impactful proposals and thrives on finding SOS programmes to match up with the priorities of a funder so that together they can make the biggest possible impact to the future of wild Sumatran orangutans, forest edge communities and their precious rainforest homes.
Tom joined SOS in August 2023, coming from over a decade of helping charities, non-profits and other organisations communicate their message and cause to supporters and the wider public. A generalist, he’s used social media, websites, email and print to get the word out for organisations like the Woodland Trust, Rewilding Britain and Campaign for Better Transport.
A keen environmentalist, he brings with him a love for trees, apes, nature in general, and big rocks. He’s driven by these interests, and is excited about SOS’s commitment to conservation efforts that are grounded in community and people-led action.
Darmanto started his career in nature conservation and natural resource management nearly two decades ago after finishing his BA thesis on traditional shifting cultivation practices in the Siberut National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia. He headed a local foundation that focussed on strengthening the customary management of natural resources, before earning his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Leiden, Netherlands. His main anthropological work examines the changing relationship between humans and their natural environment. He recently spent more than a year conducting fieldwork in northern Sumatra, where he also studied the dynamics and impacts of nature conservation on local communities. Darmanto has in-depth expertise in developing rights-based and culturally appropriate community-based conservation strategies and actions. His recent work experience includes capacity building of conservation agencies in using anthropological approaches, compiling and analysing indigenous knowledge and practices that influence the relationship between communities and biodiversity, and conducting stakeholder mapping.
“My primary objective is to apply social sciences in contributing to SOS’s strategy in building constructive bridges between contemporary nature conservation practices and indigenous knowledge and management systems. Understanding the relationship between local communities with their land, forests, and biodiversity is critical in developing appropriate interventions based on SOS’s principle of recognising the role of local communities as the custodians of the orangutan landscapes and working together as equal partners.”
Umi has experience working in forestry and community assistance programmes, notably on community-based conservation in South Sumatra and Aceh. She is supporting SOS to deliver its vision for resilient, connected landscapes in West Toba and Batang Toru. In her spare time Umi loves hiking. She also doesn’t like having her photo taken!
Rina holds a Master of Sciences in Geo-Informatics from the Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Since her early career with Indonesia’s National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN), during which she monitored forest fires, Rina has developed a strong commitment towards the protection of forests and biodiversity in Indonesia. For the last two decades, Rina has worked with several national and international agencies, including UN, on developing geo-spatial modelling and analysis in support of nature conservation. Rina has in-depth expertise regarding northern Sumatra, where she has been working since 2005 using a wide variety of GIS approaches, including geospatial conservation opportunity assessments, participatory land use planning, and monitoring changes in land use and cover – all leading to improved conservation decision-making.
“For SOS Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are an integral part of orangutan conservation, and the application of spatial data, analysis, and modelling, allows us to identify and prioritise key areas for orangutan conservation, as well as monitor whether our approaches on the ground achieve the required successes to safeguard orangutans and their habitat.”
Juang Solala Laiya, an insightful visual storyteller, holds a master’s degree in Visual
Communication Design with a unique focus on Visual Narratives from the respected Jakarta
Institute of Arts, Indonesia. With a 15-year background as an Art Director in diverse creative
fields, Juang has worked in graphic design studios, advertising agencies, and digital
communication agencies. In recent years, he has left the industry to reside on a remote
island off the West Coast of North Sumatra, dedicating his time to community empowerment
and environmental conservation. Among his endeavors are organizing formal education for
remote communities, championing indigenous people, and promoting regenerative
agriculture and food security initiatives. Currently pursuing a doctorate in Development
Studies, Juang concentrates on critically analyzing the development narrative in Indonesia
and its implications for the well-being of indigenous communities. His commitment to
creating a better world by blending creativity, knowledge, and a passion for social and
environmental justice, exemplifies his genuine desire to promote positive change.
“Storytelling ignites the spark of awareness that fuels the fire of action for social and
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