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Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia

by Sumatran Orangutan Society
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Chris planting a tree at Besitang
Chris planting a tree at Besitang

"After many months fundraising and organising my trip to North Sumatra I was jumping out of my skin. I was finally taking off on an adventure of a lifetime. This was my opportunity to see firsthand the impact my donations to the forest restoration project in Sumatra were having.

As I touched down in Medan I was welcomed by Panut Hadiswoyo, Founding Director of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), SOS's project partners. His commitment to protecting and restoring orangutan habitat in the Gunung Leuser National Park is an inspiration. So much so that he was recognised by the United Nations as a finalist in its Hero of the Forests Award earlier this year.

That night Panut took me out for a traditional Sumatran dinner and to explore the sights, sounds and smells of chaotic Medan.

When I arrived on the project site the next day I was greeted by all the OIC staff and the first thing I noticed as I explored the site was the diversity of the natural regeneration coming up and how close the primary rainforest was to the project site.

Throughout my week I shared a two story bamboo hut with the OIC Restoration Team (and the local insect population).

The Gunung Leuser National Park is an amazing place and I was lucky enough to see Hornbills, Gibbons and Thomas Leaf Monkeys. In the afternoons I could hear the long call of the male Orangutan which was a memorable experience.

As it was the dry season I assisted the restoration team in seed collecting, nursery work and maintenance of previous plantings.

I was shown around the project site by head of the OIC Restoration Program Ahmed Azhari (Ari). His knowledge of rainforest restoration and commitment to the project is a great inspiration to anyone that visits the site.

Over the past four years SOS and OIC have planted 398,692 trees over 196 hectares of National Park in the Besitang region. The growth rates of the trees throughout the project site are astounding. Some are now over four metres tall. The onsite nursery was also impressive with a wide diversity of plants ready to be planted out.

A highlight of my trip was when we were trekking in the nearby rainforest taking in the sounds and wildlife. We discovered some fresh orangutan nests and Ari noticed some orangutan poo on the ground so we collected it and took it back to the nursery. This was a great discovery as from these seeds the Restoration Team can discover what species of fruit and tree the orangutan has been feeding on.

Having seen the project site for myself I now know that the orangutan has a fighting chance to survive in the Gunung Leuser National Park. With continued support and awareness, we can help fight the deforestation of Indonesia’s rainforests."

Chris Jarrett

SOS would also like to share some highlights from the last year of the project:

Highlights this year:

  • A third new tree nursery was built in a new area of the Besitang restoration site, capable of cultivating up to 15,000 seedlings.
  • A total of 70,200 seedlings were cultivated and planted across all three nurseries.  We plan to have produced 85,000 seedlings by the end of 2012. 
  • This formerly degraded land is coming to resemble a young forest, with some trees now over 4 metres tall. We recorded an 85% survival rate of trees planted – an all-time high for the site. 
  • 90 local people have received training in tree nursery management and replanting, 60 of whom have been employed to help with seedling selection, planting and maintenance.
  • We have observed a number of species of wildlife returning to the area - including wild Sumatran orangutans and Sumatran elephants, which play vital roles in assisting growth and regeneration.  
  • The restoration team has been carefully monitoring tree growth and working to ensure new seedlings can thrive. New equipment to measure rainfall, temperature and humidity was installed in February, helping generate a more complete profile of the site and assisting with the planning of future planting sessions.
  • Our staff have been visiting other restoration sites and exchanging knowledge with experts affiliated with Rainforest Rescue in Australia, a restoration conference and workshop held in Bogor, Indonesia, and with the Forest Restoration Research Unit in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  • Six rainforest restoration camps were attended by local university students and school children.
  • The last illegally planted oil palms have now been removed from the Besitang restoration site, with the final 4,800 felled in December.
  • We are also pleased to announce that agricultural encroachment into the Sei Betung region of the GLNP, where our Besitang restoration site is based, has ceased completely – a major achievement, which we hope can be replicated in other areas of the park which are still under threat.

We aim to match (if not exceed) original levels of species diversity, ecosystem structure and ecosystem function, whilst planting and encouraging natural regeneration of tree species that are indigenous to the Leuser forests. Building the capacity of the local community to become stewards of the replanting programme and guardians of the forest is a central element of this work. Despite some minor setbacks, including drought and floods damaging planted trees, the project is going from strength to strength. 

We are optimistic about the future of this area of critical habitat, and are looking forward to the day when every last hectare that has been lost is well on the way to being rainforest once again.

As always, we wish to thank everyone who has supported this work. We're really proud of the impact we're having, but of course there's a lot more land that needs to be reforested, so please keep supporting and sharing!

The wild male orangutan in the restoration site
The wild male orangutan in the restoration site

Our partners in Sumatra, the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), have pushed a wild male orangutan back to the Gunung Leuser National Park after he was found in a 3,000 hectare oil palm plantation next to our forest restoration site

The orangutan was spotted last week by oil palm plantation staff, and was reported to the OIC’s Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU).

