Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra

by Sumatran Orangutan Society
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
2 year old arriving at quarantine
2 year old arriving at quarantine

During the last three months, the team have rescued 3 orangutans which were being kept illegally as pets and moved one orangutan who was isolated in a small patch of forest, in danger of starvation. The HOCRU team worked in partnership on these rescues with the Natural Conservation & Resources Agency (known as B/BKSDA North Sumatra).

The three animals who were illegally kept have no experience of survival on their own in the wild and for that reason have been transferred to the SOCP rehabilitation centre in Batu MBelin. There they will be quarantined initially to ensure they are disease free and then slowly integrated with other orangutans and taught how to build nests and forage for food. This is a slow process, but SOCP have a successful history of training orangutans in forest school for successful release into the wild. In one of their release sites this year, two new babies have been born to mothers in the wild. These mothers were orphaned at a very young age and yet have shown themselves capable of learning and adapting to raise healthy babies in the wild themselves.

The other orangutan who was used to living in the wild was successfully translocated to a safe area of forest, where there is plenty of food and she has a high chance of survival.

In 2016, we able to set up a second HOCRU team be based in Tapak Tuan, South Aceh regency, in Aceh province. A professional vet joined the South Aceh team full time in the last quarter. Now, they will be able to manage human-orangutan conflicts on the west coast of Aceh (Singkil, Subulussalam, West Aceh, and Southwest Aceh). Both HOCRU teams are pursuing the same objectives and purposes, which is to help and protect orangutan and community living within the orangutans’ home-range. Occasionally both teams support and collaborate with each other.

 

The teams not only focus on rescue missions, monitoring and awareness raising, but also in supporting communities in developing local regulation (in Aceh known as qanun)  at village level. These local regulations aim to ensure orangutan protection and Human-Orangutan Conflict (HOC) mitigation.

 

In addition, the team also puts substantial resource into pushing and supporting the government’s effort in relation to Human-Orangutan Conflict (HOC). For example, in 2017, South Aceh’s Regent Decree No. 348 in the year 2017 was to form a Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Task Force. This is an important step forward in terms of the local government’s support of wildlife conservation and our HOCRU team conducted a socialisation workshop to introduce and explain the consequences of the decree to community leaders and villagers in the affected areas. We are confident that this approach will in the long term lead to a cultural shift in the attitude towards orangutans and how they are dealt with when they are eating a farmer’s crops.

Below is the rescue data August – October 2017.

1) August, Illegally kept, Confiscation, East Aceh, Aceh , Male Age 5, Taken for quarantine at SOCP

2) September, Illegally kept, Confiscation, Langsa, Aceh, Female Age 4, Taken for quarantine at SOCP

3) October, Illegally kept, Confiscation, South Aceh, Infant female, Age 2, Taken for quarantine at SOCP

4) October, Isolated, Translocated, North Sumatra, Female, Age 25, Translocated

Since 2012 to 25th October 2017, HOCRU team has rescued 132 orangutans in which 88 of them were translocated from isolated area and 44 were confiscated from illegal owning and pet trade.

Female aged 4, rescued from a cage
Female aged 4, rescued from a cage
25 year old female being translocated
25 year old female being translocated
Workshop on Human-wildlife mitigation decree
Workshop on Human-wildlife mitigation decree

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A sedated orangutan in the transport crate
A sedated orangutan in the transport crate

The fight to save Sumatran orangutans is far from over. Deforestation and wildlife trade are still rampant in North Sumatra and Aceh provinces, but thanks to your support, the HOCRU team (Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit) have been able to save 10 orangutans since June!

Most of these rescues took place in oil palm plantations, which are now covering a large part of the natural habitat of Sumatran orangutans. As the forests fall, orangutans become isolated in small forest patches in plantations, or dangerously near villages and farmlands. They thus become an easy target for poachers and tend to be considered as pests when they enter fruit gardens.

The HOCRU teams are on the front line to save these great apes, and are regularly called by local community members who want to protect their crops without harming wildlife - a message that the team is constantly spreading on their travels between rural villages. 

