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… K Keno DSC_2794


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).

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! 


Meet our partner, Yayorin (Yayasan Orangutan Indonesia)

We would like to introduce Yayorin (Yayasan Orangutan Indonesia) a grass roots conservation NGO. Stephen has mentioned their work in this blog because Yayorin are our partners on various programmes including the Belantikan Conservation Programme (see sidebar categories). Yayorin are an inspiring and committed organisation and we have learnt a great deal from their work. Because of this we want you to hear more about what they do. Once a month they will post an update here and hopefully, if time and resources enable them, they can increase the frequency.

We value our partnership with Yayorin, which stems from our shared vision that nature conservation benefits local communities and that the promotion of this idea is reliant on an educational infrastructure at a local level. We fully support Yayorin’s education and awareness programme REASON (Raise Education and Awareness to Save Orangutan and Nature).

Kampung Konservais is a major component of REASON. Indonesian for Conservation Village, Kampung Konservasi is an intergrated environmental learning arena. Its purpose is to encourage learning about environmental conservation issues and to demonstrate sustainable, alternative income-generating activities for people who live close to the forests.

I haven’t been to Kampung Konservasi but those who have visited are captivated by the place. Here is a sneak preview (link to virtual tour). Sally Tirtadihardja, from Yayorin will blog about the goings on at Kampung Konservasi and I hope you will enjoy reading them, as much I will.

Many thanks,


Orangutan Foundation (UK)

Protecting the Belantikan forests and its orangutans.

Thank you Theresa S. and Faye B. for your most recent donations - your ongoing support is much appreciated. In the last few weeks we have received a few reports from the team in Belantikan on various fauna and flora that have been surveyed. They are really interesting so I'll post about these soon but first I would like to give you a proper introduction to this region and our work there as I have only mentioned Belantikan briefly before.

It is only in the last few years that the true extent of the Belantikan’s incredible biodiversity has been revealed. A survey, by Togu Simorangkir, in 2003, found an estimated 6,000 orangutans and a very high level of biodiversity– this is the third largest orangutan population in the world and the largest population outside of a protected area. These facts make Belantikan a high priority site for orangutan conservation.


Upland forest of the Belantikan Hulu

The Belantikan forests spread from the foothills of the Schwaner Mountains between the Arut region and the border of West Kalimantan (see map).

Central Kalimantan - where OF works

(Sorry about the quality of the map!!)

It is a spectacular place with steep cliffs and waterfalls. There are many rivers flowing through the valleys, including the main Belantikan River that flows into the Lamandau River. There are a variety of habitat types that includes lowland forests, swamp and upland forests thus creating a diverse range of ecosystems with abundant species of flora and fauna. Research into the biodiversity of the region has so far found; ten primate species (includes orangutans), seven of these species are listed as protected and four are endemic to Kalimantan (found nowhere else); 31 non-primate mammals species; 207 bird species; 32 amphibian species; 38 reptile species and 59 fish species. It is thought that there are many more species in Belantikan that haven’t yet been found. Installing camera traps in this area could help to reveal more species and previously undiscovered ones.

Orangutans in trees

The forests of Belantikan are a biodiversity hotspot and an estimated 6,000 orangutans are found there.

The Belantikan region belongs administratively to 13 villages, the Belantikan Raya District and the Central Kalimantan Province. The communties of Belantikan depend on the forest products, both timber and non-timber, for their livelihoods. They have a strong spiritual bond with the forest and unique traditional rituals and cultures.

Unfortunately Belantikan is under threat. It is not a protected area and currently most of the forested area of Belantikan is a logging concession. Gold mining used to occur but has now stopped, however, its impacts are still seen and felt by the local communities with some rivers having been badly polluted. Iron ore mining is now posing a real threat with licences for exploration having been awarded. If it goes ahead the consequences could be disastrous for this forest and its wildlife - this is a real worry and we are monitoring the situation very closely.

