An orangutan being shot by a tranquilizer dart

Rescue of a male orangutan who had been raiding crops

Rainforests are disappearing

In the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, Illegal logging, infrastructure development, energy projects, non sustainable land use plans and the expansion of monocultures such as palm oil are a threat to Sumatran orangutans’ habitat, leaving them more and more vulnerable to poaching, hunting and trafficking.

While we understand that economic development is essential for local communities and poverty alleviation, we need all actors to understand why Sumatran orangutans and their habitat are so important in order to reach our sustainable development and conservation goals.

That’s why our Human Orangutan Conflict Response Units (HOCRU) do not just focus on the translocation of isolated orangutans or freeing illegally kept ‘pets’. A huge part of their work is dedicated to raising awareness about conservation issues among local populations. Two main sets of people are targeted: schools, as the children of today are the conservation leaders of tomorrow, and farmers, as they suffer from orangutans raiding their crops.

In schools, our teams present Sumatran orangutans and their habitat, explaining why they are vital to the whole ecosystem and how they live. During the last 3 months, more than 200 students have been reached by our teams during school sessions based on interactive games, songs and the distribution of booklets and brochures.

As Samira, a 14 year-old schoolgirl of Babarok village said: “We live next to orangutans, and they look like nice pets, especially when they are babies. But today I understood that they are wild animals, beautiful and mighty, but wild, and their house is the rainforest”.

Muhammad, 15 years old, added: “Now I understand them, I learnt to love them and I want to protect them. They are so similar to us in many aspects, but also so special. Yes, they are unique”.

Talking to schools about orangutans in Sumatra
Working with farmers in Sumatra to save orangutans

Working closely with local farmers

With smallholders and local farmers, the issue is different. As the rainforest is logged and chopped down, Sumatran orangutans tend to come closer to villages and crops. Some farmers can lose a huge part of their income when a single orangutan raids their fruit trees. But solutions exist: bamboo noise cannons to scare away orangutans, avoiding planting crops near the forest border and calling HOCRU teams when orangutans are spotted by villagers.

These village meetings are essential to change the perception of villagers toward orangutans. They can become forests stewards and the first conservationists in the field.

Brahim, 38 years old, told us: “For me, orangutans were pests. When they come into my durian plantation, the result can be catastrophic for me and my family. But HOCRU team introduced us to conflict mitigation technics. And if these were to fail, we know they are here to help us. No, killing orangutans is not the solution, we have ways to live together in harmony”.

Between March and May 2017, our 2 HOCRU teams also conducted 7 translocations of isolated orangutans and rescued 2 illegally kept babies. Additionally, they conducted field surveys to identify new and safe release sites.

Wonderful work that would not be possible without your help and support.

Thank you

Fabien Garnier, Conservation Programme Manager

Update on how the teams on the ground help save Sumatran orangutans

Zac Mills

An adult sumatran orangutan

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