A day in the life…

We are often asked how things work on a daily basis for the Orangutan Foundation. What work is involved? How does this then help conserve Bornean forest and protect orangutans? Focusing on the London office, here is an insight into working for our conservation charity…

The team
We have four fill time staff in the UK and fifty eight full time staff in Central Kalimantan, Borneo. The team in the UK work to provide daily support, management and to raise all funds for all the Foundation’s work on the ground in Borneo. Within the UK and internationally, we work to educate and inform about conservation of orangutan populations, and how we work to contribute to their and their habitats protection.

Keno – our most recent individual in the soft-release programme! Read his story – click the image!

The day
Every day we receive calls and emails from anyone and everyone about orangutans and conservation. In a recent day, we had all of the following keeping us busy…

  • Requests from media groups – T.V. and film groups interested in interviews and footage from us.
  • The Director and staff work together on helping the Indonesian office prepare for a meeting with the Indonesian government, to discuss progress over the past three years, and to lay out work plans for the next few years. This kind of planning and governmental interaction is vital for our work to continue.
  • Members on the phone about new fundraising events and telling us when they’ll be popping in with their latest updates. Members do a fantastic job raising awareness and funds for the Foundation – thank you to all our dedicated ambassadors.
  • … and that doesn’t even include all the sales calls!

Our Fundraisers are out there explaining our mission and how we are achieving great progress at our field sites – we help the general public understand what we do and how we do it. Our work focuses on five key areas – please click here or see below for more information – and each day we may focus on any of the five areas to ensure the best possible outcome for the areas which we are able to help. We work with many different groups, including several primate conservation groups and the Indonesian Government. Communication with all our collaborators and stakeholders is imperative to this kind of work – without cooperation and working as a team, everything is slower and more difficult to achieve.

Training in the Agricultural Centre, managed with Yayorin – our partners

Facilitating all funds to be sent to the team in Indonesia is of course one of the most important thing the Foundation does – these are the funds that make all our work possible. We rely on you kind donations, fundraising (via any and all weird and wonderful events), memberships (for those who want to be a part of the Foundation) and grants to fund all our work. We ensure our communications tell the story of exactly how all funds get used…

  • to relocate and release orangutans into protected areas.
  • to conserve areas of forest via regular walks&boat rides (‘Patrols’) around the perimeter of protected areas of forest. With this human presence and source of education to local communities, encroachment and illegal activity in these areas decreased and since remained negligible since this system started.
  • to support the education of local communities, facilitating families to practice sustainable agricultural techniques. We support teaching and training people in occupations that have the benefits of self-management or working in smaller, environmentally aware teams.
  • to raise awareness – clear, international outreach, communicating the need for conservation.
  •  to scientifically study the forest and species in these habitats, contributing to understanding how to help these forests last.
  • Night time scientific research

An example of the stunning biodiversity being protected

Pablo – one individual you helped release into the wild


Introducing Keno!

On the first of March a policeman of the Sabhara Sukamara Police , Brigadier Kiki Tobing, was visting the small village of Laman baru on his day off, intending to buy durian (a famous Indonesian fruit). He could of never expected what happened next…

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Small Keno handed in by the local community

Keno handed in to the police


As he walked through the village, resident came up to him and, recognising Tobing as a policeman, handed him a baby orangutan. The orangutan had been found in an oil palm plantation close to the village. Tobing named the orangutan infant “Keno”.

Orangutans enter into settlements and villages because much of orangutan forest habitat nearby is being destroyed, in this case due to a palm oil plantation. This kind of industrial encroachment has significantly contributed to an increase in the number of orangutans needing to be rescued and translocated in recent years. In addition, this particular plantation and village are near the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve border, the protected area in which the Orangutan Foundation work and release orangutans into the wild. In Borneo, human habitation and oil palm plantations are often side by side. Different types of land use can be in areas very close together. Here, areas of forest are close to oil palm plantations and often to villages. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for orangutans to find their way into areas of human settlement.

Tobing reported the situation to the police, who decided to bring the baby orangutan to the local police station. It was then decided to inform the discovery of this infant to the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA).

Keno climbing small trees

Due to this quick reporting and an organised system, the very next day, the Orangutan Foundation staff and BKSDA officers arrived (from Pangkalan Bun) to meet ‘Keno’ and it was decided to translocate him. He was kept in a transit cage at the BKSDA offices, and after a full health check and a few days to acclimatise. He was then moved to Gemini Camp (of the Orangutan Foundation camps), and Keno started his soft release programme. Staff saw that he was well and confident and so allowed him to get back into the trees again, as the staff keep a watchful eye. He had some minor bruising on his foot which has already healed up. He enjoys his diet of fruits from the forest. Now we hope to find a suitable surrogate mother for Keno. The ideal surrogate mother would either have an already independent offspring or no have no offspring at all.
We’ll make sure we keep you up to date with Keno’s development and progress through his soft release! 