The Belantikan Conservation Programme (BCP) is a partnership between Yayorin (local NGO) and the Orangutan Foundation, and with an EC /UNEP/Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP) grant, we are actively involved in the conservation of this area and its large orangutan population. As I have mentioned Belantikan is owned by the local village communities, and ultimately, the fate of these forests are in their hands. We try to influence how the communities use and manage the forests by offering advice and demonstrating alternative income-generating solutions. Within the communities we are increasing conservation awareness and the recognition, of Belantikan, as an important resource for their future.


Rattan -being processed. Rattan is one of the main sources of income for local communities.

Balai Belajar

Balai Belajar -the training centre where the BCP team demonstrate sustainable agriculture and advise on other income generating techniques for the local communities.

This important orangutan population has just been found, and now we know it is there, we have to ensure its long-term survival and protect this invaluable ecosystem.

Reply to recent comments

Thanks as always for your encouraging comments. I'm just going to respond to a couple questions from my last few posts -sorry to be brief. I haven't seen Orangutan Island but I can see why its so popular. Orangutans are fascinating to watch - highly intelligent and very charismatic! We aren't affiliates of Orangutan Island, it is located about 400km east of us and is the only other rehabilitation centre in Kalimantan.

Chris, thank you very much for your support of our work, I agree Wildlife Direct is great way to keep people (and our members) informed. Thank you for your questions and I'll try to answer them. I would like to keep my blog just about my Orangutan Foundation work. Orangutans are much more interesting after all!

For those who might not know Dr Biruté Galdikas, here's a brief introduction. In 1971 Dr. Biruté Galdikas commenced her study of wild orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park, with the encouragement of the late, renowned Dr. Louis Leakey. Dr Galdikas is one of the world's leading experts on orangutans with her study well in to its third decade now.

Dr. Galdikas founded the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in 1986. The Orangutan Foundation (who I work for), was established a few years later in 1991, as an international chapter of the OFI. The Orangutan Foundation is a separate, independent organisation, working closely in certain areas with OFI for example; the protection of Tanjung Puting National Park and the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine facility.

Dr Galdikas is a professor at the Universitas Nasional in Jakarta and at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. When she is back in the field we meet up to discuss shared work plans, whether it be organising orangutan releases or the protection of Tanjung Puting National Park. However, a lot of my work is separate from OFI, such as the Lamandau Ecosystem Conservation Partnership and our work in the Belantikin Hulu region.


Working in Borneo

Wildlife Direct suggested I give you more information about my life working in conservation with orangutans, what it's like working as a conservationist, in the field, in Borneo compared with Africa. I will try to give you a better picture of what it is like working in Borneo, a "typical day" if you can call it that. Despite the impression you may have gathered from this blog, like many people in the world, I work in an office in the town of Pangkalan Bun and it feels like 90% of my time is devoted to emails and Excel spreadsheets. The Orangutan Foundation has a conscious policy of capacity building and investing in Indonesians, so I am the only expatriate employee. Indeed, I am the only westerner in town! I am responsible for project supervision and all English language communication, particularly reporting to donors. I have to make regular reports from the field to the overseas offices, disseminate information from those offices to the relevant people in Indonesia, and help with proposal writing and forward planning.

Naturally part of my job involves fundraising. I think like most field based people I get so convinced by the worth of the cause I struggle a bit to complete grant applications, especially those using buzz words, for example “Tell us about the multiplier effects of your planned project” (huh, we’re trying to multiply orangutans aren’t we?!) Crucially we have recently received large grants towards habitat protection work. For instance, the United Nations Environment Program with European Union funding supports our work in the Belantikan Hulu; this region contains the largest population of wild orangutans outside of a protected area. However, all of our orangutan rehabilitation work is funded from private donations and last year that cost over US$100,000. As the UK office has grown tired of telling me “Stephen, buying lottery tickets is not a sustainable fundraising strategy!”

