5 Projects Supporting Orangutan Conservation

August 18, 2017

A Bornean Orangutan in Sabangau, Indonesia. Credit: Bernat Capilla / OuTrop
A Bornean Orangutan in Sabangau, Indonesia. Credit: Bernat Ripoli Capilla / OuTrop

Orangutans easily capture our imaginations. There are a lot of reasons why. For instance, were you aware that for resting and sleeping, orangutans make new nests on a nearly daily basis? Starting from an early age, they learn this behavior by watching how mom does it. They will first select an appropriate tree high in the forest canopy. Next, they weave branches and leaves together to make a nest that can support their weight and serve as a comfortable mattress. Finally, some even add features that scientists have described as roofs, pillows, blankets, and bunk beds!

Why Orangutans are Threatened and How You Can Help

Unfortunately, orangutans are threatened with extinction for a variety of reasons. Habitat destruction, disease, the illegal pet trade, and poaching have taken their toll on their populations. How can you personally help? Read labels when you buy food and other products. Palm oil plantations are contributing to habitat loss around the world – valuable forests are cleared to make way for these plantations. If palm oil is in your product, read the label to check if it was sustainably grown. Purchases of the Save Vanishing Species Stamp also provide valuable funds for conservation projects, including projects that benefit orangutans.

An orangutan. Credit: Mark Dumont / Creative Commons license.

An orangutan. Credit: Mark Dumont / Creative Commons license.

On an annual basis through the Great Ape Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supports projects that help to protect, sustain, and grow populations of orangutans and other great apes. The following five projects from this past year are examples of how we and our partners help conserve these charismatic and fascinating animals.

  1. Protecting Sumatran orangutans by preventing forest encroachment and improving and strengthening law enforcement in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park. In partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the purpose of this project is to protect orangutans by reducing forest encroachment and strengthening law enforcement in Gunung Leuser National Park. The project objectives are as follows: (1) reducing hunting, illegal logging, encroachment, and other threats in key-habitat in Gunung Leuser National Park; and (2) halting the Sumatran orangutan trade, trafficking, and possession.

  2. Initiating orangutan conservation in the Rungan landscape, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. In partnership with The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop), the purpose of this project is to develop an orangutan conservation plan for the Rungan Forest by adopting a landscape approach to conservation planning and building on existing community and NGO activities. The project will result in: (1) a description of the conservation potential of the Rungan landscape and a credible scientific rationale for protection; and (2) the establishment of a permanent field research base inside the Rungan Forest.

  3. Increasing habitat protection in the Jantho Pine Forest Nature Reserve, Aceh, Indonesia, by intensifying post-release monitoring of a newly reintroduced Sumatran orangutan population. In partnership with PanEco Foundation, the purpose of this project is to monitor reintroduced orangutans and their habitat use outside of the current release area, and to broaden the habitat monitoring and protection within the Jantho Nature Reserve. The project will: (1) build and manage at least three satellite camps; (2) monitor released orangutans, focusing on health, diet, ranging, habitat usage, and behavior/activity budgets; (3) together with Park staff remote monitoring teams, conduct monthly patrols for illegal activities; and (4) conduct quarterly aerial/drone surveys of the Jantho region to assess damage and threats and locate illegal activities.

  4. Orangutan reintroduction into Indonesia’s Bukit Baka - Bukit Raya National Park, Central Kalimantan. In partnership with Yayasan Peyelamatan Orangutan Borneo, the purpose of this project is to successfully reintroduce ex-captive orangutans into the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, so that these apes will live freely without relying on support from people and without persecution from people. The project will: (1) prepare the site for reintroductions by establishing infrastructure and logistics, developing long-term plans and engaging with local community; (2) reintroduce orangutans into Bukit Baka Raya National Park; and (3) implement post-release monitoring, support, and protection activities to ensure the long-term survival and proliferation of this new orangutan population.

  5. Protection of endangered apes in Sabangau, Central Kalimantan: An integrated conservation research program in partnership with local communities. In partnership with The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop), the modification to this project, which has been supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2013, aims to effectively protect wild orangutan and gibbon populations insitu and establish mechanisms to ensure that this mission is sustainable in the long-term. Funds will support understanding the impacts of fire damage in 2015 on orangutans and gibbons in Sabangau, through comparing pre- and post-fire data, supporting local fire teams to reduce short to medium-term fire incidents, and reducing longer-term fire risk through education and outreach activities.