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
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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Help us protect and restore Sumatra's forests
Help us protect and restore Sumatra's forests

With 2011 designated the International Year of Forests, the spotlight is on rainforest conservation. Here’s how SOS is working to save precious orangutan habitat.

Imagine your home being flattened in a matter of minutes; for orangutans, this is a very real threat. In fact, deforestation is the biggest threat that they face. In the last 25 years, Sumatra has lost a staggering 48% of its forests, largely due to logging and ever-spreading oil palm plantations. This has devastating consequences for wildlife - not just critically endangered Sumatran orangutans but many other species too, including the Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant. Not to mention all the birds, insects, reptiles and plants.
Of course deforestation is bad news in terms of tackling climate change too. Combined with forest fires and peat land degradation, it has placed Indonesia among the world’s top three greenhouse gas emitters. Lose forests and, as well as carbon storage, we wave goodbye to other natural ‘services’ they provide; things like fresh water, food and flood prevention. This is why rainforest restoration is so crucial. Together with the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), our partners in Sumatra, SOS has been restoring orangutan habitat since 2005. Thanks to the help of our supporters, we have already planted more than 570,000 trees, including thousands within the Gunung Leuser
National Park (GLNP), restoring areas of forest damaged by illegal oil palm plantations. Since 2007, we’ve removed approximately 6,000 oil palms from the national park too.

Wherever we are restoring forest, local people have been involved from day one. As well as distributing seedlings, we help establish organic forestry centres and also provide training so communities can grow their own tree seedlings for future replanting. So far, we have established 11 tree nursery centres in villages throughout Aceh and North Sumatra, producing seedlings for six replanting sites. In our Besitang site alone, an area of once lush lowland forest has been replanted with more than 300,000 trees. We have also been spreading the word about tree nursery management and composting, reaching more than 5,000 people through a combination of training sessions and school visits.

We’re seeing some really exciting results; our team has already reported evidence of wildlife returning to restored forest areas - not just orangutans but also siamangs, gibbons and many endangered and critically endangered bird species. Camera traps installed at Besitang have captured some fantastic images, with species snapped including the pig-tailed macaque, leopard cat, wild boar and porcupine.

“Sightings like these show that what we’re doing really is making a difference,” says Dave Dellatore, Scientific Director of SOS.

In March, SOS teamed up with a coalition of conservation organisations to launch the Clear Labels, Not Forests campaign, calling for mandatory labeling of palm oil on food packaging in Europe. We have already convinced the
European Parliament’s Environment Committee to vote yes. We now need to convince the European Council.
Palm oil is found in up to half of packaged food products but is typically listed as ‘vegetable oil’. Unsustainable palm oil production has disastrous consequences for critically endangered species, including the orangutan, Asian elephant, rhino and tiger.

Clear Labels, Not Forests was launched to increase demand for certified sustainable palm oil from European food retailers and manufacturers. Convincing the Environment Committee was a major step forward. We would like to thank all those who took part – more than 1,400 people wrote to their MEPs and MPs to ask them to back the labeling of palm oil. This is a fantastic result, but we need to keep up the pressure - the next step of the campaign, calling on the European Council to back this move, is absolutely crucial.


To find out how to get involved please visit our website: www.orangutans-sos.org

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Ari at Besitang
Ari at Besitang

This is Ari, the manager of our forest restoration site at Besitang, North Sumatra - as you can see, our tree seedlings are growing really well! In the background you can see some oil palms - these were illegally planted in the national park, and we're gradually cutting them down and replacing them with rainforest tree seedlings. As you can see from this little film, taken with camera traps at this site, wildlife is starting to return to the area: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3bk4eDjA7U Thank you so much for donating to this project - we love sharing these successes with our supporters.

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Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
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Abingdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom
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