The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project
Established in 1999, The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop) is dedicated to helping protect, restore and regenerate the Sabangau Forest and other high-priority forests in Indonesian Borneo through research, training and conservation support. The 6,000 km2 area of peat-swamp forest in Sabangau is home to the world’s largest orangutan population, which OuTrop currently estimates at 6,900 individuals, making it of critical importance for the conservation of the species. OuTrop’s core research is in primate population density, distribution and behavior, biodiversity assessments and monitoring, and forest ecology. OuTrop is in partnership with CIMTROP (“Centre for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland”) at the University of Palangka Raya, in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
OuTrop’s goal is to support conservation of orangutans, their habitats and associated biodiversity through two important avenues:
Conservation-oriented research, providing important information for, and training to, local conservation practitioners
Supporting locally-led conservation initiatives to protect, restore and regenerate orangutan habitat
OuTrop’s field research is centered around the Natural Laboratory of Peat-swamp Forest, a 500 km2 area of forest designated for the purpose of scientific research. The Setia Alam Field Station is situated within this area, approximately 1 km from the Sabangau River in Central Kalimantan. The area is managed by CIMTROP, and serves as a base for research activities by scientists from all over the world, in addition to locally-led conservation activities.
Research to Support Conservation
OuTrop’s ongoing research provides important support for conservation of orangutans and their habitat in Kalimantan by:
Establishing the impact of human activities on orangutan population density, distribution and behavior, and forest health/condition
Establishing the effectiveness of different management actions for orangutan and habitat conservation
Documenting orangutan behavior and ecology, leading to new scientific findings, and comparing behavior to our other flagship primate species, including southern Bornean gibbons and red langurs and cats
Disseminating the above information to relevant parties, both locally and internationally
Training local scientists and conservationists in the above techniques.
OuTrop researchers have been studying wild orangutans in Sabangau since 2003, to collect behavioral data for investigations of activity profiles, feeding behavior, energetics, health, self-medication, social networks, communication and ranging. They’ve now named and studied over 40 individual orangutans in the area. This research has led to the publication of a large number of reports and scientific publications, numerous presentations at national and international scientific meetings related to orangutan/primate ecology and conservation, and important contributions by OuTrop scientists toward local and national orangutan conservation assessments and action plans.
OuTrop provides essential funding and support to CIMTROP’s locally-led Community Patrol Team, which operates in Sabangau to:
Prevent illegal activities, such as logging and hunting, which have serious negative impacts on orangutan populations
Fight dry-season fires
Build and monitor dams on drainage canals dug by illegal loggers previously operating in the area – these canals drain the forest, making it highly vulnerable to fire
Ensure continued local community support for conservation in the area
OuTrop’s Seedling Nursery, is investigating solutions to restore and regenerate degraded areas of orangutan habitat. This approach is becoming increasingly important, as the area of pristine forest in Borneo continues to reduce each year. To date, OuTrop has transplanted 622 seedlings of 8 species, and are currently nursing a stock of over 3,000 seedlings for use in further trials. To learn more about OuTrop please visit The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project website.