Landmark agreement increases critical forest habitat for orangutan conservation

The Indonesian Government, together with the Orangutan Foundation UK and its Indonesian partner Yayorin, is increasing the amount of protected orangutan habitat in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, by 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres).

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This area, which is larger than Guernsey in the Channel Islands, will provide a biodiversity-rich home to orangutans, as well as to many other species, including proboscis monkeys, sun bears, long-tailed macaques, stork-billed kingfishers, and slow lorises.

The Indonesian Government and the Orangutan Foundation have a long history of collaboration and have been working together over the past ten years to achieve this significant conservation success story. This species-rich area of forest will be annexed to the Foundation’s Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, increasing its total area by 15% to 64,000 hectares (160,000 acres).

Finding and protecting suitable habitat for orangutans is critical to ensure their survival.  Vast tracts of forest have been cleared in Borneo for timber, agriculture, oil- palm plantations and mining. Currently, Indonesia’s forests and surrounding marginal lands are suffering severely from the worst peatland fires since 2006, the peat continuing to burn even after surface fires are extinguished.

The country is engulfed in a haze of smoke and air quality continues to decline, affecting humans and wildlife populations alike. The Orangutan Foundation, working in hazardous conditions, is continually rehoming stranded orangutans, many of whom have been rescued from the tops of the last remaining standing trees. These are then released into the safety of the Foundation’s Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

The reserve is currently home to over 250 re-introduced orangutans and their offspring. This extra land will provide vital additional habitat and enable the Foundation to release rescued orangutans back to the wild as part of its Orangutan Reintroduction Programme, carried out in collaboration with the Government Agency for Nature Conservation (BKSDA).

“At a time when forest habitat is being lost all over Indonesia, The Orangutan Foundation is extremely proud to be working together with the Indonesian government to increase protected habitat in Kalimantan. With release sites in short supply and 1,000 orangutans still waiting to be released into safety, this agreement to protect an area of much-needed forest habitat shows how governments and conservation organisations can successfully collaborate to secure a future for orangutans and wildlife“ says Ashley Leiman OBE, Director and Trustee of the Orangutan Foundation.

This November marks the Foundation’s 25th year of protecting orangutans by safe-guarding their tropical forest habitat, working with local communities, and promoting research and education. Conservation successes include: the birth of over 60 orangutan infants to reintroduced female orangutans in the past 15 years, the protection of three critical orangutan populations from illegal logging, fires and the conversion of their forest habitat to oil palm, and the provision of alternative livelihoods for local people who live close to orangutan habitat.

The Orangutan Foundation’s Director Ashley Leiman is positive about the future for orangutans “At a time when 80% of orangutan habitat has been lost over the last 30 years, we are delighted that, in the Orangutan Foundation’s 25th year, such a significant achievement has been realised.  This new area of protected land to increase the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve will provide vitally-needed habitat for orangutans and other wildlife species and help to protect their future."

The Foundation is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in November 2015.  It is launching an appeal to provide vital services to support its work in increasing critical orangutan habitat by 8,000 hectares. You can read more about the appeal here athttp://www.orangutan.org.uk/

Founded in 1990, the Orangutan Foundation is the foremost orangutan conservation organisation, working actively across the entire range of orangutan species. The Foundation works to protect endangered orangutans by protecting their tropical forest habitat, working with local communities and promoting research and education. It recognises that orangutan habitat is unique in its richness of biodiversity and is crucial for local communities, who are as dependant on the forest as is the orangutan.

The Orangutan Foundation works to protect critical orangutan habitat in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Additionally, in collaboration with the Indonesian Government’s Directorate General for Nature Conservation, the Orangutan Foundation also runs a reintroduction programme to release rescued orangutans back to the wild in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

Ms Ashley Leiman OBE is Director and Trustee of the Orangutan Foundation, which she founded in November 1990. Ashley has been actively involved in Asian conservation for over 30 years. Her initial involvement was with the Natural History Society and Conservation Society in Hong Kong. In 1985 she was on the organising committee of the New York Rainforest Alliance. In 1986, after spending time in Tanjung Puting National Park, Indonesian Borneo, Ashley set about establishing the Orangutan Foundation in the UK. In 2006 Ashley was appointed OBE for her services to Orangutan Conservation. Ashley is also a member of the Executive Committee of the UNEP’s Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

Threats to orangutans. Orangutan habitat is being destroyed and degraded by logging for timber, oil-palm plantations, acacia plantations, fire, mining and small-scale shifting cultivation. The destruction of tropical forests affects the global climate and is one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns. For orangutans the situation is critical.

Currently, the biggest threat to the orangutan’s habitat is the conversion of forests to agriculture, especially vast monoculture oil-palm plantations.  Palm oil is produced from the kernel of the oil-palm plant and is the world’s most popular vegetable oil, primarily produced in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Deforestation for mining (both legal and illegal) has the potential to be just as devastating. Illegal mining has been found within the boundaries of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.  The Orangutan Foundation is protecting this area of critical orangutan habitat with guard posts and patrols.

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