Everything you need to know about our appeal to help guides in the Leuser Ecosystem survive the loss of income they are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who are you trying to help?

This appeal aims to help families across three sites in the Leuser Ecosystem – Bukit Lawang, Tangkahan and Ketambe – which are normally visited by thousands of tourists each month. With national parks closed to protect people and wildlife from COVID-19, there are at least 800 ecotourism guides whose families are now without income.

SOS is based in the UK, so how will you make sure the aid reaches the right people?

We are working with Nature for Change and Orangutan Information Centre to distribute the aid. Both organisations are trusted partners of ours, and we have worked with them on many projects before.

What will the money be spent on?

The money will be spent on basic food supplies which families can supplement with fruits and vegetables from their gardens or smallholdings.

How will this help orangutans?

Ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. The effects of COVID-19 mean that currently, people can’t engage in responsible travel and local people are not being sustained by tourism. We have a platform that enables us to raise funds to contribute to people getting through this difficult time, so we feel strongly that it’s our duty to do so.

In addition to this, we know from data coming from satellite deforestation monitoring and researchers on the ground that there has been an increase in deforestation in some areas of Sumatra, and an increase in people setting snares to capture animals for food. While the snares are not directly targeting orangutans, people going into the forest for any reason risks exposing orangutans to COVID-19, and of course deforestation has a negative impact on orangutans as well. We can make a reasonable assumption that the increase in deforestation and poaching attempts is a direct result of economic hardship, so it’s important that we raise funds to alleviate this.

Please note that the deforestation and poaching are general trends and that we are not attributing this to any person or group of people. We hope that our supporters can be mindful of the desperation people feel when they are left without income and remember that to take part in deforestation or poaching does not mean someone is inherently bad or that they don’t care about wildlife.

What will you do if you don’t raise as much as you hope to?

No matter how much we raise, we will work with our partners (Nature for Change and Orangutan Information Centre) to determine the fairest and most appropriate way to distribute the aid.

Please donate to make an extremely difficult time just a bit easier for people who’ve taken a huge hit to their income to keep orangutans safe.

An adult sumatran orangutan

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