Fish lend a helpping... fin!

Fish are helping both the orangutans and Orangutan Foundations work...Only when we know what ’s there can we monitor what's happening to it. Now the focus is on the life-giving Sekonyer river in Tanjung Puting...

Gold mine run off pollution in the Sekonyer River. The health of the fish depends on the quality of the water.

Gliding through the waters of the Sekonyer River, one of the natural borders of Tanjung Puting National Park, many a traveller with the Orangutan Foundation has been entertained with stories of what lurks beneath their boat. But it’s not just the crocodiles that deserve our attention. One of the three research grants given by the Foundation and the national park in 2012 funded an investigation into the variety of fish species in the Sekonyer and one of its tributaries, the Sekonyer Kanan. Despite being part of the same river, the water conditions offer a strong contrast. The main Sekonyer suffers from pollution from an illegal gold mine in the park, visible even to the untrained eye in its far muddier, more opaque colour. From the six sampling sites, three in each section of the river, 42 species were identified, through body shape, length and height, the type and colour pattern of the scales and the shape of the fin and tailfin. Sketches were made of each fish and compared to those in guide books or previous research. Such research allows us to see the effect of water conditions on the fish – and therefore on the river ecosystem, which in turn affects the park itself.

Additionally, the education and outreach has been expanded and further contributes to capacity building via the fish ponds, built at Kampung Konservasi...
Aquaponic Demonstration Plot

These are the 'patin' fish that are very good to it.

The Foundation has always committed to ongoing community development. As part of this, Yayorin (Indonesian NGO and longer time partners of the Foundation) decided to develop an aquaponic demonstration plot on Kampung Konservasi’s conservation village. Aquaponics by definition is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics.

The making of the fish pond using sand sacks


Since the construction, the ponds have been improved with bamboo guttering. The ponds have a high capacity to sustain a medium sized population grew well.

the finished fish pond complete with filtration system

The main reason Yayorin did this was because there was quite a large area of peat swamp behind Kampung Konservasi - so the ponds seemed like a very good idea. Rice and vegetables wouldn't grow in that type of soil...

"As we already had two fish ponds, we thought an aquaponic demonstration plot was an ideal new development. The water that the fish live in becomes very rich in nutrients. It is then pumped from the fish pond into an organic bed, where plants growing extract the nutrients from the water. The water then drains back into the fish pond cleaned of excess nutrients and freshly oxygenated. It was a new concept of agriculture and would be something very interesting to try." Says Eddy , Yayorin staff.

the staff collecting the proportion of the population to be sold at market

This is where the filtration occurs

Children learning about the fish crop

From this, people are learning and later adopting these techniques on their own land. On average so far, 15 groups or individuals have taken the lessons learnt and put them into (continuing!) practice in their respective locations. The facilities at Yayorin now have a fantastic reputation within the local and surrounding communities. How amazing that fish , with a little hard work, can provide such a helping 'hand'.


What is Kampung Konservasi and why did we fund them?

Education continues to be highly important to Orangutan Foundation which is why we are exceptionally proud to be supporting an innovative project that appeals to both children and adults on the outskirts of Pangkalan Bun. Here, Yayorin (our long term Indonesian partners) have established their Conservation Village or Kampung Konservasi, a large, dynamic environmental education complex. There is a covered outdoor learning centre (made from coconut trees), alternative agricultural demonstration plots, fish ponds, a nursery, medicinal plant garden, a small children’s camping ground and composting facility.

The fantastic news is that having funded Kampung Konservasi from it's inception in 2006, through to 2012, the project is now sustainable. Funding the Foundation receives can go on to develop Yayorin's work based outside of Kampung Konservasi. This sustainability shows how much the local communities needed and now highly value Yoyorin's resources and outreach.

Yayorin run three integrated programmes based around Kampung Konservasi: Conservation Education, Alternative Agriculture and Sustainable Fish Farming. The Conservation Education Programme incorporates the library, puppet shows, theatre, field trips, school partnerships and extra curricular activities. There have been many visits from local schools where they grasp concepts such as rubbish recycling and they are encouraged to decorate the theatre with “hope leaves” with well wishes to the surrounding environment.

The Alternative Agriculture programme has introduced concepts such as basic agriculture using the demonstration plots reflecting Yayorin’s commitment to finding alternatives to current traditional farming methods which are still essentially based around slash and burn agriculture.












Small-scale vegetable production (their tomatoes have proved incredibly popular!) and full-scale sustainable agriculture have been developed. There is also an Aquaponic Demonstration Plot introduced following a visit to a Sumatran NGO project. Two fishponds pump nutrient-rich fish water from the fishponds into an organic plant bed where plants/vegetables extract the nutrients from the water. Then the water, cleared from excessive nutrients and freshly oxygenated, drains back into the fishpond. Some claimed fish could not be farmed in acidic peat-swamp water, however, these fish are growing fast. As Kampung Konservasi’s manager, Sally Tirtadihardja, says, “One of our biggest successes has been proving people wrong!”

Funded by various groups, Kampung Konservasi support the implementation of educational activities and facilitate the provision of learning activities and the environment and sustainable agriculture. In the period from January to May 2012, Kampung Konservasi created strategies to optimize the learning environment as an arena so that more people receive the benefits of this project. Relationships with local universities in  Pangkalan Bun, a forum and invite students from schools assisted or not to discuss and address many areas of conservation, to enable more regular classes with a fresh approach to learning methods, as a speaker at one of the agencies local government, as in activities of the cadre West Kotawaringin Environment Body and Adiwiyata School (School-based environment) held West Kotawaringin Environment Body.

