TOP Supported ProjectsTOP currently supports a variety of projects in Borneo & Sumatra, Indonesia. A summary can be found below with links to more detailed information on each project.
Meet some of our project leaders view profiles.100% if all Donations and Adoption go to the field to help orangutans. All funds are administered by experienced expert conservationists that ensure that money helps orangutans. We have a big impact in the field and our activities has a multiplication of effects helping local communities, biodiversity and other wildlife.
Project Leader Gary Shapiro
The Mobile Education & Conservation Unit (MECU), created in 2009, is used to deliver targeted conservation education in remote areas around the Gunung Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra where human/ape conflict exists. The team also conducts conservation related programs benefiting ape survival.
The project’s intent is to provide a multipurpose, reliable vehicle for educators and conservation specialists of the Orangutan Caring Club of North Sumatra to access locations near orangutan habitat in order to:
- deliver education programmes regarding orangutan, wildlife, environment and conservation to local villagers, and
- transport young trees to areas adjacent to orangutan habitat that require reforestation.
The focus will be to address conflict issues specific to living within close proximity of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, as well as the endangered Lar gibbon and Siamang. Additional focus will be placed on enrolling and engaging the villagers in tree planting to rehabilitate degraded orangutan and other wildlife habitat which also has the benefit of revitalising forests and preventing floods.
It is predicted that the MECU programme will promote humane conflict mitigation strategies between apes and villagers. Thus a reduction in the level of violence between orangutans and humans is anticipated along with a decline in the incidence of illegal trading of the species.
Project Leader Dr Ian Singleton
Batu Mbelin is the only quarantine and care centre for the Sumatran orangutan. It is located near Medan in North Sumatra and was opened in 2002. Illegally held orangutans confiscated in Sumatra are taken to the Batu Mbelin Orangutan Quarantine Centre. Many have been kept as pets or have been injured by palm oil plantation workers. Orangutans are given a full medical check upon arrival and treated for any illnesses and parasites. They undergo a quarantine period before being introduced to other compatible orangutans.
Many confiscated orangutans are very young and require regular milk feeds. Young orangutans have full time carers during the day and night and are also given tree climbing lessons in the grounds. When orangutans are deemed suitable for release they are either sent to the Bukit Tigapuluh release site in the province of Jambi or to the Jantho Reintroduction centre in the province of Aceh.
It costs approximately $200,000 AUD per annum to run the Batu Mbelin Quarantine Centre. Costs include staff salaries, orangutan confiscation costs, transportation costs, orangutan food, orangutan medical costs, food for staff and maintenance work.
Project Leader Ashley Leiman
Camp Rasak is located in the north-east of the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve in Central Kalimantan. It is one of six monitoring release sites in the Lamandau Reserve. Camp Rasak was built in 2005 and has functioned since 2006. The camp includes two main buildings, staff accommodation including bathroom facilities and a dining room. Two wells have been dug to provide clean water. As with the other camps in Lamandau, there are cages for orangutans during soft releases and treatment cages for orangutans that may become unwell and need medical treatment.
Since January 2006, more than 22 ex-captive orangutans have been reintroduced to the wild. Most of the females have reproduced and have successfully reared their young. This confirms Camp Rasak as an ideal location for orangutan releases. In addition to the released ex-captive orangutans, there are more orangutans in the soft release programme. There have also been numerous female orangutans that have ‘adopted’ an orphaned orangutan, usually between the ages of two to five years old. They have allowed these young orangutans to travel, forage and sleep with them which provides excellent assistance to their adaptation to the wild. Over 47 orangutan food trees have been identified in the forest around Camp Rasak. With this good food source the orangutans are able to survive in the wild without being reliant on additional feeding.
With its experience of soft releases and adoptions, Camp Rasak is one of the pivotal release sites within the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve. More orangutans are being rescued due to increased habitat destruction and consequently the pressure on camps such as Rasak will increase. The funding of these release camps and guard posts is crucial in maintaining the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve as a safe haven for the reintroduction of orangutans back to the wild.
Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation are the major threats to orangutan survival. In Sabah, Malaysia,35% of orangutan habitat has been lost since the early 1980’s. In August 2005, a broken stretch of forest made up of 12 parcels (mostly isolated from each other), covering about 26,000 ha and lying along the Kinabatangan River was officially gazetted as the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS). However, this forested corridor is bordered by growing human activities, both by local communities and extensive oil palm plantations.
Former habitat reduction and fragmentation have resulted in many environmental issues, such as an increased rate of wildlife conflicts, pollution, depletion of timber and wildlife resources and lack of space to develop new economical activities. It is feared that the always-increasing human pressure on the last remaining natural resources of this floodplain might jeopardize the viability of these habitats.
Since 2005, the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP) has collaborated with the Sabah Wildlife Department to elect members of local communities to be directly involved in the conservation and management of the LKWS by becoming ‘Honorary Wildlife Wardens’. These wardens are able to enforce laws and apprehend offenders when necessary.
The Wildlife Warden teams monitor and protect the wildlife and habitat within the Sanctuary and they also engage in community outreach and conservation programmes in the area. Vigilance is critical to ensuring the maintenance of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and its orangutan population. Wardens play a critical ‘on ground’ role in ensuring encroachment, illegal logging and other human activities are identified swiftly and responded to with appropriate law enforcement.
Project Leader Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez
In 2010, 24 hectares of land was purchased in Ketapang, West Kalimantan to build an Orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centre for orangutans that had lost their forest habitat in the province of West Kalimantan. The aim is to rehabilitate the rescued orangutans and release them into protected areas of forest.
The new facility contains a fully equipped clinic for orangutans, a quarantine facility for infants and adults, socialization cages for adult orangutans, open enclosures for the rehabilitation of orangutans, an office and an education centre. 90% of the purchased land is forested. This forest provides an excellent way to provide a natural environment for the rehabilitation of the orangutans, allowing them to learn vital survival skills prior to being released back into the wild. 1 ha forested enclosures have been constructed to house orangutans being rehabilitated for release. Such enclosures also provide an easy way to monitor the development of an orangutan in a semi-natural environment.
One of the biggest problems faced when reintroducing animals to the wild that have spent considerable time in captivity is their inability to be able to recognise available food sources, especially during seasonal variations. Wild orangutans eat hundreds of different plant species and they change their diet according to the season and food availability to survive. Orangutans predominantly feed on high calorie fruits during the fruiting season but must rely on eating other food sources such as leaves and cambium when fruit is scarce.
The aim is now to purchase further forested land that borders the centre so larger semi-natural enclosures can be constructed. These forested enclosures will be enriched with known orangutan food trees so the orangutans undergoing release training will gain some knowledge of the wild food sources that are available to eat in the forest. If this extra land is purchased, it will also allow an orangutan food tree plantation to be established. This will supply food for the captive orangutans, thus reducing the operational cost for food and it will create a sustainable financial source for the centre.
Project Leader Simon Husson
Long-term research activities in the Sabangau peat swamp include work to monitor orangutan population, behaviour, diet and health, plus habitat quality and orangutan food availability. This work is important for understanding both how orangutans survive in logged and regenerating peat swamps which is one of their most important habitats.
Well-targeted, scientifically-sound, long-term ecological monitoring is now widely recognised as an essential complement to direct conservation activities. This provides essential information for conservation managers and strengthens conservation initiatives through:
1. assessing the impacts of human threats on forest condition and target conservation species;
2. assessing the effectiveness of conservation management initiatives in achieving their stated conservation aims, enabling more efficient resource targeting;
3. facilitating conservation management initiative adaptation to maximize conservation success and minimize associated costs; and
4. enabling conservationists to provide objective evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of their conservation initiatives to their funders and important local conservation stakeholders.
Despite these clear benefits, ecological monitoring is frequently neglected by conservation practitioners, owing to either a lack of appreciation of its value, inadequate expertise and/or insufficient funds. An ecological monitoring programme in Sabangau has already been designed and implemented, which will help strengthen conservation by providing constructive feedback for conservation managers. This programme enables monitoring of the impacts of human activities on ape habitat and numbers of orangutans in the Sabangau research site, providing essential feedback on the effectiveness of management in maintaining and enhancing the area’s ape populations.