Presentation of past and future to the Anglo Indonesian Society….

The Orangutan Foundation is always trying to reach out to new people who may be interested in the conservation of orang-utans and their habitat… Charles Humfrey, previous Ambassador of the United Kingdom for Indonesia, invited the Foundation to present to the Anglo Indonesian society, with an aim to focus on our achievements and challenges yet to come… Here we report back on our ‘Past achievements and future challenges’ presentation…

On the 25th of February 2014, Ashley Leiman presented ‘Orangutan Foundation’s past achievements and future challenges’ to the Anglo Indonesian society, hosted by the Indonesian Embassy in Grosvenor square, London. The evening was well attended by many of the societies members – from the beginning there was an atmosphere of seeing old friends and meet new people, anticipating an enjoyable and educational evening. People arrived to drinks and a fantastic selection of Indonesian food, ready to be served as people settled to discussing the evenings possibilities.

Ashley and Fiona (the Curator of Asian Art at the Horniman Museum) talking about Ashley’s Tuntun sticks

The audience’s intrigue increased when Charles announced the collection of Bornean indigenous artefacts that were on display in the Ambassadors study. Charles had known Ashley had a large personal collection of sculptural pieces from various locations, and was pleased to agree to display some key pieces in a small exhibition on the evening of the presentation. This allowed attendees to get a further impression of Indonesian and Sarawak culture. It also re-enforced Ashley’s own passion for the culture and history of Indonesian provinces - a passion that clearly continues to contribute to the Foundations work to date.

After members had received their first opportunity to catch up, eat, drink and view the stunning sculptural collection, members sat quietly in anticipation of Ashley’s presentation about the Foundation. Starting with the Foundation’s misson, Ashley highlighted the areas in which the Foundation work – both the locations and secondly, on the projects on which we focus - where we send 75% of the Foundation’s funds.

the food

The delicious traditional Indonesian food prepared

Our work with co-operation and partnership with local stakeholders and other related international organisations (including our partner project Yayorin, and local government conservation authorities, local communities, industrial sector companies, other local and international NGO’s) allows a level of communication and collaboration that is invaluable to our main aim; protecting the tropical forest habitat.

As we work toward protection and conservation of critical orangutan habitats , we are proud to be able to conduct a variety of related programmes in parallel. These, as you may know from our website, include education, awareness raising, capacity building, engaging the industrial sector, conflict mitigation, and orangutan reintroduction. Whilst habitat destruction and degradation is by far the largest threat to orangutan survival, it was pointed out that the use of idle land would mean many forests could be left standing and still allow industry to expand.

Ashley answers questions from the floor, as Charles chooses the next questions

The talk concluded with an emphasis on the multifaceted work that the Foundation concentrates on. None of this would be possible without the funds coming from supporters and members of the public from all over the world. As the audience listened to the final remarks and interesting questions, Ashley was able to summarise with the following…


“I have just returned from Indonesia, where I have seen the difference and progress we are making in all aspects of our work. We are committed to ensuring this will continue into the future: So we can realise our vision in which mankind can live alongside nature. Thank you all for listening to our story.”

What is an orangutan?..

This week we take things back to basics…
What animal are we helping to save , how and why? 

The animal
About a million years ago, orangutans lived throughout much of eastern Asia, from Java in the south, right up into Laos and southern China. Today they are found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra – both areas of the country of Indonesia. They are the only great ape that lives in Asia and no where else. There are two species of orangutan – the Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus) and the Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii). The two species express slightly different physical characteristics.  The latter comes from Sumatra and is classified by a narrower face and longer beard than the Bornean species.  Bornean orangutans are slightly darker in colour and the males have wider cheek pads than their Sumatran relatives.  Behavioural differences have also been observed between the two species; Sumatran orangutans are more frugivorous (fruit-eating) and there is more evidence of tool use than in Bornean orangutans.  Under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, the Sumatran orangutan is classified as critically endangered and the Bornean as endangered.Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 09.51.11


Orangutans are the largest arboreal mammal in the world. They are also the most arboreal of the great apes and spend most of their time in trees.The preferred habitat of the orangutan is low-lying peat swamp forest – they are rarely found in habitats over an altitude of 800m.  Although they are found on both Borneo & Sumatra, their ranges are very limited.

