The Plight of Pongo Pygmaeus

We would like to share this post written by Justin Wateridge, Managing Director of Steppes Travel.

On Thursday many young people – perhaps a child, grandchild, niece or nephew of yours – received their A level results, but what does the future hold for them?
Perhaps not one with pongo pygmaeus.

To you and me that is the Bornean orangutan which is now feared to have less than 50,000 individuals and hence last year it was listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the highest risk category. We hear much in the news about elephant ivory, rhino horn and the hunting of lions but little or nothing of the enigmatic man of the forest.

Yet every year orangutan populations are threatened because of their habitat, low-lying tropical rainforest, is being destroyed and converted to oil palm plantations. Orangutans and the majority of biodiversity supported by tropical rainforests cannot co-exist with oil palm plantations. The use of fire to clear land for plantations is an additional risk to an already serious threat.

An encroaching human population is adding to the orangutans’ habitat loss. Last year the Orangutan Foundation rescued many more threatened animals than they have before – only half of these were orangutans, the rest were a diverse range of forest creatures including sun bears, leopard cats and slow loris.

Having just come back from Indonesian Borneo, I met with the inspiring Ashley Leiman on Wednesday to see what more Steppes Travel could do to support the Orangutan Foundation UK the only one of six orangutan agencies in the UK that has permanent projects of the ground.

Given that today is International World Orangutan Day I would urge you to think about what you can do to help, either directly via the Orangutan Foundation’s website or better still by travelling with your family as I did to see orangutans in situ or join our revamped Orangutan Conservation tour.

Yes you can see orangutans in this country but only in a handful of zoos – Blackpool, Chester, Colchester, Durrell and Twycross and we believe there is no substitute for doing so in the wild.

Participants of the Steppes Travel Borneo group tour will be joined by an expert from the Orangutan Foundation, offering exclusive insight into our conservation projects taking place in Central Kalimantan.

Alternatively, you can support our Forest Restoration Programme in Indonesian Borneo by purchasing a copy of our book: “The Orangutan’s World“.  

The Orangutan's World - available for purchase

This wonderful book provides a glimpse into the world of the orangutan through a collection of photographs of the flora and fauna found in Indonesian Borneo.

Orangutan Foundation on alert for forest fires

Orangutan Foundation have been tackling fires only a few kilometres from the boundary of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, home to some 500 critically endangered Bornean orangutans and many other threatened species. Our committed team of Indonesian staff are working with the Indonesian Wildlife Department and the local community to extinguish the fires.

Fire close to the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve August 2017 © Orangutan Foundation

The threat of forest fires is returning as the dry season in Central Kalimantan continues and 2017 looks set to be one of the hottest years on record.

We are prepared and are on alert to ensure these fires do not spread. All of our guard posts store fire fighting equipment and we have supported fire fighting training.

Fighting fires on the boundary of Lamandau Wildlife Reserve © Orangutan Foundation

We have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by fires. During October 2015, fires in Tanjung Puting National Park and the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve burnt through thousands of acres of forests. The clip below, with Indonesian text, highlights the problem.

 

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Forest and land fires can be prevented if all parties support and commit to not burning the forest and land for any purpose.

Support our vital work to ensure a future for orangutans, forests and people.

DONATE NOW

 

A family adventure in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

We are delighted to share this post written by Justin Wateridge, Managing Director of Steppes Travel.

A family adventure in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

“Can we hold one of the baby orangutans?”

“You can’t hold them. That wouldn’t be right. They need to be released into the wild when they are older and they must not become too habituated to people.” I beamed with pride at the grown-up and correct response from my eight-year old son.

Just hours earlier we had flown into Pangkalan Bun, the southernmost airport of the massive island of Borneo and the access point to Tanjung National Park, home to the man of the forest, the orangutan. Before journeying into Tanjung Puting we were fortunate enough to be visiting Lamandau Wildlife Reserve at the personal invitation of the Orangutan Foundation UK.

Arrival in Pangkalan Bun

Yet at the time, standing at the dock in Pangkalan Bun, I sense the mood of the team was not one of being lucky. The vagaries of flight timings in a remote part of Indonesia and our misconceived western obsession with punctuality meant that we were late and tired. Our mood reflected the grey skies above. The four speedboats bobbing precariously in the water did little to alleviate the temper of the Mums, the drops of rain only further dampened spirits.

However, twenty minutes out of Pangkalan Bun we turned off the brown sludge of the wide and featureless Kumai River and headed up the much smaller and altogether more exciting Arut River. The speedboats raced along the black tannin river which was only several meters wide, hemmed in by a riot of vegetation. Slaloming through the foliage of the forest in the hope that the river did not have a two-way traffic system was adrenalin-charged. Parents likened it to the Bond film ‘Live and let die’ and children to Willie Wonka’s glass elevator; both found it exhilarating.  Read more…

 

Vote for orangutans

We are delighted that today’s blog post is by Julia Cissewski founder of the German charity Orangutans in peril.   Please take a few seconds to vote for Julia and help win €30,000 for orangutans.