Since June, 3 mothers along with their 3 babies, as well as 2 single females have been translocated from plantations to safety inside the Gunung Leuser National Park, thanks to the collaboration with the Nature Conservation Agency and the national park authorities. They can now roam freely in their natural habitat after being saved by our HOCRU teams in some difficult situations due to the rainy season.

Two other orangutans (a 2 year-old baby and a 6 year-old female) were also rescued from the illegal pet trade. Most probably victims of poachers who find them more easily when the forest is decimated, both orangutans have been transferred to the care of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) to start their rehabilitation, to be returned to the forest in the coming years.

Preparing to catch an orangutan in the rescue net
Preparing to catch an orangutan in the rescue net
Krisna reassures a young orangutan during a rescue
Krisna reassures a young orangutan during a rescue
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A young Sumatran orangutan female in Gunung Leuser
A young Sumatran orangutan female in Gunung Leuser

Understanding Sumatran orangutans: a key to protect them!

By Fabien Garnier – SOS Conservation Programme Manager

                In the Leuser Ecosystem, located in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces, Indonesia, rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Illegal logging, infrastructure development, energy projects, non sustainable land use plans and the expansion of monocultures are taking a toll on the Sumatran orangutans habitat, leaving them more and more vulnerable to poaching, hunting and traffic. While we understand that economic development is essential for local communities and poverty alleviation, but to reach sustainable development and our conservation goals, we need all actors to understand why Sumatran orangutans and their habitat are so important.

                That’s why our Human Orangutan Conflict Response Units (HOCRU) do not focus on translocation of isolated orangutans or freeing illegal kept great apes only. A huge part of their work is dedicated to raise awareness about conservation issues among local populations. Two main publics 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 are presenting 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 interactions, games, songs and the distribution of booklets and brochures. As Samira, a 14 years old schoolgirl of Babarok village: “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”.

                With smallholders and local farmers, the issue is different. With the rainforest being 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 is raiding their fruit trees. But solutions exist: bamboo cannon 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. Additionnally, they conducted field surveys to identify new and safe release sites.  A wonderful work that would not be possible without your help and support.

Thank you for your invaluable support of this vital work. 

Fabien Garnier, Conservation Programme Manager

Sumatran Orangutan Society

info@orangutans-sos.org

School visit in Babarok village
School visit in Babarok village
Working closely with local farmers
Working closely with local farmers
Rescue of a male orangutan raiding crops
Rescue of a male orangutan raiding crops

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Released into the Gunung Leuser National Park
Released into the Gunung Leuser National Park

Review of 2016

What have you helped us achieve so far?

In 2016, our two HOCRU (Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit) teams rescued 28 Sumatran Orangutans in and around the Leuser Ecosystem, located in North Sumatra and Aceh provinces of Indonesia. 16 were rescued from agriculture plantations (mostly oil palm) or very small patches of remaining forests. 12 others were confiscated from illegal wildlife trade and trafficking.

Additionally, our teams spent time traning local communities in various methods of avoiding human-orangutan conflict and visited several schools in the area to raise awareness on the important role of orangutans in re-seeding the forest.

And the first 2 months of 2017 reminded us quickly that our action on the ground is needed more than ever.

On 21 and 22 of January, one of our HOCRU teams, in collaboration with the BKSDA (Nature Conservation Agency) rescued a mother (25 years old) and her baby (1 year old) who were stranded in a tiny patch of forest lost in the middle of oil palm plantations. In such conditions, the life of the orangutans is at stake as they represent an easy prey for poachers, who usually kill the mother in order to take and sell the baby to the illegal wildlife market. Hence our team intervened quickly and released the mother and her baby in the Gunung Leuser National Park after checking their health.

A few days later, on February 2nd, an adult female orangutan (around 25 years old) was rescued by a team composed of HOCRU, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) and BKSDA (Nature Conservation Agency) in North Sumatra. This innocent orangutan was found with various injuries and was very weak, probably due to abuse by her “owner” to “tame” her as she was most probably recently taken from the wild. He called BKSDA after keeping the female for 1 week but didn’t disclose where and how he bought or got her. The orangutan was then transferred to SOCP quarantine near Medan to recover.

