Help build a rainforest home for orang-utan

 Orang-utan populations are left fragmented and isolated as roads and plantations divide up the forest. Picture: Ulet Ifanstas.

Orang-utan populations are left fragmented and isolated as roads and plantations divide up the forest. Picture: Ulet Ifanstas.

By BEL JACOBS


It’s a story we know too well: the relentless destruction of the world’s rainforest pushing local species to the point of extinction. One wildlife charity in Sumatra is pushing back but it needs our help. 

Around 14,600 orang-utans remain in the Sumatran rainforest, meaning that the species is now classified as Critically Endangered. Their homes are under huge and growing pressure. Demand for products such as palm oil and timber, combined with weak governance and short-sighted land-use policies, are driving deforestation at an alarming rate, tearing the forest

Orang-utan populations are left fragmented and isolated as roads and plantations divide up the forest, making them easy targets for poaching for the illegal pet trade. Conflicts with local communities take place when stranded, starving apes are forced to resort to raiding crops.

And it’s not just the animals who need the rainforest; it’s a vital life support system for over 4 million people in Sumatra’s Aceh province, providing clean water and other benefits. The destruction of the rainforest leaves them vulnerable to disasters such as flooding and landslides.

 Orang-utan SOS partner NGO Yayasan Orangutan Sumatera Lestari (YOSL) has an excellent track record working closely with local communities.

Orang-utan SOS partner NGO Yayasan Orangutan Sumatera Lestari (YOSL) has an excellent track record working closely with local communities.

Sumatran Orangutan Society - or SOS - has a plan. In addition to its active frontline work supporting animal rescue teams, protecting rainforest and helping local communities work to protect forests, SOS has discovered a 360 hectare ex-palm oil plantation right on the border of the Leuser Ecosystem - one of the world's richest yet least-known forest systems - and want to buy it, restore the one lush, biodiverse rainforest and create a safe home for orangutans. It costs £870,000. 

To put this into context: £800,000 would buy you a two-bedroom terraced house in Finsbury Park. Here, it could provide refuge and sanctuary for endangered species and a vital asset for local communities - for decades. Working in partnership with local NGO Yayasan Orangutan Sumatera Lestari (YOSL), SOS aim to create a buffer zone to protect this part of the Leuser Forest.

YOSL has an excellent track record here, working closely with local communities to bring forests back to life. They already manage several other restoration sites in the region, and so far have planted over 1.6 million trees. Orangutans, elephants and sun bears are returning to these areas.

It’s a key plot, within home range of some of the area’s most iconic species in the area including elephants, tigers and orangutans. Human-animal conflict, predictably, has been rife. A herd of elephants regularly travels through the plantation, causing damage to crops and property; in October 2017 an elephant calf was killed in retaliation. A plantation security guard has been arrested and jailed for poaching, having admitted to killing two tigers. All this would stop if SOS could raise the funds. Time is ticking; please help.


The overall total cost of buying the 360 hectare plot of land is £870,000 (US$1.1 million). The first instalment has been paid; the charity has until the end of November to raise a further £275,000.  www.orangutans-sos.org

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