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Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 13257912

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 13257912) - Sumatran Orangutan - Awarded $16,000 on January 17, 2014

The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) is endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra and is listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. It is estimated that 6,600 Sumatran orangutans survive in the wild today, a decline of 80% in the past 75 years (Wich et al., in press). Major threats to Sumatran orangutans include mass forest clearing for oil palm plantations, extractive industries, road construction, agricultural encroachment, and illegal hunting.

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit partnership between the Indonesian government, PaneCo Foundation and Yayasan Eksistem Lestari (YEL). SOCP’s mission is to increase numbers of wild orangutans by conserving forest habitat; promoting good governance and sustainable development; and by establishing new self-sustaining populations of the species in the wild. The latter is achieved by rescuing, rehabilitating and reintroducing confiscated illegal pet orangutans, whilst monitoring their independence and reproductive success in the wild.

SOCP manages two orangutan reintroduction release sites. The original release site is at Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, Jambi Province, Sumatra, where 160 orangutans have been reintroduced. The second site, established in 2011, is the Jantho Pine Forest Nature Reserve, Aceh Province, Sumatra.

The Jantho reserve site has exceptionally rich, lowland forest; high densities of fig trees; a natural river; and grassland boundaries, which reduce the risk of human-orangutan conflicts. This reserve connects with the ‘Ulu Masen' forest block, covering circa 1 million ha of mostly protected forests. Furthermore, the Ulu Masen extends into the 2.5 million ha Leuser Ecosystem, where 85% of the remaining wild Sumatran orangutan population is found. Despite this connectivity, no wild Sumatran orangutan existed in Jantho or the Ulu Masen area, prior to the onset of this project.

Currently SOCP's political action and lobbying has extended its influence further afield by challenging the proposed destruction of 1.2 million hectares of protected rainforest and peat swamp in Aceh, using the ‘Save Aceh' campaign. SOCP has successfully advocated for the prosecution of illegal palm oil plantations in the Tripa swamps, West Aceh.

By 2015, SOCP objective is to release 75 orangutans into Jantho Reserve, so establishing a new and genetically-viable, self sustaining population in the wild.

After release into the reserve SOCP will protect and monitor these orangutans by maintaining our onsite veterinarian and employing local staff to survey their foraging and nest-building behaviours, health, and reproductive fitness. SOCP will continue to regularly monitor these orangutans beyond the lifetime of this grant to gain a measure of the success of our rehabilitation efforts (e.g., successful reproductions) and to refine our future efforts.

Our proximate aim is for these orangutans - who have typically been subject to severe trauma in capture and captivity - to have a second chance at life in their natural habitat.

Our ultimate aim is to see these orangutans form a healthy breeding population and thereby increasing the genetic viability of the Sumatran orangutan in the wild. To meet these goals we will also involve local community. A unified approach of conservation, action, and community empowerment provides hope for the species' survival and success.

Project 13257912 location - Indonesia, Asia