Project Leader Dr Ian Singleton
Located in the east of the Aceh province, Sumatra, the Pinus Jantho Nature Reserve is one of only two release sites where Sumatran orangutans are now being released into the wild. Surveys conducted between 1990 and 2009 did not identify any orangutan population in the Pinus Jantho Nature Reserve and also showed that the forest area here is identical with the original orangutan habitat found in other areas in Aceh. The site is a protected area of exceptionally rich lowland forest, with an unusual high density of fig trees, a staple food for orangutans. There is also a river which is at the foot of the forest, which can be crossed by people, but cannot be crossed by orangutans making it an effective natural barrier. The connectivity of the nature reserve to the wider forest block called Ulu Masen (circa 75,000ha and ultimately connected to the vast Leseur Ecosystem, in which 85% of Sumatra’s remaining wild orangutans reside) make this reintroduction site an ideal are for orangutans.
Orangutans that are released at the Jantho site have been previously confiscated and housed at the Batu Mbelin Orangutan Quarantine Centre in North Sumatra. Staff choose orangutans to be released based on their health, behaviour and potential to survive in the wild. All orangutans in the release programme are given a full health assessment and have a small transponder inserted between their shoulder blades so they can be tracked using telemetry equipment well after their release to check on their progress. The orangutans must also be able to show signs of natural orangutan behaviour including nest building and eating a range of foods before they are considered for release.
Once orangutans are transported to the Jantho release site, they spend some time in large reintroduction cages so they can become used to the conditions and surroundings. The staff collect natural forest foods for the orangutans to eat and become familiar with before they are released. Each orangutan is monitored closely after being released with trackers following them from dawn until dusk when the orangutan makes a sleeping nest for the night. Data is recorded including what foods the orangutans eat and this information will be used to assess the survival capability of the reintroduced orangutans.
The first orangutans were released into the Jantho Nature Reserve in 2011 and now over 30 orangutans have been successfully released. A plan for engaging local communities is currently being established to tackle the issues of land encroachment activities. This release area provides hope and a second chance at living in the forest for confiscated and displaced Sumatran orangutans.
The Nyaru Menteng Care Centre is located in the province of Central Kalimantan. It is located within the boundaries of the Nyaru Menteng Arboretum, a 62.5 ha lowland peat-swamp forest ecosystem, founded in 1988 by the Ministry of Forestry Regional office of Central Kalimantan. The Nyaru Menteng Care Centre currently holds hundreds of orangutans, all of whom were either illegally held as pets or were victims of habitat destruction. The ultimate aim of the programme is to reintroduce these orangutans back into the wild and provide long-term protection to the orangutans and their precious remaining habitat.
The first orangutan releases were carried out in 2012 in the Batikap Hill Conservation Forest in Central Kalimantan. The releases were the culmination of three years work including carrying out surveys to identify a suitable site for reintroduction, gaining stakeholder support, preparing a release strategy, establishing basic infrastructure and initiating a programme of community awareness, integration and development. Agreements were signed with the local and regional governments and full ceremonial blessings were received from the two villages that are local to the release forest.
The Batikap Hill Conservation forest is one of the most remote regions of Indonesia. It is accessible overland by road and rivers in a journey that takes three days from the regional capital of Palangkaraya. 35,000 ha of low elevation, primary rainforest was chosen as the orangutan reintroduction area. Over 80 orangutans have now been released. The focus is now on providing the best possible post-release care and monitoring to ensure that the orangutans have an excellent chance at survival. Released orangutans will be monitored using radio-tracking equipment to locate them in the forest. Detailed behavioural observations will be made to check that they are adapting well. Supplementary feeding and veterinary care will be provided if required. The results of the monitoring will be reported widely since little information on the success of orangutan reintroduction has been collected.
The overall conservation aim of this project is to re-establish a viable orangutan population in the Batikap Hill Conservation Forest. There is evidence to suggest this extensive lowland forest used to contain a wild orangutan population, and reintroducing orangutans here will reverse the trend of population loss that has placed the Bornean orangutan at risk of extinction.