The Orangutan Foundation office has a friendly relaxed atmosphere and is a lovely place to work from. There is a garden with a fish pond and mango, rambutan and banana trees, producing the most delicious fruit. The whole operations of the Foundation are co-ordinated from the office, we communicate by radio to all our field posts and my colleagues do a truly fantastic job. In the office there is Ully, the Office Manager; Astri, the Liaison Officer, who also helps me with this blog; Jak, the Patrol Manager; Teguh, the Guard Post Supervisor; Devis from Pondok Ambung and finally the Belantikan Conservation Programme team also work from the office. Tigor, who runs the Lamandau Rehabilitation Camps, works out of the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine facility (OCCQ). There are numerous powercuts in Pangkalan Bun and so those lucky enough to have a laptop, Jak, Asti and I, often giggle at the moans coming from the others when the power cuts out! When around the orangutans, or on patrol, we wear a uniform which helps the orangutans to recognise and distinguish between Foundation staff and other people who might pose a threat.

OF office PKB

Inside OF office PKB

Top photo - outside of the office. This photo -inside of the office

Teguh and I are the only Christians. The rest of the people in the office are Moslem & our field staff are a mix of Christian, Moslem and Dayak – which is useful as it means someone is always willing to work on one or other of the religious holidays. Jak and Teguh are married with two children each, Astri is married, Devis is too young, or so we tell him, and everyone is forever teasing Ully about when she’ll get married. However, given her IQ is about the twice that of the rest of us (probably combined) when the time comes, I have no doubt she’ll be the one doing the choosing.

Today was a fairly typical day: I was at the OCCQ just after 8 am, as I had to give the vets some darts (injectable syringes for their blow pipe) that have just been donated.

Orangutan at OCCQ

I also wanted to check on a female orangutan, Mumsie, who had been brought down from Lamandau suffering from suspected anaemia - blood loss possibly with malaria. Thankfully she is fine and, all being well, will be returned to the forest in a few days. I then went back to the office. For most of the day I continued writing up our 2007 Annual Report which, as it also has to be in Indonesian, Astri and I did together. The head of one of Tanjung Puting National Park’s management units stopped by to discuss plans for 2008. It was then back to my desk briefly before heading out in the afternoon with Jak to check on a new guard post we are building in Lamandau.

Guard post Gaja

River - lamandau

The new post site

This post, which will stop people using a river to enter the Reserve, is part funded by the Australian Orangutan Project and I need to update them on progress. We got back to town at 6.30pm and, after having fed myself, I am typing this at 8pm. I’ll stop soon!

Apart from us here in Indonesia, there is the UK Office without whose support none of this would be possible. I give them more problems than they deserve and still they continue to back us up 100%. For that I can not thank them often enough.

There are two other things that are probably worth saying about my work with orangutans; firstly, unlike just a few short years ago, the sense we have now is no longer of trying to stop orangutans from falling over the brink into extinction but in pulling them further away from the brink. Not everywhere – certainly not across their entire range – but in specific places we are well on the way to saving orangutans, and we should all feel good about that. Vigilance and on-going dedication is still needed; the fires of late 2006 threatened to undo all the gains we had made. Nevertheless, better to focus on the positives than the negatives.

Orangutan TPNP (Mark Fellows)

Orangutan in Tanjung Puting National Park (photo by Mark Fellows)

The second thing is that, partisan as I may be, the Orangutan Foundation is honest, and that is almost entirely due to the culture Ashley Leiman, the Orangutan Foundation Founder and Director, has established for the organisation. Of course, we’ll tell you our successes, but we’ll also be honest in saying when things don’t go well: in the middle of last year we managed to stop a palm-oil plantation from being established along Lamandau’s borders. But the year before, we failed to stop Tanjung Puting from losing some 5,000 + hectares.

In my blog I talk about my work with orangutans but it is not just saving orangutans. What is really great to think about is the incredible biodiversity (proboscis monkeys, gibbons, kingfishers and hornbills -I could go on and on!) found in their habitat that is also protected as a direct result of conserving a flagship species, the orangutan.

Saving Orangutans

It has just started to rain, which means it is bucketing down. The noise is deafening and Ully, our book keeper, has just pulled a face because she left her laundry outside when she came to work. Welcome to the rainy season in Borneo.