Orangutan distribution map from 2004

Orangutans are wholly dependent on trees for their existence. They are perfectly adapted to life in the forest – they sleep in nests (yep – really! In nests built of leaves which they learn to construct from a young age).

Orangutan high up in tree. Photo by Orangutan Foundation

Orangutan high up in tree. Photo by Orangutan Foundation

They feed predominantly on fruit and travel with ease through the forest canopy, rarely descending to the forest floor. Primarily frugivorous (eating fruits), orangutans have an important role as seed disperses. They selectively chose ripe fruit whose seeds are adapted to withstand passage through the orangutans’ gut. Once excreted, the seeds find themselves in their own little compost pile, which helps them to become established.  Over 400 food types have been documented as part of the orangutans diet, and although it consists mainly of fruit, in times of scarcity orangutans will shift their eating habits to lower quality food, such as bark, leaves & termites (a valuable source of protein!), rather than travel to a different area.  As well as acting as seed disperses, orangutans help to open up the forest canopy.  This allows light to reach the forest floor, which once again helps the forest regenerate naturally. They are a vital cog in the workings of the rainforest ecosystem.  


Orangutans are unique among the primate species.  All the other apes and monkeys (check the difference between apes and monkeys here!) are social and gregarious (meaning enjoying the company of others or/and living together in groups) whilst the orangutan is semi solitary, the largest group being a mother and two offspring.  Females are less solitary and may spend up to 25% with other orangutans. In contrast, male orangutans will spend less than 9% in association with other orangutans.  Sumatran orangutans are more social and this social behaviour usually coincides with the simultaneous fruiting of the fig tree, which doesn’t occur in Borneo.

Orangutans are the slowest breeding of all primates and have the longest inter-birth interval of almost eight years, of any land-based mammal. In other words they are the slowest reproducing animal on land…
The female orangutan reaches puberty at ten years and will normally have her first infant between the age of 12 and 15. Offspring are dependent on their mothers for at least five years and with a life expectancy of 45 years plus, females will normally have no more than three offspring. With these factors combined, the orangutan population, especially small fragmented populations, are at considerable risk.  They don’t have the capacity to recover from disasters that may strike a population. A slight rise in the adult female mortality rate by just 1-2% can drive a local population to extinction.

Female orangutan, Amoy, with newborn Alex. Photo by Orangutan Foundation

Female orangutan, Amoy, with newborn Alex. Photo by Orangutan Foundation

How we work…
The Foundation works to protect this amazing species via five areas of work , detailed in a bullet point list here, where you can link to read all about the work of our Bornean and UK team!

And why….
We work in this way to help the numbers of wild orangutans to increase and to preserve the vital habitat they (and so many other species) need to survive. Most recently, orangutan numbers have declined… Please consider learning more about the threats facing these habitats by reading here. Remember it’s so easy to learn more and help orangutans and their habitat by telling others and by helping out in any way. If you can outreach for the Foundation in any small way , please do email us on info@orangutan.org.uk.
There any many reasons why to conserve a species – some reasons to conserve the orangutan are listed below…

  • For Pongo pygmaeus there has been well over a 50% during the last 60 years (generation length estimated at 20 years, Wich et al. in press).
  • For Pongo abelii there has been well over a 80% over the last 75 years (assuming a generation length of at least 25 years; Wich et al. in press).
  • This decline continues, as forests within its range are under major threat. Most orangutans are outside of protected areas, including within potential logging areas and conversion forests.
  • The decline of the species is predicted to continue at this rate, primarily because of forest loss due to conversion of forest to agriculture and fires. The majority of remnant wild populations are located outside of protected areas, in forests that are exploited for timber production or in the process of being converted to agriculture.
  • Orangutan feeding habits have been described as “boom or bust”. Cheryl Knott in West Borneo reported that when fruit is plenty, the orangutans consumed many more calories. Females had higher estrogen levels and mating was more frequent. The opposite occurred when availability of fruit was low. Orangutans will shift their eating habits to lower quality food rather than travel to a different area. Therefore logging could have drastic effects on reproduction, by increasing birth intervals, due to lack of high quality food. For a species that already has extremely longer inter-birth intervals this is a very serious consequence.

Thank you!

Camera trap training workshop

Groups working together to protect and research Borneo means there can be an exchange of knowledge and techniques with others , to improve conservation – a vital part of conservation programmes and habitat protection.

This week, Dr Susan Cheyne, an OuTrop Director, lead a workshop on camera trap surveying. OuTrop are a scientific research NGO based in Palangka Raya.

