Orangutan Conservancy http://www.orangutan.com Orangutans are born with an ability to reason and think. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:20:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Orangutan Commentary: Don’t Buy Halloween Candy That Helps To Kill Orangutans http://www.orangutan.com/orangutan-commentary-dont-buy-halloween-candy-that-helps-to-kill-orangutans/ http://www.orangutan.com/orangutan-commentary-dont-buy-halloween-candy-that-helps-to-kill-orangutans/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:20:07 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=5052 Sumatra and Borneo are the only places in the world where orangutans live in the wild. Both species are endangered, the Sumatran one critically so. And your Halloween candy purchases could make a difference.  photo courtesy of Lip Kee/Flickr

Sumatra and Borneo are the only places in the world where orangutans live in the wild. Both species are endangered, the Sumatran one critically so. Halloween candy purchases could make a difference. photo courtesy of Lip Kee/Flickr

In which science writer Jason G. Goldman explores the monoculture of palm oil and how the consumer choices we make during the candy buying season can make a real difference to orangutans.

by Jason G. Goldman

Wild orangutans are losing their habitat as the rainforests in which they live are being cleared to produce timber and to expand palm oil plantations. The economics are actually fairly simple: when people buy products that contain palm oil, demand for those products go up. Plantations expand to compensate, which means that rainforest destruction accelerates.

The solution seems pretty simple, right? Stop buying products with palm oil in it. The problem is that even the savviest, most conservation-minded of shoppers can be fooled. That’s because palm oil can be in a product even if the ingredients list doesn’t say so. It can be listed simple as “vegetable oil,” or as something like “sodium lauryl sulfate” or “sodium laureth sulfate.”

The thing is, it isn’t that palm oil itself is bad.  Conservation International points out it’s actually got higher yields than other edible oils, meaning that more oil can be produced in the same plot of land than for other types of plants. While palm oil represents nearly forty percent of the world’s edible oil, it’s grown on just five percent of the land dedicated to oilseed crops. Palm oil production employs more than six million people around the world. Both of these are good things.

The problem is that it’s being farmed in the wrong places. And while orangutans are the most charismatic, heart-wrenching way to promote the problem, deforestation goes much farther than just ape conservation. It is one of the leading drivers of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for one thing. In addition, rainforests help to regulate weather patterns; they protect local communities from storms and floods and maintain healthy wetlands, which provide water for communities and agricultural efforts downstream. Remove the forest, and the whole ecosystem comes down like a house of cards. And it’s not just the orangutans who suffer, it’s us.

How can you help?

It isn’t easy to simply eschew all products that contain palm oil, partly because it’s estimated to be used in more than half of all processed supermarket items in the US, including cosmetics, and partly because a move towards sustainable palm oil wouldn’t be served by a complete rejection of all products containing it. Instead, you could support those companies that have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Lucky for you, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has created a handy app called the “Palm Oil Shopping Guide” that will help you discern which products are orangutan-friendly and which aren’t.

This excerpt from an article appeared in animals.io9.com and is courtesy of Jason G. Goldman.  It can be read in its entirety here.

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Conservation News: Indonesian Law Bars Palm Oil Companies From Protecting Forests http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-news-indonesian-law-bars-palm-oil-companies-from-protecting-forests/ http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-news-indonesian-law-bars-palm-oil-companies-from-protecting-forests/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:01:15 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=5048 image courtesy of World Land Trust

image courtesy of World Land Trust

By Rhett Butler for Eco-Business

A law passed by the Indonesian government last month makes it even more difficult for palm oil companies to conserve tracts of wildlife-rich and carbon-dense forests within their concessions, potentially undermining these producers’ commitments to phase deforestation out of their supply chains, warns a new report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.

The report focuses on the zero deforestation policy established in 2011 by Golden-Agri Resources (GAR), Indonesia s largest palm oil producer. It looks at how well that commitment is being implemented for a pilot project across eight concessions in West and Central Kalimantan, provinces in Indonesian Borneo.

