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Jami’s successful expedition to document the new orangutan species on Sumatra

In my previous post I wrote about Jami’s project to document a new orangutan species that was discovered on Sumatra only 7 months ago. I had no contact with Jami over a period of 8 days while she was searching for the new species with the help of researchers.
Two days ago she returned from the jungle totally exhausted. She hiked daily for up to 12 hours, often in pouring rain. The camp had no showers, no running water and the daily meals were rice with dried fish. But the effort paid off. After days she finally managed to find and photograph a female Tapanuli orangutan and her baby. The photography conditions were challenging as these orangutans are mostly high up in the trees.

Jami is one of the few people who have been able to photograph this newly discovered species. These orangutans rarely come down to the ground and are a challenge to photograph. The Tapanuli orangutan resembles more the Bornean than the Sumatran orangutan. The Tapanulis have flattened faces, smaller head sizes and frizzier hair on their bodies than the other two species. There are only an estimated 800 Tapanuli orangutans left.

Jami’s camp for 8 days. Not quite the Hilton. At least it looks rain proof. The kitchen offered an à la carte menu – but the carte showed only rice and dried fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bath was the polluted creek in front of the structure, the bed a 1 inch thick mattress.

The Tapanuli orangutan is massively threatened by plans for a new hydro-electric dam scheme. Although sounding ‘green’ it would be the biggest disaster to the Batang Toru Ecosystem. This hydro dam has been planned in the richest area of the Batang Toru Ecosystem, in a beautiful primary forest gorge area that has the highest densities of the last remaining Tapanuli orangutans.

Road access will be built, hydropower lines will traverse the forest and connectivity it will cause further fragmentation of the remaining habitat, pushing the already critically endangered wildlife a step further towards extinction. Besides the direct habitat destruction, the dam will also halt migration of the economically extremely important ‘Jurung’ fish.

Unfortunately this area is still allocated ‘For Other Uses’ as the current South Tapanuli District Government has been more interested in supporting various environmentally disastrous developments like mining or development of this hydro dam in the most critically sensitive and biodiverse area of the entire Batang Toru Ecosystem. These developments might yield short term benefits to a few…but will cause lasting destruction of a unique ecosystem!

How can you help?

Some of you have already donated money to help the orangutans. If you click this link on our website you will open a page that will take you through the process of adopting an orangutan:
It is in our hands to help these highly endangered animals. It would be a sad testimony of our generation if we were responsible for the extinction of these amazing great apes.

Theo Allofs

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