Half of the wild orangutan population has been lost since 1950.

It's estimated that there may be only 45,000 orangutans left in the wild

Orangutans spend most of their time in trees.

“Orangutan" comes from the Malay words "orang" (person) and "hutan" (of the forest).

Orangutans exist only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

Sumatran orangutans are classified as “critically endangered.”

Orangutans are extremely intelligent, and have been observed to make tools.

7th Annual OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop held in Indonesia

Orangutans could be the first great ape to become extinct.

Orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centers are at full capacity in 2015

Sumatran orangutans are classified as “critically endangered.”

Conservation Study: EL Nino and Kutai National Park for 2015-16

Photo courtesy of Purwo Kuncoro

Photo of wild orangutans courtesy of Purwo Kuncoro

The Orangutan Conservancy is a longtime supporter of the work being done by Dr. Anne Russon of the Orangutan Kutai Project in Borneo.  Here, Dr. Russon along with colleagues Purwo Kuncoro and Agnes Ferisa offer an eye-opening assessment on what the 2015 El Nino weather system could mean for this already dangerously dry environment.  Indeed, reports coming in these past two weeks confirm that 2015 appears to be one of the worst years ever for fires across Indonesia – the home of orangutans.

by Anne E Russon, Purwo Kuncoro, & Agnes Ferisa

At our orangutan research site in Kutai National Park’s Mentoko area, signs of an extreme drought have been evident since July, 2015. We recorded very low rainfall in July, only 30.5 mm, and in August less than 3 mm, our lowest August rainfall since we began research at this site in 2010. Small streams have almost dried up and water levels in our part of the Sangatta River are already so low that we can hardly travel by boat. In the forest, leaves are wilting and falling in large numbers so the forest floor is covered by a thick layer of dead leaves. Other parts of Indonesia have been experiencing similar conditions, making water shortages major features of the nightly national news. El Niño is almost certainly causing this unusual drought. Most people living in East Kalimantan probably know something about El Niño and those who don’t probably will soon because they will experience one in 2015-16, the first since 2009-10. For Kutai NP and surrounding areas in East Kalimantan, questions are what to expect from this El Niño and how it will probably affect the area, including its forest and its wildlife.

El Niño

El Niño, along with La Niña, are related but opposite climatic events that can cause extreme weather, especially droughts and floods and especially in the tropical Pacific region. Conditions swing back and forth between these two extremes in an irregular, multi-year natural cycle called ENSO, the El Niño Southern Oscillation. The cycle is currently ca 2.5-7 years.

El Niño generally causes prolonged droughts In Indonesia and these are strongest in East Borneo. The worst of these El Niño long droughts on record, in 1982-83 and 1997-88, were famous worldwide because they set the stage for the Great Fires of Borneo. These fires were human-caused but were started and spread easily because of the severe drought. Results in East Kalimantan were widespread and extremely heavy damage. About 50% of Kutai NP’s forest was burned in 1982-83 and about 90% in 1997-98. That damage is a major reason for the common belief that Kutai NP was so badly damaged that it is unrecoverable as a natural area. Continue reading »

posted by: Tom


Conservation Commentary: Erik Meijaard on How to Stop the Rot in Orangutan Protection

photo courtesy of ANTARA FOTO/Jessica Helena Wuysang/foc/15 and the Jakarta Globe

photo courtesy of ANTARA FOTO/Jessica Helena Wuysang/foc/15 and the Jakarta Globe

With some 10,000 orangutans having died a premature death in the past five years, there clearly has been collective failure by governmental and non-governmental organizations to implement effective conservation management for these species.

Sumatran orangutans have been Critically Endangered for a while, indicating severe population declines in the recent past and projecting similar declines in the near future.

Bornean orangutans were slightly better off, so we thought. But based on the first robust population trend analysis, recently conducted for Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, indicating a 25 percent decline in 10 years, this species is also likely to be listed as Critically Endangered.

The facts speak for themselves. Based on extensive community interviews, some 1,500-2,200 orangutans are killed in Kalimantan annually. We further estimate that we are losing some 3,000-6,000 square kilometers of habitat every year on Borneo, and this similarly translates in the loss of several thousand animals. These dead orangutans are real, not the fiction of some science crackpots!

The Indonesian government officially concurs with the above findings and thus recognizes that there has been little if any progress on its own goal of stabilizing all wild orangutan populations by 2017.

This excerpt from an opinion piece appeared in and is courtesy of the Jakarta Globe and can be read in its entirety here.

posted by: Tom


Fires Rage in Sabangau: OC Supports Fire Fighting at OuTrop

CIMTROP's Community Patrol Team and members of OuTrop's research staff fighting the flames this month. Photo by Joana Aragay/OuTrop

CIMTROP’s Community Patrol Team and members of OuTrop’s research staff fighting the flames this month. Photo by Joana Aragay/OuTrop

The Orangutan Conservancy this week provided emergency funding to our friends at the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop) to battle fires that are raging near the Sabangau forest.  Each dry season the fires inevitably return and in this El Nino year they are expecting even more.  The Orangutan Conservancy visited the OuTrop field station this summer and saw a healthy and even growing number of wild orangutans in the area.  We must ensure that this continues in this important rainforest area, and OuTrop’s community partners, CIMTROP, who also build dams to protect the peat forest, are now out there battling the flames.  Here’s a report from OuTrop.