…The problem is the lands GAR has set aside for conservation are classified as “plantable” by the Indonesian government. Under a September 29, 2014 revision to the Plantation Act, any area under a Hak Guna Usaha/HGU (Right of Cultivation) permit must be fully cleared and converted for its intended purpose within six years of the license being granted.

If the land isn’t cultivated, it can then be seized by the state and turned over to an entity that will convert the area. Any company that fails to abide by the regulation is subject to fines and revocation of its business license.

This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of  Ec0-Business and can be read in its entirety here.

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OC/OVAG Partners at Chester Zoo Go Orange For Orangutans http://www.orangutan.com/ocovag-partners-chester-zoo-go-orange-for-orangutans/ http://www.orangutan.com/ocovag-partners-chester-zoo-go-orange-for-orangutans/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:35:17 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=5042 Photo: Our friends at the Chester Zoo in the UK are in the midst of their "Go Orange For Orangutans" in October campaign. The Zoo is one of OC's partners in the annual OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop.  Have a look at: http://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/go-orange-for-orangutans

Our OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop partners from the Chester Zoo in the UK are in the midst of their “Go Orange For Orangutans” campaign this October.  They’ve got a whole slew of activities, including the staff painting themselves orange in honor of our forest friends and a follow Gavo (he’s our mascot) around the world experience.

Check them out at http://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/go-orange-for-orangutans


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Darwin Has A Feast http://www.orangutan.com/darwin-has-a-feast/ http://www.orangutan.com/darwin-has-a-feast/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:57:29 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=5036  

Darwin 2013 - smaller version

Here’s a photo of Darwin from the Orangutan Kutai Project, one of the projects that we help to support at the Orangutan Conservancy.

Orangutan ranging patterns are studied at OKP, and by the looks of things we’d say Darwin ranged himself right into a nice fall feast.

Learn more about OKP and other projects we help to support at http://www.orangutan.com/projects/

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Conservation News: Central Kalimantan To Set Up Palm Oil Monitoring System In Bid To Cut Deforestation 80% http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-news-central-kalimantan-to-set-up-palm-oil-monitoring-system-in-bid-to-cut-deforestation-80/ http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-news-central-kalimantan-to-set-up-palm-oil-monitoring-system-in-bid-to-cut-deforestation-80/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 17:16:29 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=5025
Peat forest clearing for oil palm in Central Kalimantan. Photo by Rhett A. Butler at Mongabay.com

Peat forest clearing for oil palm in Central Kalimantan. Photo by Rhett A. Butler at Mongabay.com

By Rhett Butler for Mongabay.com

The Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan is moving forward on an oil palm plantation monitoring system it hopes will help meet a commitment to reduce deforestation 80 percent by 2020.The online monitoring system will include “information on the performance of plantation concessions such as productivity, the number of smallholder farmers, deforestation and other land cover change, and fire occurrence,” according to Earth Innovation Institute which designed and is helping the provincial government implement the system.Four districts — Kotawaringin Barat, Kapuas, Pulang Pisau, and Gunung Mas — will pilot the system, which will offer governments and the public unprecedented insight into palm oil production at the local level.”This system will enable local governments to detect non-compliance and also to acknowledge voluntary initiatives of companies in meeting sustainability criteria,” said Earth Innovation Institute. “Through the system, the government will be able to identify degraded lands that can be allocated for future plantation licenses. The system can also trace where oil palm is planted, harvested, processed and sold.”

This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of Mongabay.com and can be read in its entirety here.
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OC Jumps In To Help OuTrop With Fires Near Sabangau http://www.orangutan.com/oc-jumps-in-to-help-outrop-with-fires-near-sabangau/ http://www.orangutan.com/oc-jumps-in-to-help-outrop-with-fires-near-sabangau/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 15:41:20 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=5011 _MG_6868

Community Patrol team on fire scene

The alert came in just this week from the dedicated team at the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project.  Fires had broken out near the OuTrop research site in Borneo, and Mark Harrison needed help to bolster the efforts of the Centre for the International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatlands (CIMTROP) and the Community Patrol Team teams already in place to fight the growing flames.