My name is Stephen Brend and I am the Orangutan Foundation’s Senior Conservationist here in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. I have never been much of a story writer so I am going to give away the punch-line straight off. We are here to save orangutans and to do that we need to save their habitat. In our blogs, you’ll read stories of individual orangutans and whole populations, but wherever the orangutans are and wherever we work the underlying context is always the same: to protect the rainforest.


Tanjung Puting National Park

Pressure on Indonesia’s forests comes in many forms: the rampant spread of oil-palm plantations, commercial logging, illegal logging, small scale agriculture and fire. Our work aims to tackle the threats directly, as when we evict illegal loggers from a National Park, and indirectly through education and rural livelihood programmes. We work both in protected areas and outside of them – perhaps as many as 60% of Indonesia’s remaining Bornean orangutans are in logging concessions. We have had successes and set backs. Illegal logging in Tanjung Puting National Park has almost been totally eradicated, but last year we had to fight widespread forest fires, the worst the country had seen in a decade. Increased awareness of global climate change has focussed the world’s attention on tropical forests, but has also increased demand for bio fuels, which in this part of the world translates as palm oil. Having managed to stop illegal logging in Tanjung Puting we now face plans to reduce the size of the Park to allow more plantations to be established.


Oil palm plantations within the Park’s borders

Also, behind the need to save the forests, is the need to save the orphaned orangutans who ultimately all come from the forests which have been lost. The number of orangutans in rehabilitation centres across Indonesia is a symptom of the rate of deforestation.


From total dependence on a human carer to having fun in the trees, where they belong!




I hope through our blogs you will come to understand how we work, how we pick and implement our projects and, perhaps most importantly, come to know our Indonesian team. My job here involves spending a lot of time in the field, often up to my waist in swamp water, but I consider those the good days! The truth is it is my colleagues who do the real work. It is their incredible effort and commitment which makes the long term survival of the orangutan a real possibility and should give us all reason for hope rather than despair. It certainly does me.

So here’s a brief outline of the Orangutan Foundation’s main programmes and areas of work:

Tanjung Puting National Park (TPNP) covers 416,000 hectares and is one of the world's largest areas of peat swamp and heath forest. It has over 4,000 wild orangutans – one of the largest remaining populations. The Park is critical for the conservation of orangutans.


Guard post in TPNP

In Tanjung Puting, OF supports guard posts to prevent illegal activities and help emphasise that the park is being constantly monitored. Also, in the Park we manage the Camp Leakey Information Centre and Pondok Ambung Tropical Forest Research Station, which form part of our commitment to encouraging scientific research and developing ecotourism.

Lamandau Wildlife Reserve covers an area of about 76,000 hectares was created out of two former logging concessions. It was designated as a conservation area by the Indonesian Government in 1998. Lamandau is the release site for orangutans that have been rehabilitated at the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine (OCCQ) facility. Lamandau is protected by a network of guard posts and patrols, and around the reserve we have community outreach programmes.


Stephen guiding a rehabilitated orangutan back to the wild – release site Lamandau Wildlife Reserve

The Belantikan Conservation Programme (BCP). The Belantikan region is home to the largest orangutan population outside of a protected area. Unfortunately, the area is almost totally given over to active logging concessions. This programme is designed to help conserve the region though engagement of the local people, district Government and the loggers. BCP is a partnership between Yayorin (local NGO) and OF. The BCP team have established a strong presence in the region, and have developed good relationships with the local Government and logging companies.



Belantikan - upland forest


BCP is vital by itself, but its importance is increased by the fact that the Belantikan region is representative of upland forest areas in Kalimantan, and is categorised as both "critical orangutan habitat" and "High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF)". If we can establish a model for habitat conservation here, the implications are hugely encouraging. However, Belantikan may soon be threatened by mining following the award of licences for iron-ore 'exploration' (possibly a legal euphemism for what will turn out to be extraction).