Thank you for 2023! - SOS – Sumatran Orangutan Society

Looking back on a great 2023

What. A. Year!

We can hardly believe 2023 is over already, but at the same time, as we look back, it’s been a full one! This year saw a lot of change within SOS. We have grown our team, meaning we can increase our impact, and the teams we work with in Indonesia have grown and developed too. This means we’ve been able to get lots done this year, as well as set strong foundations for the year ahead (and the years after that).

There’s always so much we could talk about, but here’s a glimpse at some of what’s been happening in 2023 – and remember, as a supporter of SOS, this is what you have helped to make happen!

A male Tapnuli orangutan sits in a tree looking towards the camera

Protecting the Tapanuli orangutan

Our frontline partners TaHuKah have been very busy this year, setting the foundations for a programme of work designed to secure the future for the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutans in North Sumatra. The entire remaining population of Tapanuli’s is based in the mountainous region of Batang Toru. There are lots of pressures on the forest here from local populations for agriculture and infrastructure, and the main challenge is maintaining canopy connectivity across the landscape. Connected landscapes ensure that orangutans do not get trapped in small islands of forest, without enough food or diversity to breed. Connectivity is vital for orangutans and is the central focus of our work in Batang Toru.

To identify where the greatest threats to connectivity are, our partners have been mapping the forest and the activities in the region which might result in further fragmentation. This is helping to identify where we need to focus our efforts, and we have been meeting with communities and local administrations to discuss the need to protect the forest landscape in these key locations. The aim is to work together to ensure a secure future for the Tapanuli orangutans. Thanks to your support we will scale this work up in the New Year, so watch this space!

Two smiling women stand in front of a banner reading 'Indonesia Green Principal Award 2023', one is handing the other a framed award.

Celebrating Future Conservation Champions!

We were delighted to learn that Darsimah Siahaan (or Cima as we know her!), the head-teacher at the Leuser Nature School, has been awarded the prestigious Indonesia Green Principal Award for 2023!

This award recognises the impact that Cima and the school are having on the pupils, helping to lay the foundations for a life-long connection to nature and conservation. The award is highly competitive, and Cima travelled to Yogyakarta for the ceremony, where she gave a presentation alongside other principals from acclaimed schools across Indonesia. She beat off the competition however, and was awarded the prize.

Well done Cima – we are so proud of you, and your students too!

A group of schoolchildren hold up wrapped gifts and smile at the camera

The nature school has been recognised as providing one of the highest quality education opportunities for middle school students in the region, and all graduates have been accepted into the local senior school without the need for a competency exam – a huge accolade and testament to the quality of education the children receive.

And education can be fun! The students celebrated International Orangutan Day with ‘Celebrate our wild orangutan cousins’. Activities focused on learning why orangutans are so amazing (a keystone species!) yet also critically endangered. This helped the pupils to understand why protecting their habitat is so essential and what can be done to ensure their future.

Planting trees and rewilding ecosystems

The Singkil Rawa peat swamp forest is one of the most unique and biodiversity rich rainforests on our planet! Thanks to your generosity, we are supporting the restoration of 100 hectares of this landscape. So far this year our partners OIC have removed 4,000 illegally planted oil palm trees across 30 hectares of the site. To enrich and kickstart the rewilding process on this land, 33,000 tree seedlings have been raised and planted out. The planting mix was made up of 22 different locally appropriate tree species, 19 of which are important food sources for orangutans including figs and petai – or stinky bean tree (Parkia speciosa). The vision for this project is to see this landscape restored back to a thriving ecosystem which provides long term habitat for orangutans and a whole host of other precious wildlife and biodiversity.

Long green seed pods for the stinky bean tree (Parkia speciosa)

A further 15,000 seedlings have been raised and planted out in our Forever Forest site to enhance connectivity and biodiversity. Fast growing pioneer trees like Marak planted just three years ago here are now tall and strong enough to provide nesting sites for orangutans. Our conservation teams have spotted a number of recent nests in the canopy which gives us great hope that local orangutan population here can rely on this site into the future for food and shelter.

Four women, members of the local community, carry sapling trees to be planted

Local guardians

We want to take a moment to celebrate our local guardians. Taking trees from seedlings to mature forest takes continual, ongoing work. After raising the seedlings and then planting them out, it’s important to make sure they’re growing well. This maintenance process is divided between the conservation team and local communities living on the edges of restoration sites. As the saying goes, it may take a village to raise a child, but the same is true for trees!

In one area, fourteen women from a local village have been engaged in raising the seedlings, planting these out and then taking a role to ensure the seedlings are growing well. This ongoing monitoring has shown that there is a very high survival rate of 80% among the seedlings. This is extremely good and a testament to the care the seedlings receive in the nursery, setting them up for a healthy life in the rainforest (providing they don’t get trampled by elephants!)

Brian Blessed, a bearded man, stands speaking in front of a microphone branded with the BBC Radio 4 logo. A button reads 'listen now'

Brian Blessed

In July, we were honoured that the one, the only, the irrepressible and irreplaceable, Brian Blessed, SOS Patron, voiced a heartfelt appeal for wild Sumatran orangutans on BBC Radio 4. The appeal was broadcast to R4 listeners for one week in July and is also available on their website – this made a great impact and raised £18,000 for SOS!

Listen to Brian’s appeal on the Radio 4 website

Thanks to YOU

We want to take a moment to thank YOU, our supporters! We’ve been blown away this year with the amount of enthusiasm we’ve seen, and the support we’ve received. YOU helped us to raise over £18,000 in Brian’s appeal, and YOU helped to make the Big Give our most successful Christmas fundraiser ever, totalling £98,207! All this funding makes a huge difference to our vision for wild orangutans and their vulnerable rainforests.

Thanks also to our wonderful corporate partners – Lush, Whole Earth, Kantar, Moose, Chococo, Bidu Bidu Books, BookWhen, Komodo – all of whom are generously supporting our mission and we are so grateful!

A screenshot of a video player showing an illustration of numerous orangutans in dense forest, with a button below reading 'vote'

Charity film awards

Earlier this year, for International Orangutan Day, we shared with you our beautiful new animation, narrated by Bill Bailey, showcasing our Conservation Greenprint – our vision to 2030.

We’re delighted and excited to share that the film has been nominated for the Smiley Charity Film Awards! Can you help by voting for the film to win the award?

You can watch the film and vote for us at the Charity Film Awards Website:

Thank you!



An adult sumatran orangutan

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