Darwin has his hands (and feet too) full in this photo. So did the Orangutan Conservancy in our 16th year of operation.
2014 proved to be an eventful year for the Orangutan Conservancy, as we forged new paths in our mission of better protecting orangutans on many fronts. While we continued supporting our core projects, we also began new alignments both in Indonesia and here in America. Along with helping important on-the-ground projects in Asia through funding and logistical support, we also attended events here in the USA to increase public awareness about the plight of orangutans and their rainforest homes in the 21st century.
As early 2014 kicked off, OC was chosen by Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) as one of the few NGOS to be included on its innovative apeAPP. With dedicated pages for all of the great apes, we were honored to be picked to represent the orangutan world. ApeAPP is a clever portal for those seeking on-the-go info about ape conservation, and GRASP will debuting a new and even more exciting design in early 2015. We also began a new relationship with Australia’s The Orangutan Project (TOP) and started promoting their orangutan adoption program. The year was off to a fast start.
By March, the Orangutan Conservancy website had been transformed into an on-line location that people can depend on for regularly updated conservation news. Providing capsulized news stories from outlets and publications around the globe, the OC landing page is a convenient one-stop location to keep up to date on orangutan news, commentary and information. The third month of the year was also special for us in that we gave a slew of “Save the Orangutan” wristbands to a third-grade life sciences class in Oregon, whose students have dedicated themselves to studying endangered animals – in particular the orangutan. These conservation-minded kids have taken it upon themselves to teach their community about orangutans and the many threats facing these amazing apes, particularly palm oil.
In April, perhaps inspired by Earth Day, we began a new informal alliance here in America – the California Orangutan Alliance - with the Orangutan Republic. The purpose of this collaboration is to attend more live events together in the western United States, and increase the public’s awareness of orangutans and the enormous challenges of protecting their ecosystem. The Orangutan Conservancy always seeks out like-minded collaborations, and we know this joint venture will allow us even more opportunities for face to face interaction with many interested people at gatherings across our state. One of our first co-sponsored tables was at the WorldFest event in Los Angeles County in June.
Along with a spring round of project funding – highlighted by our first donation to Orangutan Haven - May found us promoting the first-ever “Rainforest Live” event that was spearheaded by the innovative team at the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop). The real-time, 24-hour event broadcast across social media provided a fresh and very timely view of the Indonesian rainforest. Never has Facebook and Twitter offered such an insightful real-time view into the fragile ecosystem and home to orangutans and countless other species as well as some of the world’s most exotic flora and fauna. We salute OuTrop and everyone involved for this clever combination of technology and conservation.
Knowledge, Support and Friendship are three components of the workshop
June is our busiest month at the Orangutan Conservancy, because it’s when we fund, stage and host the annual OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop in Indonesia. Hard working veterinarians that care for thousands of captive and wild orangutans come together just this one time a year to share their field knowledge and a full year’s worth of experiences. The event is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and provides an ongoing support system for the frontline heroes that care for so many injured and ill orangutans due to habitat loss, illegal hunting and human encroachment into their forest world. The 6th Annual Workshop was the largest yet and was held at our new permanent home in Jogjakarta. Our supporters make this event a reality each year and as you can see by the photo, the vets are very thankful for the opportunity to be in attendance.
In July, OC, along with four other orangutan groups, co-sponsored a debate/discussion in-situ that focused on the environmental positions of the candidates for the next President of Indonesia. We are all hopeful that new President Joko Widodo, who took office in October, will honor the pledge his representative made at the debate to “take extraordinary law enforcement actions against violations in the fields of forestry and marine resources in Indonesia.”
The late days of summer found OC joining several organizations to promote and take part in International Orangutan Day. The need for NGOs to join together and collectively share our strengths to benefit our forest friends was in ample view in August. Following that, in September, we introduced our very first Orangutan Conservancy app. The free conservation-themed software program offers a convenient way to keep up with us on our website, Facebook and Twitter all in one spot on your smartphone. The end of September started our association Amazon Smile. For every purchase that shoppers make on Amazon Smile the internet sales giant gives a small donation to our work at the Orangutan Conservancy. The month was capped off by OC’s participation in the International Day of Action for the Leuser Ecosystem, on the eve of the UN Climate Summit.
Dr. Russon and some of her team at the Orangutan Kutai project.
October had us energized as we funded no less than three projects. One of them, the Orangutan Kutai Project, which is headed up by our own Board member, Dr. Anne Russon, was featured in a terrific New Yorker article that same month, titled “An Orangutan Learns to Fish.” As one of the world’s top primatologists, the portrayal of Dr. Russon’s orangutan ranging work in Kalimantan was fascinating and fun at the same time. Other October highlights included; seeing our first ever orangutan scholarship recipient, Reza, receive his university degree in Environmental Sciences; introducing the Chester Zoo’s “Go Orange For Orangutans” campaign, which will help support our annual vet workshop, and joining a concerned coalition of conservation NGOs to draft a letter that was delivered to outgoing President SBY of Indonesia to encourage him to honor his as yet unrealized pledge to protect orangutans before his tenure expired. We finished off this busy month by rushing emergency funding to OuTrop to help their team fight the dry-season forest fires that were burning out of control near their Bornean site in the Sabangau Forest.
By November, the OC team had signaled our future commitment to being there for the team at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), and in particular for their future semi-wild home for orangutans in Sumatra, Orangutan Haven. Unreleasable, injured or ill, orangutans will soon have pristine island homes built for them that will offer a sense of complete freedom. This special group of great apes, who would never survive alone in the wild, will find a green paradise and have room to spread out and feel as free as they should. Ground has already broken for Orangutan Haven, with Dr. Ian Singleton and a large team of dedicated heroes working around the clock to bring this vision to reality.
Thanksgiving is held in America in November, and we couldn’t have been more thankful than to help support the evolution of this important project then and in the future.
The future semi-wild home for unreleasable orangutans is now being built.
December still left time for some end-of-year business and we were glad to be able help the team at the Samboja Lestari/BOSF rescue and rehabilitation center in East Kalimantan, Borneo. Caring for 200 orangutans there means a lot of staff and plenty of wear and tear on the coveralls. As the giving season quickly approached, OC added a new Board member – Betty Dunbar – sent out our holiday cards in the mail – or rather, through email – and looked forward to the coming year and to what we can do in 2015 to help orangutans in bigger and better ways. While we can’t predict where the calls will come from in the New Year, we are dedicated to being there to help give orangutans and their rainforest homes a fighting chance for survival. We can only do that with you on our team, so please considering supporting our work by visiting our How To Help page, and help us in our mission in 2015. Happy New Year!
Leuser, a blind orangutan, and recent dad, will be one of the future residents of Orangutan Haven
OC provided new uniforms for the entire team at Samboja Lestari rescue center