Meanwhile the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) plans to revise its environmental standards and safeguards. We will have follow the negotiations closely and engage directly with the relevant stakeholders to push for stricter standards, controls and sanctions towards the companies who destroy orangutan habitat and threaten their survival. Increased consumer pressure from people in the west like you does pay dividends. HSBC have recently announced a more stringent “No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy with regards to funding palm oil companies. This followed on from a Greenpeace report into their existing funding practices which generated considerable media coverage and consumer outrage.

2017 will be another challenging year, and SOS and its partners are ready to tackle all the issues we will encounter. Our priorities this year will be to continue rescuing all orangutans in danger or captivity, pushing for prosecution of offenders and campaigning against companies who violate environmental safeguards.

Thank you for your invaluable support of this vital work. 

Fabien Garnier, Conservation Programme Manager

Sumatran Orangutan Society

info@orangutans-sos.org

 

PS: If you want to ensure the protection of the unique and special orangutan for the long-term, might you be able to give monthly?

injured female
injured female
open wounds
open wounds
Gunung Leuser National Park from a drone
Gunung Leuser National Park from a drone

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evacuation from forest destroyed by PT Sisirau
evacuation from forest destroyed by PT Sisirau

We are still having to rescue Sumatran orangutans from danger at an alarming rate. In fact, if anything, demand for the services of our rescue team are growing., But although on the surface this sounds like bad news, we actually see it as evidence that calling our rescue team has become a first port of call, instead of someone shooting an orangutan.

 Unfortunately the destruction of their habitat is still ongoing and the more orangutans come into contact with humans, the more likely they are to suffer. If you depend on your small field to provide enough food to feed your family, it’s not surprising you get cross when an orangutans comes and eats half your crop. For this reason, as well as rescuing the orangutans in question and releasing them again further from human populations, we also work with the villagers to teach them techniques for scaring the orangutans away, rather than harming them.

There has been significant coverage in the media of the impact of large-scale palm oil plantations on orangutan habitat. We are delighted to be able to report that more than four years after we made an official complaint against one of its members, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has this month confirmed the expulsion of PT Ibris Palm, whose subsidiary company PT Sisirau is responsible for the destruction of orangutan habitat in Sumatra. The RSPO is a body which regulates certified sustainable palm oil, aiming to limit the negative environmental and social impacts of the industry.

In 2012, seven orangutans were evacuated from an oil palm plantation managed by PT Sisirau in Aceh province, Sumatra. SOS filed a complaint with the RSPO, submitting evidence that the company had continued to bulldoze patches of forest even after being alerted to the presence of orangutans within the plantation.

To date the rescue team have rescued 110 orangutans from isolated forests and the illegal pet trade. Orangutan rescues and translocations carry extreme risks for the animals and people involved, and are only carried out as a last resort if orangutans are considered to be in danger of starvation, injury or death.

All seven orangutans that were evacuated from PT Sisirau's plantation in 2012 were safely released into the Leuser Ecosystem, a protected area and the last stronghold for the species. Thank you for making this vital work possible. It’s important though, that we try to prevent the problems occurring in the first place, which is why we also devote our resources to lobbying the law-enforcement agencies to enforce the laws. For this reason, the HOCRU team increased their visits to local communities and schools. They monitor orangutan habitat and population growth in villages adjacent to the Leuser Ecosystem, including educating local people about the vital part the orangutans play in maintaining the health of the forest.

You may be aware that Nov 29 is #GivingTuesday. On this day, any donations you make to our project via GlobalGiving will be matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Please give if you can and help us to provide a safe future for these increadible creatures.

baby screaming in terror in PT Sisirau plantation
baby screaming in terror in PT Sisirau plantation

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Organization Information

Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @orangutansSOS
Project Leader:
Lucy Radford
Abingdon, Oxon United Kingdom
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