Project Leader Gary Shapiro
Established in 2006, the Orangutan Caring Scholarship awards talented and disadvantaged Indonesian students with tuition funding, to complete postgraduate programs in Forestry and Biology. Through the program, recipients develop an understanding of the plight of the orangutan, and graduate as an advocate of orangutan conservation. The main goal of the Orangutan Caring Scholarships is to enhance the long-term survival of the Sumatran orangutan through developing university graduates that are knowledgeable and sympathetic to the plight of the species and who will act in positions of responsibility and authority once they enter the workforce.
Recipients of the Caring Scholarships sign a contract that binds them to the conditions specified in the application, including working on orangutan related education programmes for school children. Funding for tuition is provided each year for the four year university programme as well as the write up of the thesis.
Benefits from the scholarships include providing an avenue for higher education to motivated but needy young people in a competitive manner. These college graduates will move into various positions in the workforce where they can serve as advocates for the orangutan. The publicity received in the local press about this programme provides positive media attention about the need for orangutan conservation. By supporting the education of tertiary students in the field of conservation, it increases the perception that orangutans are important.
There are permanently incapacitated orangutans suffering afflictions ranging from hepatitis through to paralysis and blindness that currently reside at the Batu Mbelin orangutan Quarantine Centre in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Sadly, these orangutans can never be released, either for their own safety or to prevent the spread of disease amongst wild primate populations. They therefore face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in cages (potentially as long as 50 years or more), unless a more acceptable solution can be found. Despite every effort to provide the best of care and behavioural enrichment, the inherent limitations of a caged existence means the quality of life of each of these orangutans is always going to be compromised and suboptimal.
The Earth 4 Orangutans (E4O) project believes that these orangutans deserve a more positive and meaningful future and the freedom of a naturalistic setting. As ambassadors for their wild cousins, their stories can also provide a powerful way to dramatically increase awareness and education surrounding the plight of their species.
The construction of several moated, man-made islands can achieve all of this. These islands would provide sanctuary and natural segregation for incapacitated animals and also fulfil a vital role as an educational resource. Through unique experiences, visitors, both local and international, would gain a better understanding of orangutans, their individuality, intelligence, and complexity, as well as the threats orangutans face in the wild, and the ways in which orangutan and human populations can co-exist.
Land has been purchased for this project and detailed planning is underway for the construction of this facility. Paying visitors will be allowed to enter the site, to see the animals and view education displays, to hear talks and to go on guided nature tours of the site. Well trained and qualified guides will explain the problems of habitat loss and orangutan human conflicts, and how both still result in young orangutans being captured and kept as pets, despite the fact that this has been illegal in Indonesia for many decades.
Earth 4 Orangutans’ pilot project offers a long-term viable solution that could be used as a blueprint for housing orangutans in similar situations. It is perceived that after the initial set up phase, all revenues and donations from visitors over the long-term will contribute to the ongoing operational costs of the centre.
Project Leader Simon Husson
The 600,000 ha Sabangau Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, is the largest non-fragmented area of lowland rainforest remaining in Borneo and is of major conservation importance for its high biodiversity; as a globally-significant carbon store; and for its natural resource functions that benefit the surrounding communities. Sabangau supports the largest population of the Bornean orangutan with 6,900 individuals estimated to live here. Sabangau is considered one of the last strongholds for the Bornean orangutan and one of the top priority sites for its conservation.
In order to maintain Sabangau’s forest cover and peat-land resource, and hence its high biodiversity, large orangutan population, natural resource functions and carbon store, there is an urgent requirement to restore the natural hydrological conditions of the ecosystem, prevent further fire events, prevent illegal incursions into the forest and restore deforested areas.
A Patrol Unit was established in 2002 to patrol and protect the Sabangau peat swamp forest. This unit contains seven permanent members from the local town and has the full support of local leaders and law enforcement agencies. The Patrol Unit dams illegally dug logging canals and protect the area against illegal activities including cutting of trees, starting of fires, hunting fruit bats and other protected wildlife and breaking dams.
