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.