The Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit team run a call centre via telephone and SMS message, enabling people to report issues with orangutans or other wildlife. This is particularly useful for people living in areas near the forest, where it is more likely that orangutans and other animals will pass through or near their villages.
When someone calls into the hotline, the team immediately start gathering information about the area and dispatch someone to check it in person as quickly as possible before deciding on the most appropriate course of action. While most of the calls are about orangutans, the team has also been alerted to elephants and sun bears in close proximity to humans over recent months.
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The Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) recently worked together with personnel from Aceh's forestry authority to evacuate a 20 year old female orangutan who had become isolated in a rubber plantation owned by a resident of Suka Makmur Village in Subulussalam.
The orangutan, named Sukma because she was found in Suka Makmur, was examined and found to be healthy enough to be translocated straight away. She was taken to the Singkil Rawa reserve, one of the most important areas of forest in terms of Sumatran orangutan population size.
The HOCRU programme maintains a list of sites with known populations of isolated orangutans that are monitored on a regular basis, so orangutans are only translocated when it is deemed unsafe for them to remain where they are. The team maintains open lines of communication with farmers, plantation owners and local residents and conducts ongoing assessments of the threat level to each known individual or small population. In Sukma's case, local residents felt that it was problematic for her to remain in the rubber plantation with little other tree cover around, so to avoid conflict, the team translocated her. Conservation endeavours cannot succeed without the engagement of those communities who live side-by-side with wildlife. The presence of the HOCRU teams in landscapes where human-orangutan conflict is prevalent, or at risk of becoming so, is vital to ensure people’s concerns are heard, and solutions created together.
While many oil palm plantations in Sumatra are owned by large companies, there are also a large number of smaller plantations owned by community members - smallholder farmers who have a few oil palm trees to bolster their income. Recently, the orangutan rescue team were called to check on an adult female orangutan from a community plantation in South Aceh. Aged 20, the orangutan (named Meme by the team) was in good health and had no injuries, showing that she had obviously not been harmed by anyone living nearby. She was, however, a bit malnourished so it was decided that she should be relocated to Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve, one of the Sumatran orangutan's remaining strongholds.
The team said, "Evacuation is the last resort in the orangutan rescue effort. Rescuing orangutans to us, is an act of human responsibility towards environment and planet Earth, and bigger than any awards we could achieve. Now, Meme has returned to the wild where she belongs, thanks to the support and trust you all give to our HOCRU team.".
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