The local community has for a long time depended on the forest as part of their source of income, which has important cultural significance. The most important consideration for the utilisation of natural resources is to achieve a sustainable balance between exploitation and preventing ecosystem damage, so the Patrol Unit works towards the mission of protectingPeat for Forest and Forest for People. Extensive numbers of seedlings are grown in a nursery to regenerate the peat-swamp forest in degraded areas.
Project Leader Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez
Orangutan populations are estimated to have declined by well over 50% over the last 60 years and the threat of imminent extinction in the wild is very real. The massive increase in oil palm plantations has caused the most destruction to orangutan habitat however other factors including unsustainable timber extraction, development of tree plantations for paper and pulp, small-scale community agriculture, mining and direct orangutan killings have also contributed to the decline in orangutan numbers.
Most orangutans are located outside of protected areas, leaving them even more vulnerable. If deforestation in Borneo continues to replace primary and degraded forests with oil palm plantations, then the incidents of human-orangutan conflict will increase and it is unlikely that orangutans will survive in the long-term.
An Orangutan Rescue Unit has been established in West Kalimantan due to the increasing habitat destruction and displacement of orangutans in this province. The Rescue team is composed of a veterinarian and people with experience in handling orangutans. The aims of the Rescue Unit are to -
- Provide a quick response for the rescue of orangutans.
- Relocate orangutans from isolated and fragmented areas of forest where populations are not viable and orangutans are in risk of being killed, hunted or captured, to protected forested areas or to the Rescue Centre in West Kalimantan if needed.
- Assist the authorities in the implementation of law enforcement programs carrying out confiscations of orangutans in captivity.
- Alleviate the conflict between humans and orangutans.
TOP has fully funded the Orangutan Rescue Unit since 2012.
Project Leader David Fenwick Dellatore
The Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) was established in 1997. In 2001, SOS co-founded the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) in Sumatra, a grassroots non-profit organisation staffed by passionate and dedicated Indonesian conservationists. Together, the SOS and the OIC are dedicated to preventing the extinction of the Sumatran orangutan by focusing on the following -
- Raising awareness about the importance of protecting orangutans in their rainforest home.
- Supporting grassroots projects which empower local people to become guardians of the rainforest.
- Restoring damaged orangutan habitat through tree planting programmes.
- Campaigning on issues that threaten the survival of orangutans in the wild.
SOS has commenced using an aerial unmanned drone that has been fitted with autopilot capabilities. With this unit, SOS can produce up to the minute, high resolution maps of various project sites throughout northern Sumatra. Rapid surveys can also be conducted of reported areas of human-orangutan conflict. The drone can also be put to other uses such as surveying potential new sites for orangutan translocation. SOS/OIC are also heavily involved in community education and reforestation programmes.
Project Leader Dr Peter Pratje
The Bukit Tigapuluh (BTP) ecosystem, located in the provinces of Jambi and Riau in Sumatra, is one of only two Sumatran orangutan reintroduction sites in the world. Sumatran orangutan populations are now considered Critically Endangered, and currently number less than 7% of what existed in 1900. With approximately only 6,300 left in the wild and hundreds being killed every year, it is imperative that viable released populations are built up outside of the troubled Aceh province.
The BTP ecosystem encompasses the largest remaining lowland forest block in Sumatra. The core area of the Bukit Tigapuluh forest block (144,000 ha) was declared as a national park in 1995. A survey in 2000 found that BTP was highly suitable habitat for the Sumatran orangutan. A conservative estimate for the Bukit Tigapuluh area, only taking the remaining primary forest into account, extrapolates a carrying capacity of approximately 750 orangutans. This amazing ecosystem is home to thousands of species including the reintroduced population of Sumatran orangutans as well as the Sumatran tiger and elephant- all critically endangered species.
Since 2002, more than 150 Sumatran orangutans have been transferred to and released into the BTP ecosystem. Orangutans entering the release programme have usually been orphaned and kept as pets, often in horrendous conditions. They must undergo extensive training including forest school so they can learn how to survive in their new jungle home before they are released. They must be able to recognise and eat a range of fruits, leaves and other important food sources such as termites and bark, make sleeping nests in the canopy at night and not come to the ground before they are considered suitable for release.