When the HOCRU team arrived at the plantation, they quickly spotted the orangutan sitting at the top of an oil palm tree. However, pushing him out of the plantation and back into the forest was not a simple task – it took more than two hours of firing noise cannons before the orangutan finally moved out of the farmlands and into the edge of our forest restoration site.

Noise cannons are made using a simple bamboo or metal tube, calcium carbide and water to make loud bangs. They pose absolutely no risk to the animals. The team fired the cannons (which do not contain any projectiles) more than 50 times in order to encourage the orangutan to move out of the plantation and into the forest.

Once at the forest edge, they then continued to encourage the orangutan to move deeper into the national park. However, a herd of more than 15 wild elephants passing through the area meant that they had to stop using the noise cannons. The team stayed nearby and observed the orangutan until dusk, by which time the elephants had moved on, and the orangutan swung off into the national park.

Panut Hadisiswoyo, Founder and Director of the OIC, said: “It is crucial that our HOCRU team can quickly respond to orangutan conflict situations in plantation areas. If the big male orangutan had remained in the plantation for much longer, it is likely that he would have starved, or been killed by the plantation workers if he had caused damage to the crops.”

When there are no buffer zones between farmlands and natural forests, it is not surprising that animals such as orangutans and elephants sometimes cross into plantations. They are seen as pests as they can damage crops, and may be captured or killed – there have been reports of four critically endangered Sumatran elephants having been poisoned in oil palm plantations in northern Sumatra this year.

Thanks to your support, we have now restored more than 280 hectares of forest after an illegal oil palm plantation was established inside the national park. Wild orangutans and herds of wild elephants have begun to return to the area, and seven orangutans have been translocated here so far this year after being rescued from small patches of forest that were about to be cleared and converted to oil palm plantations, including three mother and baby pairs.

Thank you for helping us to keep these forests safe. Through our work with the local communities who live next to the national park, as well as helping to restore damaged parts of the ecosystem, they have become guardians of the forests, protecting them for the future. We couldn't do this crucial work without the generous contributions of our supporters - please consider sharing this project with friends, family and colleagues, so that together we can achieve even more. Thank you.

 

 


Swinging off into the national park!
Swinging off into the national park!

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The mother orangutan is carried to safety
The mother orangutan is carried to safety

In January, the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) – managed by the OIC, our partners in Sumatra – discovered a female orangutan and her infant isolated in farmlands being cleared for an oil palm plantation.  The orangutans were then safely moved back into the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP). The team has been monitoring their progress, and we’re delighted to report that they’re doing well, and finding plenty of food in the forest.

The HOCRU team returned to the same area to check whether any other orangutans were in trouble, and found another adult female and baby. Once again, they were safely relocated, saving them from certain death. Here, Panut Hadisiswoyo, Founding Director of the OIC, describes the rescue:

“The HOCRU team regularly responds to reports of orangutans being spotted in farmlands next to the forest. Sometimes the orangutans are able to return to the forests themselves, but sometimes they can become isolated, and resort to crop-raiding for survival.

Our HOCRU team has successfully rescued a female orangutan and her baby. They were isolated in a large oil palm plantation in Aceh Tamiang, around five kilometres away from the national park border.

This follows the rescue of another mother and baby orangutan in same area just weeks earlier. Having been told there may be more orangutans in need of help, the HOCRU team returned to the area. After searching for two days, they found the female orangutan and her infant in the plantation. It was getting dark, so they decided to wait until the next day to attempt the rescue, but followed the orangutans until they built their nest for the night.

The next morning, the rescue team got to work. First they tranquilised the baby orangutan, a male thought to be around two years old. HOCRU staff Krisna, Rabin and Rudi then managed to tranquilise the mother and get her down safely from the tree.

Thankfully, health checks showed that neither orangutan had any injuries, so once they had regained consciousness the pair were released into the GLNP, having a second chance to roam freely in their natural habitat.

We have received reports of at least six more orangutans isolated in plantations in this area, which are in urgent need of evacuation. They cannot return to their natural forest habitat as the hills around the plantation have been cleared of all tree cover and are being converted for oil palm planting. The HOCRU team will return to help these orangutans as soon as possible.

If orangutan habitat continues to be converted for oil palm plantations in Aceh, more orangutans will become isolated and this means more orangutans are at risk of being slaughtered by palm oil workers, as we have seen happening in Borneo. It is also likely that we will see more conflict between humans and other species which are also losing their habitat, such as Sumatran tigers and elephants.

The spread of oil palm plantations into critical orangutan habitat is the single greatest threat to the species.  Together, SOS and OIC campaign for an end to deforestation, and work with communities living next to the last remaining orangutan habitat to protect and restore the forests. The team is working on the frontline of orangutan protection in Sumatra– with so few individuals remaining in the wild, each and every one needs to be given the best possible chance of survival.

We rely on donations from generous supporters to continue this work. Please share our project and help us keep fighting for a brighter future for orangutans and their forests. 