Members from all three teams learning about the camera traps

Susan, along with the OuTrop/WildCRU camera trapping team were in Pangkalan Bun at the Yayorin office (in the same town as the Foundation’s office) to demonstrate within a training workshop. We are delighted to be collaborating with OuTrop and our partner organisation Yayasan Orangutan Indonesia (Yayorin) who will be placing camera traps in the Belantikan Forest in north Central Kalimantan. This group of three including the Foundation want to survey different forests with camera traps to see what biodiversity is out there!

Susan explaining about locations and the ‘camera grid’

The workshop was led by Dr Susan Cheyne and Wiwit Juwita Sastramidjaja. Present were representatives from Yayorin, Orangutan Foundation UK, local BKSDA (Indonesian Department of Nature Conservation) and Forestry. The workshop discussed the overall project and reasons for surveying different forests to determine the population distribution and density of different species as well as the practicalities of setting up camera traps in the field. Banteng (the endangered wild ox) is a particular focus of the survey, which lives in the Belantikan forest. Clouded leopards are going to be another focus of the surveying – all species seen will be documented. We are excited to see what we can find – collecting data like this provides the research which is an important tool to guide conservation management. The more the science community knows, the more can be done to protect areas and the species within them. The results with be shared with the local government to help protect Belantikan and gain new knowledge about all the wildlife in this remote ecosystem.

Scientific research grants from the Orangutan Foundation

The first research grant was given back in 1993 and since then we’ve supported projects that have varied widely on the species of Central Kalimantan. Projects have ranged from research into the biodiversity of fish in the Tanjung Puting National Park river , to groundbreaking orangutan behavioural projects. Some of these behavioural projects were the starting point to various research that is now full time. Indeed, many of our grant recipients have gone on to establish themselves as full time researchers and professors!

Pondok Ambung Research Site

Recently, the grants have been given solely to Indonesian students, increasing the way in which the Orangutan Foundation support and work with local communities to save biodiverse habitat, including the home of the glorious red ape. Recent studies include looking into the mating habits of proboscis monkey. This renowned species is classed as endangered, living along the riversides in the Tanjung Puting National Park and threatened by many of the same threats which are contributing to the decline of wild orangutans. In the past decade, we funded the study of the feeding behavior and estimated home ranges of released orangutans in the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve which we protect. This information is vital to all organisations who release orangutans to understand what fruit and types of habitat are preferred by rehabilitated individuals. If rehabilitated individuals remain unstressed when reintroduced to the wild – due to good quality, well chosen habitat – their chance of survival is greatly increased. For other titles of research projects, please see our website here

A team on a night research walk out of Pondok Ambung

Many of the projects are based at our research station – Pondok Ambung (please click) – located within Tanjung Puting National Park, sitting off the side of the beautiful Sekonyer Kanan black-water river. This station is newly refurbished with perfect facilities and dedicated staff-team to ensure any research conducted becomes an informative and enjoyable project! This national park facility has been developed and maintained by the Orangutan Foundation and was designed for visiting researchers to come and study the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

Biodiversity seen from Pondok Ambung

We are excited to see what future research will be supported by the Orangutan Foundation. As projects discover more and more, they also always contribute to protecting those all important areas for Indonesian’s biodiversity to flourish. 

Biodiversity seen from Pondok Ambung

Thank you for any support toward Orangutan Foundation’s research projects!

All in the day of an orangutan vet…

Jupe when she first joined us – Orangutan release

At the Orangutan Foundation, by the end of each day, hopefully we will have reached to you with stories of from the field, births, rescues, translocations, and recent research findings. But a day’s work can also include orangutans that have fallen sick. Of course, those events are just the beginning – constantly our teams are developing the Foundation’s efforts and working toward the prolonged health of forest habitat.

Recently an orangutan Jupe, a young female orangutan that was released on the first of July, was brought back to camp.  She was seen looking thin and weak. The vet examined her and conducted a faeces examination. There was no sign of parasitic worms, often a sign of sickness.  The vet prescribed a course of multivitamins and all signs are that she is recovering her energy. She was under the watchful eye of the camp staff, watched until she is well enough to be released again.

Jupe getting some extra care and healthy treatment – missing her wild forest…

The latest news is that she has been well enough to be re-released. She moved off so fast when released back into her protected forest home, that she left the staff far behind (as they tried to check her behaviour now back in the wild) !  Our staff will follow her for around a week to make sure she’s 100% OK on her own.

Unpredictable and new situations that require immediate judgment are of course common place in most places of work, but when the place of work is in the forests of Borneo, you have to add some extra unpredictability!Click here for more information on our work and our various sites.

Baby Boom!

