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Southern Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 142510181

Conserving the Bornean Orangutan: protecting and rehabilitating critical habitat in the Sabangau peat-swamp forest

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 142510181) - Southern Bornean Orangutan - Awarded $12,000 on January 27, 2015

The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop) is a research and conservation NGO established in 1999, with a team of 35 full-time conservation biologists, field researchers and support staff, including leaders in orangutan, gibbon and felid conservation. We are dedicated to the study and conservation of the Bornean orangutan and other endangered biodiversity throughout Kalimantan; especially in the tropical peat-swamp forests of Central Kalimantan. We are based in the Sabangau Forest, home to globally important primate populations, including the largest known populations of the Bornean orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus and the Southern Bornean gibbon, Hylobates albibarbis. OuTrop was instrumental in the protection of 585,000 ha of peat-swamp forest in the Sabangau catchment as a National Park, and today we work with local partners CIMTROP and the University of Palangkaraya to promote research, capacity building, conservation and management in this region.

Research, capacity-building and education activities take place in The Natural Laboratory for the Study of Peat-swamp Forest; a Centre of Excellence dedicated to research on the ecology and biodiversity of tropical peatlands and developing local knowledge through outreach and school link-ups. Our scientists study orangutan distribution, density, behaviour and ecology in order to understand population dynamics; determine the impacts of logging, hunting and forest fragmentation over different timescales; and provide feedback for protected-area managers. We apply this knowledge throughout Kalimantan to identify priority populations, recommend conservation solutions and advise NGO’s, companies and other stakeholders on best practices for managing forests for orangutan conservation.

Borneo’s tropical peat-swamp forests are complex, fragile ecosystems which are exploited for timber and badly affected by drainage and fire. Before it was protected, the Sabangau Forest was subject to rampant illegal logging, which resulted in the removal of nearly all commercially-valuable large trees, the cutting of drainage canals several kilometres long to float out felled logs, and a crash in orangutan numbers which wiped out over a third of the population at the start of the 21st century. We support a dedicated community patrol and fire-fighting team from the nearby village, who stopped illegal logging in 2004; prevent any more logging, hunting or electric fishing; locate and extinguish dry-season fires; and encourage sustainable fishing techniques and sustainable harvesting of natural forest products. To reverse the problems of drainage, logging and fire, we work together with our Indonesian partners CIMTROP to reforest cleared and burnt peatland and build dams on drainage canals to restore natural waterlogged conditions. This is critical because peat needs to be wet or it degrades and decays, so the very future of the ecosystem is at threat without this MBZ-supported project.

Project document