Extensive monitoring of orangutans occurs during and after the release process. Orangutans now have a small transponder inserted between their shoulder blades so they can be tracked using telemetry equipment well after their release to check on their progress. This has been a huge development in allowing longer term monitoring and assessment of released orangutans.
The recent estimated survival rate of released orangutans in BTP is approximately 70% which is excellent. Five orangutan infants have been born wild at the BTP release site after their mothers have been released, an exciting outcome. The release area is monitored by Wildlife Protection Units and many local people are employed by this programme.
Tripa in the province of Aceh Sumatra, is home to one of only six remaining populations of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan and also has amongst the highest densities of orangutans anywhere in the world. Palm oil companies are destroying the forest here, and the total destruction of the remaining forest is predicted within less than five years if appropriate action is not implemented quickly. The Orangutan Project is supporting the work involved with the conservation of Tripa and the greater forests of Aceh, which involves the following objectives -
- Empower communities to politically engage on the spatial plan by drawing links of ‘cause and effect’ from the likely deforestation and its potential to natural disasters including flooding.
- Field mobilisation to uncover and highlight illegal activities.
- Boost legal capacity and monitor legal proceedings including ongoing meetings and communication of news and developments to the public.
- Enhance communications and campaign outreach by liaising with global and national networks for action and mobilisation.
Project Leader Dr Peter Pratje
The Wildlife Protection Units (WPUs), entirely funded by TOP, are responsible for patrolling the Bukit Tigapuluh (BTP) National Park and buffer zone, where over 150 Sumatran orangutans have been released.
The main aims of the WPUs are -
- Establish, train and maintain ranger units to secure wildlife populations and their habitat at Bukit Tigapuluh.
- To stop and prevent illegal logging as the major threat to wildlife habitat.
- To actively assist the reintroduction/translocation of orangutans at Bukit Tigapuluh.
- To collect wildlife data in order to produce baseline data for a buffer zone management plan and a wildlife data base as an evaluation tool for ecosystem conditions at Bukit Tigapuluh.
The WPU have been highly successful in deterring illegal activities within the National Park including logging. They are responsible for educating local people about laws against poaching orangutans, gathering information about illegal activities and reporting these to the Forestry police and collecting wildlife data as an evaluation tool for ecosystem conditions at BTP.
Local people are employed as members of the WPU, giving good employment opportunities to local people and increasing the profile of the Sumatran orangutan and its importance in the area. WPU members receive extensive training including first aid, wildlife crime investigation, survey techniques and report writing. To date, the WPUs have been highly successful in deterring illegal activities within the ecosystem.
Project Leader Hardi Baktiantoro
The Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) is a direct action group of Indonesians who campaign to bring an urgent end to the destruction of Indonesian rainforest and the killing of orangutans. COP focuses on the cause of the problems and they conduct numerous rescues of orangutans. COP also attaches a lot of importance to working with and empowering local communities who are the best people in the long-term to protect the rainforest which is their source of food and water as well as the orangutans.
COP’s three main programmes are -
- Habitat protection whereby the aim is to secure habitat for orangutan populations. COP works to prevent and stop habitat destruction. Investigations and campaigning are used to assist with this programme.
- Ex-situ conservation/animal welfare in zoos where the aim is to improve the welfare of orangutans in zoos by improving the husbandry and enrichment in the facility. COP helps to combat the poaching, trading and the illegal holding of orangutans and also supports law enforcement in this area.
- Communication and awareness by developing public support for orangutan protection.
To run these programmes, COP operates three action teams -
- APE Crusader which covers East Kalimantan.
- APE Defender which covers Central Kalimantan.
- APE Warrior which covers Java and Sumatra.
The APE Crusader, investigates illegal activities, involves local communities in protesting against oil palm companies and educates school students and youth groups on orangutan conservation issues.
The APE Defender is responsible for rescuing orangutans and supporting law enforcement operations.
The APE Warrior assists with the welfare of captive orangutans in zoos across Indonesia. They also work against the wildlife trade and runs COP campaigns.
All of the teams are managed by COP headquarters in Jakarta.