Orangutan Conservancy’s OC/OVAG Workshop Underway

Conservation Perspective: Can Oil Palm Plantations and Orangutans Coexist?

Photo Credit: Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

By Melati Kaye  for Scientific American

I have been hiking through an oil palm plantation in Borneo for hours but have yet to see a single oil palm. Instead, mahogany and other native tree species tower overhead. Mushrooms, flowers and huge pitcher plants line my trail, uniquely adapted to the island’s peat swamp forests. This lush portion of the plantation should be ideal habitat for orangutans. I have not spotted any, but according to Hendriyanto, my guide from the plantation’s conservation team, an estimated 14 of the red apes do indeed live here.

But one step outside this refuge lies a very different scene: blistering tropical heat and regimented rows of spiky oil palm trees spread over miles of ochre mud that turns to deep, rutted puddles after a drizzle. Borneo’s forest-to-plantation ratio has plummeted in recent decades.

From an ape’s point of view, the plantation vista presents an uninhabitable hellscape. From an industry standpoint, it is a prospect of burgeoning revenue.

Orangutan-friendly forests once provided contiguous habitat for the tree-dwelling apes throughout South and Southeast Asia, from India to China to Indonesia. Human settlement shrank and fragmented the forest range, and with it the orangutan population.

These peatlands were once deemed too remote and nutrient-poor for agriculture. With the advent of large-scale logging and plantations, however, they started getting cleared for development. The oil palm boom of the 1970’s kicked deforestation into hyperdrive.

This excerpt from an online article appeared in and is courtesy of Scientific American and can be read in its entirety here.


posted by: Tom


Orangutan Kutai Project: Field Update 2016

Morio from Anne 2016 - Copy

Morio orangutan near Kutai National Park in Borneo

Dr. Anne Russon of the Orangutan Kutai Project is one of the world’s top orangutan experts, and we are very fortunate to also have her on the board of the Orangutan Conservancy.  Her research work on orangutan ranging has been going on for several years in Borneo and OC is pleased to be able to help support this important study.  Russon recently sent us an update of the working going on near Kutai National Park and this is a small excerpt of that report.  We will be publishing the full report in the near future on the “Our Projects” page of our website.

by Anne Russon

Orangutan Kutai Project, Kutai NP, E. Kalimantan

We are now in our sixth year of orangutan research and conservation work in Kutai National Park (KNP), East Kalimantan Indonesia. KNP is home to the only remaining large wild population of E Bornean orangutans in Indonesia, but it has been seriously threatened by human “development” for decades in the form of settlements, mines, plantations, and two massive forest fires.  Only last year, 60,000 ha of KNP’s 190,000 ha were excised to legalize illegal settlements inside its boundaries.

The research site we established in 2010 is along the Sangatta River, the park’s nothern boundary. It overlaps Mentoko, the site of Rodman’s orangutan research in 1970-71 – the first wild orangutan research in Indonesia – so it offers an exceptional opportunity to compare KNP orangutans’ behavior now, when this forest is recovering from serious damage, and 1970-71, when it was near pristine.

To assess how well KNP’s orangutans are coping, our studies have focused on basic functional behavior (feeding, diet, travel, activity budgets) and feeding ecology (plant food species and their distribution, seasonality).

Findings to date

Mentoko area forest represents habitat recovering from damage. Recovering damaged habitat is important to conservation in supporting wildlife, since little pristine habitat remains. To assess how well Mentoko area orangutans are faring in recovering habitat, we compared our findings for 2010-12 (12-15 yrs natural regeneration from 1997-98 severe drought/fire damage) with those for near-pristine conditions (1970s) and 0-4 years regeneration from 1982-83 severe drought/fire damage (1983-87).  Mentoko area forest was in better condition in 2010-12 than 1983-87, but different from near-pristine. Resident orangutans’ activity patterns had recovered to near-pristine values, after diverging from them early after damage. E Bornean orangutans have been recognized for their great resilience and exceptional diet flexibility is probably an important contributor; it was probably a key contributor to their surviving these disastrous droughts and fires.


Anne Russon speaks at OC’s anniversary event in 2015

A second research theme has been identifying Mentoko orangutans’ travel routes, as a first step in understanding what they know about where resources are located, when they are are available, and how to navigate to them. Continue reading »

posted by: Tom


Orangutan News: Starving Orangutan Rescued From Cage


By Jack Phillips for Epoch Times

A 20-year-old orangutan that was locked inside a tiny cage has been rescued in Indonesia.

The Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) said it found the animal in north Sumatra. It has been held in an iron cage in a villager’s backyard, reported MailOnline.

The ape was anesthetized via a blow-dart tranquilizer and was treated by veterinarians before it was taken away to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, the report said. The orangutan will be quarantined for a period of time before it regains its health. Officials aren’t sure how long it had been caged.

This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of Epoch Times and can be read in its entirety here.

The Orangutan Conservancy is pleased to be able to help support the work of the Orangutan Information Centre and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.


posted by: Tom


OC Provides New Support to Orangutan Information Centre

photo courtesy of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC)

photo courtesy of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC)

The Orangutan Conservancy’s philosophy is that no single project alone can ever possibly solve all of the issues that orangutans face in their daily battle for survival.

We believe in strategically supporting complimentary yet unique projects that together offer pragmatic solutions to orangutan conservation.  Our project support encompasses several areas, including orangutan scientific research efforts, rescue and rehabilitation centers, in situ workshops, educational programs and other endeavors that together can achieve much for our forest friends.

OC is pleased to welcome the well-respected Orangutan Information Centre (OIC)  in Medan, Sumatra as a new project that we are now helping to  support. Specifically, we have just funded their important Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) project that is consistently achieving impressive results in North Sumatra and Aceh.

The Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) is an Indonesian organization founded in 2001 by a group of dedicated local conservationists for the conservation of Sumatran orangutans and their rainforest habitat. The OIC restores degraded forests, responds to and mitigates human orangutan conflicts, conducts environmental awareness visits to schools and villages, conduct forest patrol, and provides training to help local people work towards a more sustainable future. The OIC’s programs are conducted by Indonesian conservation professionals from conservation science, forestry and environmental education backgrounds. They have been working on community-based conservation, sustainable development, and forest restoration projects for 15 years, involving more than 20,000 local people throughout the provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh in the development of Conservation Action Plans and establishing sustainable livelihoods that are compatible with the conservation. With nearly one and half million tree seedlings planted across North Sumatra and Aceh, they have extensive experience in conducting forest restoration, environmental education and sustainable development program.

In 2010, OIC established their Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) to tackle the human orangutan conflict fueled by agricultural expansion. This unit is responsible for investigating and mitigating conflict between farmers and orangutans. The team patrols throughout North Sumatra and Aceh, evacuating orangutans from conflict situations and providing training for agricultural communities around the Leuser Ecosystem in safely dealing with human orangutan conflict, helping them protect their crops without harming wildlife. They have successfully conducted the rescue and evacuation of a total of 89 orangutans from conflict situations and assisted the people living adjacent to these areas in mitigating and preventing the effects of conflict. This shows a positive impact on orangutan conservation, as before the HOCRU program began, orangutan conflict issues were simply not being addressed by any agencies.  The HOCRU is the only specialist unit in Sumatra addressing the HOC problem, and administering direct, immediate help to these critically endangered apes in conflict situations. HOCRU serves as a ‘safety net’ in response to the ongoing problem of orangutans being displaced from their shrinking forest homes. 

The Orangutan Conservancy hopes to offer more help in the future to the Orangutan Information Centre and we ask you to help us to do that by visiting our Donate Now page.


posted by: Tom