Amoy and new born baby Alexi

Amoy-and-Alexi for baby story

Amoy and new born baby Alexi



Time for some most exciting news! In the past six months six babies have been born to reintroduced orangutans. One of them is Amoy, released ten years ago in Lamadau River Wildlife Reserve.





She appeared in June at Camp Gemini with her two-week-old infant, named Alexi by field staff.


Badut, another ex-captive, was seen on 24 August carrying an infant, recently named BB, and was followed by staff to make sure all was well. Then at Camp Buluh, a wild female orangutan was also seen carrying a baby. She didn’t like being close to humans and so was only followed for two days. We hope for long and healthy lives for these babies.

Those born to the ex-captives are a sign that released orangutans are able not only to survive in the wild but to able to reproduce. Most of their long childhood is spent without playmates of the same age. An infant clambers around on mother for the first few years, and she might play a little, but apart from an occasional encounter with another mother, for example at a heavily laden fruit tree, young orangutans simply don’t have the opportunity to play with friends of the same age.

Please find out more about the Foundation here!

More trees for another orangutan in Borneo…

That’s a house and that’s where the orangutan was!

On the 1st of November a member of a local village reported to BKSDA that there was orangutan in the land behind his house. This is a quite a residential location with not many trees within a small degraded swamp area, so BKSDA and the Foundation staff where a little surprised to hear about this lost individual! The team traveled there immediately but still arrived late in the evening and in the dark. According to the owner of the house, that is the only time he’s ever seen an orangutan nearby – it is certain that this individual traveled there because of the amount of encroachment and decreasing suitable areas of good forest habitat.

Just after the vet check up…

On arrival the team conducted a site analysis – getting to know the area and the terrain before trying to get to the orangutan. As it was dark and rather swampy, the team had to return early the next morning whilst the orangutan was just waking up, so they could locate the individual – orangutans tend to move more in the middle and at the end of the day so that is always a good plan! So at 4am the team were back with a torch and made note of some routes through the trees so that they can get to – and if needed chase – the orangutan safely. At 5.30 the orangutan was found just waking up, so the team started to encourage the orangutan toward a more isolated section of trees to ensure the individual wouldn’t be able to get away or cause the rescue to be any longer than needed. By 8.15 in the morning, the team had got the orangutan into a suitable tree and when at a suitable height in the tree, were able to dart the orangutan.

Can you spot the orangutan? This male was very quick up a tree after his release

Being released!

After a quick vet check at a base camp, noting the orangutan was a male around 10 years old, the individual was released into a proper forest home. From only a few tall trees to a whole forest of them – that’s got to result in one happy orangutan.

Awards galore…

As we continue to successfully release orangutans in Borneo, Foundation staff and trustee also had some great news this week.

Wawan and Ian Redmond both received prizes this week.

Wawan is one of the Foundation’s excellent team members in Borneo. Not only is he our financial officer, our skilled vet but also a very accomplished photographer.This week, we heard the fantastic news that he had been shortlisted with just eleven other entries in the Society of Biology annual photo competition. Based in London, the learned society had to pick just these twelve photos from almost 600 entries, all entered within the theme of ‘Feeding Life’.

wawan competition

‘Fight for live circle’ by Wawan – Orangutan Foundation

His entry was entitled ‘Fight for live circle’ for which he received a special mention! Ashley Leiman was able to attend the Award Ceremony in October and acknowledge Wawan’s special mention. The photo and shortlisted entries will now be displayed at the Royal Institution during Biology Week and at the Society of Biology’s Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons, as well as being printed in the Society of Biology’s 2014 calendar, which you will be able to view on their website soon. You can see the overall winners and read more on their website here.


Secondly, our friend and Foundation Trustee Mr Ian Redmond OBE won one of IFAW’s annual Animal Action Awards. The ceremony, presented by naturalist and broadcaster Bill Oddie, was hosted at the House of Lords by Baroness Gale. Working for over 30 years as a tropical field biologist and conservationist, with gorillas, elephants and apes, his efforts are well known. This week, these efforts were further acknowledged by receiving this ‘prestigious awards for their outstanding work from the International Fund for Animal Welfare’. Ashley Leiman attended the presentation with him… “The presentation went well and the award is very well deserved.”

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Photo by Ian Redmond

It’s always exciting when friends of the Foundation are recognised with awards. We hope all the friends of the Foundation will be recognised for their support of orangutans and their habitat in some small way. We can’t wait to congratulate the winners of our photography competition, running from the 11th up to and including the 17th of November – Orangutan Awareness Week! The 13th is Orange for Orangutans day, so take as many orange, awesome photos as you can and get them in to us via info@orangutan.org.uk – the winner will be announced before the end of November, to be acclaimed orangutan-photo royalty.