The baby orangutan
The baby orangutan
Bulldozers clearing the land for oil palm planting
Bulldozers clearing the land for oil palm planting
The two orangutans were released into the forest
The two orangutans were released into the forest

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Orangutan spotted in Besitang
Orangutan spotted in Besitang

Can you spot the orangutan in this photo? It's a little hard to see, but it's a fantastic sign that our forest restoration work is having a positive impact. The photo was taken at our forest restoration site in Besitang.

Our team in the field had reported seeing orangutan nests in the trees around the replanting site, and they have now spotted an orangutan in the site itself. This is wonderful news, as orangutans are often referred to as ‘gardeners of the forest’ thanks to the role they play is seed dispersal and forest regeneration. When an orangutan eats fruit (which is what they love best) they then disperse the seeds in their dung, which also acts as a handy little packet of fertiliser!

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered, and Sumatra has lost almost half of its forest cover in the last 25 years – a staggering array of biodiversity disappearing with it. Although humans have caused this destruction, our connection to, and dependence on, forests means that Homo sapiens has to be part of any solution to put it right.

At the forest restoration site at Besitang, hundreds of hectares of protected forests had been replaced by illegal oil palm plantations. As well as decimating a crucial area of orangutan habitat, replacing diverse forest with rows and rows of oil palms led to severe water shortages for miles around. One local farmer, Sucarman, told us: “The forest has been cleared in every direction. We are coming to understand the consequences of forest destruction. We must respect and preserve nature. We want to recreate the lost habitat.”

Together with our team, a group of farmers calling themselves “Protectors of Leuser” have so far removed more than 6,000 oil palms, and planted more than 300,000 indigenous tree seedlings, restoring 200 hectares of land. We’re seeing some exciting results – some trees are now more than 4 metres tall, and as well as an orangutan being spotted in the trees, camera traps have captured some fantastic images of other species returning to the restoration site, including Sumatran elephants, pig tailed and long-tailed macaques, leopard cat, wild boar and porcupine.

Of course, as well as there being a lot more lost habitat that needs to be restored, the remaining forest also needs to be better protected. We need to spread the word quickly, and engage as many people as possible in grassroots conservation action to keep the forests standing. Through our community projects, we have seen the local people become conservation ambassadors, sharing the values, messages and methods of our work with their neighbours. 

Local support is an absolutely vital aspect of any conservation effort. Our vision is to equip communities with the tools and motivation needed for species and habitat protection, empowering the people of Sumatra to become guardians of their forests.

Help us plant even more trees, or visit www.orangutans-sos.org/help for more ways to get involved.  Thank you.

 

 


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The orangutan was being kept in a tiny cage
The orangutan was being kept in a tiny cage

An orangutan, being illegally held in a palm oil plantation in the East Aceh district, has been rescued thanks to a tip-off by the local community. The situation was reported to the Orangutan Information Centre - our partners in Sumatra - last week.

The orangutan was discovered by a member of the local community who contacted Kriezna, a member of the OIC's Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) team. Kriezna then notified the appropriate government authorities, who have the power to confiscate protected species, and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP), who manage an orangutan rescue, rehabilitation and release programme. 

The orangutan was being held in a cage normally used for chickens. The ‘owners' of the orangutan worked for the oil palm plantation company, and were originally intending to sell him. However, after hearing that orangutans are a protected species and that harming, capturing, killing, or selling them is illegal, they requested that HOCRU take the orangutan away.

Dave Dellatore, SOS Scientific Director, said:"The authorities arrived the next day, and confiscated the orangutan, putting him in the care of the SOCP's veterinary staff, who then transported him back to their quarantine centre near Sibolangit.After going through a period of rehabilitation, which could take a few years, he will be released back to the forest, at the Jantho orangutan reintroduction site in Aceh."

We may never know exactly how the plantation workers acquired this orangutan. It is very hard to attain a full and true account in almost all orangutan confiscation operations, as the people holding them are afraid of the consequences of admitting to any illegal activity. What is known, however, is that in this area alone 500 hectares of forest have been opened up by this plantation company in the past year. The conversion of forests to plantations gives poachers increased access to forests, making it easier for them to capture orangutans and other species.  As the orangutans’ habitat shrinks, they may also be forced into plantations in search of food, making them easy targets.

SOS and OIC work to protect wild orangutan populations and their habitats, and restore damaged forests. The team in Sumatra do a lot of work increasing awareness amongst the local people about the value of forests and biodiversity, and educating them about the fact that orangutans are a protected and critically endangered species. Although the OIC don't run a rescue centre, thanks to the relationships that they build with the communities living next to the forests, they do receive reports about orangutans being kept as pets - an illegal practice.

Please make a donation today, to help us keep working to protect the remaining forests, and engaging the local people in conservation action. It's so important that the team in Sumatra keep reaching out to the communities living next to the forests. If the local people had not reported this orangutan to the OIC, he might still be living in a tiny cage on an oil palm plantation. Instead, he has a second chance at a life in the wild.

The plantation where the orangutan was being kept
The plantation where the orangutan was being kept
 

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Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @orangutansSOS
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Abingdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom
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1,488 donations
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