We can't wait to hear what Yayorin get up to next at Kampung Konservasi !


Yayorin's mobile conservation bus

We recently received a comment from Dwi Triyanto asking about Yayorin's mobile bus. Eddy Santoso, from Yayorin, has sent this short update. You can find out more about Yayorin's inspiring work on their Facebook page.

'Yayorin's Mobile Bus has been busy ferrying various organisations including the Indonesian Forestry Department's fire-fighting agency (Manggala Agni), Agency for Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA Kalteng SKW II) and students from the Conservation Club of 3 high schools in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.  The groups all assisted with reforestation in Tanjung Keluang Natural Tourism Park, where hawksbill turtles and green turtles lay their eggs.

In April and May of this year the bus transported the public to plant trees as part of Earth Day and also took students from a local school to the forests of Tanjung Puting National Park. Last month, the bus transported 180 student from Pangkalan Bun to Yayorin's Sustainable Integrated Agriculture Learning Centre at the village of Sungai Sintuk for a 3 day field trip. The bus is out and about spreading Yayorin's message 'People need the forests, forests need orangutans'."

If you are interested in sponsoring Yayorin's mobile bus then please contact us for further information or visit their Facebook page.

Thank you for your continued interest and support,

Orangutan Foundation

Our Earth Day Celebrations.

On the 22nd April Orangutan Foundation and Yayorin celebrated Earth Day with students from various schools at Sukamara, which lies close to the western part of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. Earth Day

Together with the Yayorin Education Team, the school children took part in a full-day of activities, starting with ‘socialization’ or getting to know each other through a series of games, stickers and magazine were distributed. As well, it wouldn’t be Earth Day without any seedlings being planted! Together, the students planted 60 seeds from four indigenous plants at the Danau Burung Post.

Earth Day

The day ended with a film screening open to all, regardless of age, of various environment-related films, including a popular local film called “Laskar Pelangi” or Rainbow Warriors.

Environment related film screenings

Environmental film screenings



“If you had to know about me” by June Rubis (Orangutan Foundation’s Programme Manager)

The blog powers-to-be, who with an iron fist, gently encourages me to update on a regular basis, has informed me that a blog post featuring myself would be ‘interesting’. Alas, dear readers, because our vet has been busy in the field, and has not written new blog posts for a few weeks (which reminds me, I need to show him my own iron fist), and Stephen has left, leaving a vacuum of wrestling with crocodiles and dancing with orangutans blog posts, you now have to learn more about me. Born and raised in Malaysian Borneo, I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged a love of reading. We had subscriptions to the National Geographic, Asiaweek, etc, all of which opened my mind to various global points-of-views. This was vital after all, I was living in a very government-controlled media, and the internet was still birthing. In the early 90’s, western environmentalists descended upon Sarawak to protest against logging. They chained themselves to tractors, they waved banners, and told us to save our rainforests. The local media mocked them, and made comments about their ‘obese size’. I, in return, was fascinated by the non-rebuttal the local media had, against these westerner’s claims.

I knew early on in my teens, that I wanted a career in conservation. If you would ask me what my defining moment was, I would say that it would be the early 90’s furore of early environmentalism, of the world’s spotlight onto Sarawak and its logging practices, and treatment of indigenous peoples, particularly the Penans.

After my BSc. studies (in Biological Sciences) from Simon Fraser University, I was fortunate to be selected for a summer internship at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. I missed my graduation for this opportunity and have no regrets! However, I knew then that I wanted to return home and work in conservation, particularly orangutan conservation.

When I returned to Sarawak, I started working for Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia, as a field assistant, and working my way up to full-time researcher. I worked for WCS for over seven years, of which most of those years was spent surveying wild orangutans in Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary. Orangutan Foundation UK by the way, was responsible in giving my first grant to survey wild orangutans! I am grateful in coming full circle with this organization.

I was also very interested in the human face of conservation, other than wildlife research, so spent those same years, volunteering for a local nature society. Over time however, I became more sympathetic of the indigenous peoples struggles to save their lands from encroachment, and often being displayed as the bad guy by both sides! It was also personal because my peoples are the Krokong Bidayuh, which is a very small minority of Sarawak’s ethnic groups. My family’s continuing work to help preserve our culture through documentation, inspired me to seek other conservation opportunities, where there is a sincere collaboration with the local peoples.

I’ve always kept an eye on the Orangutan Foundation (OF), and its growth over the years. One thing that intrigued me was its close partnership with a strong local community organization, Yayorin. I value that OF recognizes its strengths, but also acknowledges that it can’t do all well hence entrusting the community work to a strong, committed organization. Believe me, Yayorin is a wholly equal partner to the work that we do, and I am fascinated that despite the seemingly clashing differences (i.e. conservation and locals people's needs), OF and Yayorin are able to work as one, for similar goals. This was the opportunity I was searching for after I left WCS Malaysia (a wonderful and strong research organization by the way), and am thusly very grateful.

These last couple of months with OF have been very fulfilling and educational, and although I haven’t had the chance to jump in crocodile-infested rivers (although according to my culture, the crocodile is one of our ancestors so technically, I ought to be ok) or have other exciting field stories (current work demands my time at the OF office, and government offices), I promise perhaps one day, I'll tell you about the time I was chased by a sunbear and came face-to-face with a 3 metre albino python. Or the time where I was less than a metre away on being grabbed by a wild male adult orangutan in the wilds of Lanjak-Entimau, Sarawak. The time I almost danced with an orangutan.