On 14 July, I visited the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, Central Kalimantan. Our German charity Orang-Utans in Not e.V. (Orangutans in peril, www.orang-utans-in-not.org/en/) has been supporting the Orangutan Foundation’s enrichment planting and forest restoration there for several years.

Julia and Pak Ade at Camp Rasak, Lamandau Wildlife Reserve

After a week of intermittent rain, we enjoyed a beautiful sunny morning and first travelled by boat from the town of Pangkalan Bun to Camp Rasak in the Reserve.

Journey by river into the Reserve

There we visited the enrichment planting area. I last went there in 2012 and now was delighted to see the progress that has been made. The little fruit trees will later serve to feed orangutans in the area.

Pak Ade and Julia visiting the areas of forest being replanted.

Afterwards we went by boat to Camp Gemini to watch the feeding of released orangutans. The weather kept and it got rather hot. We thus were glad to reach the cover of the release site. At the feeding station we observed several females with their babies, a moving experience. The babies were born in the wild and show the success of the release programme.

Young orphaned orangutans are cared for and develop the skills for living back in the wild

Feeding site for released orangutans.

On our way back to Pangkalan Bun we saw several Proboscis monkeys, watching us rather unimpressed from the trees on the river bank. We arrived in Pangkalan Bun when the sun was setting. It was a wonderful day and we gave our thanks to Pak Ade, the program manager, and the other Orangutan Foundation staff. They are doing such great work in Lamandau and we are very much looking forward to our future cooperation.

The endemic proboscis monkey on the river edge

I suppose I should mention that I was accompanied by a film crew who were filming for the German magazine “Bild der Frau”. This magazine each year awards prizes to five women running German charities. And in 2017 I am one of them. You can help us gain an additional award of 30,000€ (!) for the orangutans. This award is given to the organization that can raise most votes by October 21, 2017. Every vote counts:
https://www.orang-utans-in-not.org/en/goldene-bild-der-frau
Thank you very much for your support!

Julia

Video: Dramatic orangutan rescue

This video shows the challenges faced by our staff when rescuing orangutans:

On the 3rd July, our staff received reports from the Wildlife Department (BKSDA) of yet another orangutan that had been found in community land.  At that stage they had no idea of the difficulty of the terrain and where or what condition they would find the orangutan in.  After preparing the anesthesia, our staff set off to the rescue location.

OF staff making their way to the rescue location. © Orangutan Foundation

OF staff encountered difficult terrain to reach the orangutan. © Orangutan Foundation

It soon became clear this was going to be difficult. They had to cut through dense undergrowth to reach the orangutan, which was high up in a tree. Our anaesthetist had to climb up a tree to get a clear sight of the ape before firing the dart gun.  The staff, ready at the bottom of the tree with a net, caught the orangutan as it fell. Our vet was waiting to assess the orangutan, who was a female of around 20 years. Sadly though, he discovered previous injuries to her back and chest, which would require treatment.

OF vet performing the initial check up. © Orangutan Foundation

The orangutan was named Karin and on returning from the rescue location she was examined and given treatment for her wounds.

Translocating Karin to Camp Gemini. © Orangutan Foundation

After recovering from her ordeal, Karin was taken to Camp Gemini, an orangutan release site, in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve (Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo). Once Karin’s wound has healed she will be free to live back in the wild again.

Karin recovering in her enclosure at Camp Gemini. © Orangutan Foundation

The loss of forest is causing orangutans to come into contact with humans as never before. Support the protection of Karin’s future forest home and become a Guardian of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

Thank you.

Two orangutans born within two months

Newborn orangutan Dublin with mother Dedek, living in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. © Orangutan Foundation

We have seen two orangutan births in less than two months. Why is this significant and a reason to celebrate?  Orangutans are critically endangered, a recent report found that orangutan populations on Borneo have declined by 25% over the last 10 years. A shocking statistic. However, in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, orangutan numbers are increasing. Many orangutans now living in this protected forest reserve were rescued as their forest home was destroyed around them or they were orphaned because their mothers had been killed. With our supporter’s generous help we have been able to give them a second chance to live in the wild and they are thriving.

Newborn orangutan Dublin with mother Dedek. © Orangutan Foundation

Volvo was born to rescued mother orangutan, Venty, at the end of May and our most recent newborn is Dublin (named after Dublin Zoo’s recent visit), born to ex-captive mother orangutan, Dedek.

Bornean orangutan, Dedek with her newborn baby, Dublin.© Orangutan Foundation

Female orangutan, Venty with her newborn Volvo. © Orangutan Foundation

Help us to protect this wildlife reserve and keep the orangutans and other wildlife that live here safe and free. Become a Guardian of Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

Thank you for your ongoing support,

Orangutan Foundation

 

Indonesia’s future wildlife conservationist

Orangutan Foundation hosted 53 visiting Indonesian students from Bogor Agricultural University in June.