Each year when the dry season arrives, so do the fires that can be deadly if they are not attacked from day one.   This season in Central Kalimantan looks to be especially precarious.

OuTrop contacted us seeking emergency funding to help with the situation, and the Orangutan Conservancy is jumping in right away to provide some much-needed assistance.

As the letter from OuTrop’s Managing Director, Mark Harrison read:

“We’ve been talking with CIMTROP and members of the Community Patrol Team on how we will tackle the fires: CIMTROP’s fire-fighting team is one of the few out there on a daily basis to patrol and fight the fires.  In Sabangau’s Natural Laboratory, where we have our main base, the patrol team has already extinguished two fires that were on the forest edge, there are reports of fires further south in the National Park, and in Kalampangan in the eastern Sabangau catchment the patrol team is now working 24 hours to stop a fire that has entered the forest there, an area about which we have just published research demonstrating the importance of this forest block for orangutan conservation. As well as supporting the fire-fighting teams, we need funds for a fire-watch tower and adding equipment. It has become very clear that 2014 is not just a brief fire season but could develop into a very serious one.”

If you’d like to join OC in our effort please visit our donate now page.

The firefighters face a wall of smoke from the flames nearby

The firefighters face a wall of smoke from the flames nearby


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Conservation News: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Upgrades Palm Oil App To Help Save Wild Orangutans http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-news-cheyenne-mountain-zoo-upgrades-palm-oil-app-to-help-save-wild-orangutans/ http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-news-cheyenne-mountain-zoo-upgrades-palm-oil-app-to-help-save-wild-orangutans/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 04:26:19 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=5001 screen568x568

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s sustainable palm oil phone app helps people make responsible decisions about the food and health/beauty products they purchase every day, and a recent upgrade to the app is helping consumers make even better decisions.

There’s now a green, yellow and orange rating system that recognizes companies that are doing well and encourages those that need improvement. The phone app is aimed at helping save the lives of orangutans, tigers, Asian elephants, sun bears, tropical birds and many other endangered and threatened animals in Indonesia and Malaysia where the palm oil crisis is endangering their habitats.

“When we originally launched the phone app, we wanted consumers to know what companies belonged to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) so they could support them and purchase their products,” Dina Bredahl, Animal Care Manager and Palm Oil Awareness Team Member, said. “But all companies listed in this app are in different places on their journey toward sustainable palm oil, and we wanted to acknowledge that with a rating system.”

This excerpt from a news release appeared in and is courtesy of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Fox 21News.com and can be read in its entirety here.

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OC’s Dr. Anne Russon Featured in New Yorker Article http://www.orangutan.com/ocs-dr-anne-russon-featured-in-new-yorker-article/ http://www.orangutan.com/ocs-dr-anne-russon-featured-in-new-yorker-article/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 18:26:42 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=4988 Photograph by Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty

Photograph by Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty

An Orangutan Learns to Fish

by  for The New Yorker

In 1990, while visiting a research camp in central Borneo, the primatologist Anne Russon saw an orangutan nicknamed Supinah attempt to make fire. Supinah sauntered toward an ashy fire pit, picked up a stick glowing with embers, and dipped it into a nearby cup full of liquid. Russon thought that the cup contained water, but it in fact held kerosene. Fortunately, that bath did little more than dampen the wood. Yet Supinah persisted: she got a second glowing stick, blew on it, fanned it with her hands, and rubbed it against other sticks. She never got the right steps in the right order to start a fire, but what foiled her was not her innate intelligence. She had a clear goal in mind and the right kind of brain to achieve it. She just needed a little more practice.

This excerpt from an article appeared in and is courtesy of The New Yorker.  To read the entire story please click here.

