Bridge of Hope: Building Artificial Canopy Bridges for Sumatran Orangutans in West Toba - SOS – Sumatran Orangutan Society

Bridge of Hope:
Building Artificial Canopy Bridges for Sumatran Orangutans in West Toba

By Juang Solala Laiya

Members of Vertical Rescue Indonesia prepare ropes on the roadside

Deep in the lush, vibrant rainforests of West Toba, something incredible was happening  along the crucial stretch of the Lagan-Pagindar road — an eight-day whirlwind of activity as teams from Vertical Rescue Indonesia and TaHuKah built an artificial canopy bridge. It wasn’t just any construction project; this was a lifeline, crafted to stitch back together the fragmented homes of the region’s Sumatran orangutans. These majestic creatures, with their gentle eyes and thoughtful ways, now had a safe path over the dangers of roadways, reuniting them with patches of forest they’d been cut off from. 

Members of the VRI team pray before starting work

The folks working on this weren’t just any crew—they were a dedicated bunch,  many of whom were observing Ramadan. Imagine this: they fasted all day, no food, no water, from sunrise to sunset, yet their spirits never waned. They toiled under the relentless heat of the sun, often caught off guard by sudden downpours, yet their determination never faltered. It was a true testament to the strength and heart it takes to stand up for our planet.

A rope bridge is installed across a stretch of road in the rainforest

This new bridge is more than just a way for the orangutans to get from A to B. It’s a crucial piece in the puzzle of their survival, letting them roam freely to mingle, mate, and munch across what used to be treacherous divides. It’s about keeping the family tree diverse, which is key to keeping them thriving, not just surviving. They can now chase new horizons, find fresh fruit, and maybe even a new love, all thanks to this aerial pathway.

This story also involves the local community, whose knowledge of the forest and wildlife is key in designing and positioning the bridge to function effectively as a safe corridor for animals. However, there is more to it than just a story about installing ropes to build a bridge at the top of a tree. It’s about the human spirit, the strong will to protect and preserve that surpasses even the most severe physical and spiritual tests. This project wasn’t just about technical prowess; it was a profound display of commitment to a cause much bigger than any individual.

A person sits on a rope bridge that runs across a road in the rainforest

Now, with these canopy bridges completed, they stand as beacons of hope and as symbols of continuity for the Sumatran orangutans in West Toba. It’s a striking reminder of what’s possible when human creativity, respect for nature, and an unwavering resolve  come together in the quest for conservation. This monumental project marks a significant step toward fostering a more harmonious coexistence between humans and the natural world, ensuring a safer, more connected future for Sumatra’s wildlife.

VRI team members sit in a rope bridge holding a banner thanking funders

The canopy bridges were made possible thanks to the generous support of Size of Wales, Asian Species Action Partnership and Dierenpark Amersfoort Wildlife Fund – we’re so grateful to these funders for helping to ensure wild orangutan populations stay connected.

An adult sumatran orangutan

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