Students from Bogor Agricultural Univeristy at Pondok Ambung Research Station, Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan. June 2017.

Ashley Leiman OBE, Orangutan Foundation Director, greeted the students at our research station in Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).  The students were studying Silviculture. The name comes from the Latin silvi meaning forest and culture as in growing.

Providing opportunities and the facilities for Indonesian students to study tropical forests is not only vital for the future of the country’s forests and people but is for orangutans too. A recent article in the journal Nature Scientific Report stated that ‘Orangutan populations on Borneo have declined at a rate of 25% over the last 10 years’.  If we are to truly tackle this problem we have to think long-term. The future of orangutans ultimately rests in the hands of the Indonesian people.

Exchange of gifts with Bogor Agricultural University students. June 2017

Please donate to support our work – a future for orangutans, forests and people.

Thank you,

Orangutan Foundation

 

Community Outreach in Tanjung Puting National Park

On the 22nd May, Orangutan Foundation field staff teamed up with Orangutan Green Teams and conservation cadets FK31 to run awareness activities with Sekonyer Village, within Tanjung Puting National Park. The primary aim of the activities was to educate and support the villagers activities to help protect the critically endangered orangutan and its threatened forest habitat.

Community outreach is a cornerstone of the Orangutan Foundation’s work in Indonesian Borneo.

©Orangutan Foundation. Children participated in activities to learn about the importance of protecting the orangutan’s forest home.

©Orangutan Foundation.

©Orangutan Foundation.

©Orangutan Foundation.

A variety of activities ensued, which included painting the village library and distributing books, as well as games for the children. The aim was to encourage members of the village to support ecotourism in the area as an alternative to habitat destruction.

©Orangutan Foundation. Signs have been put up around the village to encourage villagers to conserve the forest.

©Orangutan Foundation.

As OF Research Manager Arie reports “We need more…to keep these activities running…support the people of Sekonyer Village! We stand together…”

©Orangutan Foundation.

It is vital we reach out to local communities around areas of protected tropical forest habitat in order to ensure a future for orangutans, forests and people.

©Orangutan Foundation. Orangutan Foundation donated a number of books to the village library.

Please donate today to support the Orangutan Foundation’s community work in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.

Orangutan, Bumi, Rescued With Bullet Wounds

©Orangutan Foundation.   Bumi was being kept in poor conditions.

On 19th June 2017, BKSDA informed our field staff that they had just confiscated an orangutan from people who had been keeping it as a pet in a nearby village. This orangutan was entrusted into the care of the Orangutan Foundation.

The male orangutan was named Bumi (which means Earth in English) and was estimated to be about 3 and a half years old.

©Orangutan Foundation.  Vets checked Bumi for any signs of injury or illness

Our vet checked Bumi’s health and overall condition, which proved quite difficult as he wouldn’t stay still! He was anesthetized as it was vital that he was looked over thoroughly for any injuries or illness.

©Orangutan Foundation.  Locating bullets in Bumi’s body.

During the assessment, bullets were discovered in Bumi’s body. We are uncertain of the origin of the bullets, but it is likely a result of people attempting to shoot the mother to obtain the infant.

This, tragically, is how most orangutans enter our Soft-Release Programme.

©Orangutan Foundation.  Bumi was given de-worming medication and vitamins.

In total, 7 bullets were removed from Bumi’s body. Bumi was given health supplements, and once he’d recovered from the operation, he was ready to join our Soft-Release Programme.

©Orangutan Foundation.  Bumi was taken down river to Camp Rasak

Bumi was taken to Camp Rasak in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, Indonesian Borneo. Here he will be cared for alongside Endut, an orangutan of a similar age also rescued from being kept as a pet last March.

Staff report that since settling in Bumi appears to have a good appetite and has already displayed nest-making skills.

©Orangutan Foundation. Bumi tucking into fruit in his enclosure.

Watch this clip to see Bumi showing off his skills:

Please DONATE today to support the progress of Bumi and the other orangutans currently in our Soft-Release Programme.

 

Orangutan Foundation Welcomes New Arrival

In September 2015, Central Kalimantan was hit by major forest fires. Many orangutans needed rescuing from areas of burning forest and community land.

©Orangutan Foundation

©Orangutan Foundation

One such orangutan was Venty, a 29 year old female orangutan, named after a student who was doing research on orangutans in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve at the time. Venty and her 6 year old offspring (named Vania) were rescued from an oil palm plantation and released by Camp Buluh in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

©Orangutan Foundation

Both are now in good health and are still frequently seen in the area. As shared yesterday, field staff have informed us that Venty gave birth on 25th May to an infant they have named Volvo.

©Orangutan Foundation

 

©Orangutan Foundation

Venty has been seen around camp since the birth to show off her new arrival.

©Orangutan Foundation

Welcome Volvo to the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve!

Would you like to play an active part in the protection of Volvo’s tropical forest home?

Become a guardian of Lamandau and help us ensure a future for orangutans, forests and people. Click here for more information.