The Orangutan Conservancy's Dr. Anne Russon shown here at her current research effort - the Orangutan Kutai Project

The Orangutan Conservancy’s Dr. Anne Russon shown here at her current research effort – the Orangutan Kutai Project



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OC Supports International Day of Action To Save The Leuser Ecosystem http://www.orangutan.com/oc-supports-international-day-of-action-on-september-22-to-save-the-leuser-ecosystem/ http://www.orangutan.com/oc-supports-international-day-of-action-on-september-22-to-save-the-leuser-ecosystem/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:12:52 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=4966

Watch this short but powerful video today and then join the call to action today!

With only a month left in office, will Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will at last fulfill the 2011 promise he made in this video to save the forest?  The Leuser Ecosystem is the home of so many amazing species, including the orangutans, and it is one of the most vulnerable areas in all of Sumatra due to the devastation of palm oil, logging and mining.  The opportunity for change is still there for the President to protect what is left of this fragile, beautiful and important ecosystem.

The Orangutan Conservancy joins our friends at End of the Icons today to say save this amazing ecosystem before it’s too late. 

We also urge you to join this growing movement and take a stand for the International Day of Action. 

Call to Action: September 22nd

What you can do today to help save Leuser and the orangutans there.  Today is the eve of the UN Climate Summit in New York, and thousands of tweets have flooded the Indonesian President’s personal twitter account, @SBYudhoyono, asking him to protect the Leuser Ecosystem, as recent studies found Indonesia to have overtaken Brazil in having the highest rate of deforestation in the world.  The fate of the Leuser Ecosystem rests entirely on the cancellation of an illegal spatial plan drawn up by the government of Aceh province.  Go to Twitter and add your voice to the growing coalition to save the Leuser Ecosystem. With the UN Summit beginning tomorrow, all eyes are on this situation now. 


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Conservation Commentary: One Forgotten Island Showcases Indonesia’s Incredible Riches http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-commentary-one-forgotten-island-showcases-indonesias-incredible-riches/ http://www.orangutan.com/conservation-commentary-one-forgotten-island-showcases-indonesias-incredible-riches/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 01:14:06 +0000 http://www.orangutan.com/?p=4955 Not "the" island but a beautiful rainforest ecosystem similar in its lushness where orangutans can thrive.  Photo; from OC archives

Not “the” island but a beautiful rainforest ecosystem similar in its lushness where orangutans can thrive. photo: from OC archives

In this intriguing commentary, scientist and conservationist Erik Meijaard reveals a hidden island where a glimpse of what Indonesia could be actually exists…

By Erik Meijaard for the Jakarta Globe

As our boat sailed towards the forest-clad island, I had no idea what surprise awaited me…

A few months ago I was asked to conduct a wildlife survey on a rarely visited island somewhere in Indonesia. For reasons explained below I will not disclose its name. Suffice to say it is one of the thousands of Indonesian islands without people on it. In terms of the wildlife I saw, the absence of people really showed.

I have worked in Indonesia as a conservation scientist and practitioner for over 20 years. This work has taken me to some pretty amazing places, a few of them really remote. But this recent visit to the forgotten island stands out as one of the most remarkable.

Probably because there are no people and there is thus no hunting on the island, wildlife was very common. I went for a day-time hike, expecting not to see much at all. In most Indonesian forests, and especially those that are hunted, animals hide during the day and come out to feed at night. Not on this island.

Within 10 minutes I saw four species of large and medium-sized mammals that would normally be very hard to see. I didn’t just see the animals, the animals saw me too. And they simply looked, without quite knowing what to make of me. Clearly, the concept of being shot at was entirely foreign to them, unlike their brothers and sisters elsewhere in Indonesia.

We found a huge python, curled up among the stilt roots of a large tree. This species appears to be the main predator on the island, gorging itself on the abundant wildlife.

The trees themselves were remarkable too. There was no sign of logging, no tree stumps, or big open gaps. Just giant pillar-like trees, such as those described in the naturalist literature of the 19th century.

This excerpt from an article appeared in and is courtesy of The Jakarta Globe.  To read the full article please click here.

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