With a strong El Niño event underway and expected to continue into 2016, the dry season has really taken hold now in Central Kalimantan, and the inevitable peat fires are now raging throughout the region. Haze from these fires has been shrouding the provincial capital of Palangka Raya for the last month. Flights are being cancelled and air pollutant levels are now considered hazardous in the city, posing a serious risk to public health.

Starting last month in the highly drained and degraded ex-Mega Rice Project, including around the Kalampangan Zone research site (managed by our local partners CIMTROP), the increasingly dry conditions have now created heightened fire risk throughout the entire Sabangau region. This includes fires spotted along the Sabangau River edge. These fires pose a serious threat to the world’s largest orangutan population in Sabangau, plus the huge number of other wildlife species that live in the forest.

In response, CIMTROP Community Patrol Team’s Fire Attack Force has been mobilised to patrol for, detect and fight fires threatening the Sabangau Forest. The team has already fought and successfully extinguished three fires occurring less than 2 km from our main research camp. One fire threatened to burn the access railway to camp and unfortunately damaged one of the community fish ponds (bejes) due to be harvested this year. Fortunately, with help from our research staff, the Community Patrol Team were able to bring the fire under control within a few hours, preventing further damage. It remains to be seen if this will affect the beje harvests.  

The Orangutan Conservancy can use your help to continue our support of OuTrop.  Please visit our How To Help page to join us in this effort.

posted by: Tom


OC’s 10th Anniversary Event a Special Night

OC's President Norm Rosen, along with Lorna Rosen (l), host Laura Cohen, and Dr. Raffaella Commitante (r) at the 10th Anniversary Fundraiser

OC’s President Norm Rosen, along with Lorna Rosen (l), host Laura Cohen and Dr. Raffaella Commitante (r) at the 10th Anniversary Fundrasier

Dr. Anne Russon addresses the crowd

Dr. Anne Russon addresses the crowd

The Orangutan Conservancy’s 10th Anniversary Fundraiser held this weekend was a wonderful time for our organization, and we want to thank everyone who joined us in Los Angeles at a beautiful Brookside home for the event. 

There was great music, food, drink, speakers and conversation under both the sun and stars at the fundraiser. 

Guests arrived in the late afternoon to discover an idyllic multi-tiered, outdoor environment that included its own stream “El Rio Del Jardin de Las Flores” over which they crossed on a wooden bridge that led them into the expansive backyard where the festivities took place.  The outdoor setting was elegantly decorated with prints from Indonesia, and there were hidden plush orangutans all over the trees.

Fundraiser guests enjoy one of the speakers

Fundraiser guests enjoy the festivities

Smiling guests tasted delectable treats from chef Judy Segami and were entertained by musician extraordinaire Bill Degadillo.  After having a glass of wine many guests then took to the silent auction tables to bid on numerous goodies that included a schooner cruise around Indonesia, great artwork and photographs, entertainment-themed baskets and even orangutan-made necklaces.  All of the items were popular but Rosie the orangutan’s necklaces were clearly favorites and had some frenzied bidding activity.

Before long, OC board member Juanita Kempe welcomed the guests and introduced our celebrity host for the evening, actress Linda Henning, who regaled the growing crowd with great wit and charm.  Linda, even quipped that she has a special affinity for orangutans because they share the same color as her own red hair.

Emcee Linda Henning got the night off to a great start

Emcee Linda Henning got the night off to a great start

OC’s Raffaella Commitante then gave a high-energy talk about the OC/OVAG Workshop and even presented a cute film about Gavo, the workshop’s stuffed animal mascot, who travels around the world as an emissary of the annual event.

As the sun set, our keynote speaker for the event, world renowned primatologist Dr. Anne Russon, took the microphone and enthralled guests with a firsthand account of Borneo and her orangutan research work being done at the research site of the Orangutan Kutai Project.

Under the light of tiki torches, Norm Rosen, OC’s president, spoke a bit about OC with his typical good charm and he had the audience smiling.

As the end of the evening approached, a video presentation focusing on the projects that OC helps to support was shown to the audience members as they sampled irresistible desserts from the chef.  Post-screening, it was a race to the auction tables before bidding closed,  and then all too soon we handed gift bags out and said our goodnights to those who so generously came out to support us at our diamond anniversary.

Silent auction items proved a popular part of the big night.

Silent auction items proved a popular part of the big night.

The Orangutan Conservancy is so very appreciative to those who bought tickets to and made donations toward our fundraiser.  It was an honor to meet so many of you whose names we’ve known over the years but had yet to get to know you face to face. 

Also special thanks go out to our location’s homeowner, Laura Cohen, the event’s entire organizing committee, and, of course, to all of the volunteers who helped to make this special night such a great success!


posted by: Tom