Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme
One of our team members, Jami Tarris, worked on a conservation project in Sumatra in November 2015 following the fires that were deliberately started in order to clear land for palm oil plantations. Due to the explosive growth of palm oil agriculture, pristine rainforest is being destroyed at an alarming rate. The rainforest is the primary home for animals endemic only to Indonesia and Malaysia such as the orangutan.
Jami returned to the rainforest of Sumatra in spring 2018 to document the exciting discovery of a new species of great ape, an orangutan only found in Sumatra – the Pongo Tapanuliensis (Tapanuli orangutan). She spent time with the research team following these critically endangered animals around the forest as they moved overhead in the canopy. The team notated coordinates of feeding locations, behavior and sleeping nests each day. Jami photographed these highly endangered great apes.
Orangutans are arguably the most intelligent of the great apes and one of our closest relatives. However, because of the ongoing destruction of the remaining rain-forests, they are on the brink of extinction.
The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) team, headed up by Director, Dr. Ian Singleton, has dedicated their lives to the future of the Sumatran orangutan. Because forests are being destroyed, and orangutans are tree-dwelling animals, orangutans are being killed by local farmers in order to clear the land for planting palm oil trees. At the same time, infant orangutans are captured and sold into the illegal pet trade. The staff of SOCP is on call twenty four hours a day in case an orangutan can be rescued.
Wild Focus Expeditions will be offering exclusive trips to Indonesia. With special permission, we will take our groups “behind the scenes” inside the Orangutan Quarantine Centers. These centers serve as a safe haven for rescued orangutans that are rehabilitated and can be re-released back into the wild, or others that require long-term care and cannot be re-released for the foreseeable future. Focus Expeditions will adopt one of these orangutans for every trip member. We will also visit and photograph wild orangutans in the forest.
The name orangutan is of Malayan origin and means “man – or more correctly, ‘person’ – of the forest”. They live only in Southeast Asia on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, mostly in Indonesia, but also in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo. Orangutans are currently divided into two distinct species: the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). Both species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a list of the world’s most endangered species that is kept and updated by the World Conservation Union. The IUCN red list recognizes Bornean orangutans as “Endangered,” while the Sumatran orangutan is listed as “Critically Endangered.” The Sumatran orangutan is considered one of the world’s most endangered species!
SOCP’s vision is to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran orangutan. They do this by habitat protection, rehabilitation and reintroduction of ex-captive orangutans to the wild, education, survey work and scientific research.