Further information on work being done in Medan , Sumatra

The title of the project is the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC).

2 Background

2.1 The impending extinction of Sumatran orangutans and their habitat

Sumatran orangutans are one of the top most 25 endangered species in the world. Their habitat is mainly in the low land tropical forests of the Leuser Ecosystem, situated in the provinces of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and North Sumatra . The Leuser Ecosystem stretches from the edge of the Indian Ocean almost to the shores of the Malacca Straits, and includes two large mountain ranges of over 3000m altitude. The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place in the world where one can find elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, clouded leopards and orangutans all living in the same area. With rampant illegal logging and wildlife capture and trade, there are now estimated to be 4800 Sumatran orangutans remaining, and it is believed that we are losing them at a rate of about 800 annually. The mathematics speaks for itself. A conservative estimate suggests there may no longer be Sumatran orangutans in the wild within ten years. The plight of the Sumatran orangutan is exacerbated by lack of international funds and media attention.

Borneo-Travel - unique travel to visit the Sumatran Orangutans in their natural habitat

Many local communities are opposed to the rampant destruction of Sumatra 's forests. Hazardous landslides and flash floods that claim lives and destroy crops, have been directly linked to deforestation. Each year, fires caused by land-clearing activities choke the region with massive impacts on both human and wildlife health.

Orangutans and their habitat can be conserved if increased law-enforcement for habitat protection is undertaken by the government. This effort can be more effective if support from local and international communities are included. Also, this will happen if sufficient local community-based education and conservation initiatives are put in place promptly.

By protecting their habitat, we conserve orangutans and further safeguard other species. These include tigers, rhinoceroses, sun bears, clouded leopards, gibbons, slow lorises, flying squirrels and an abundance of other mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird, insect and plant life. Some of these have never been studied or possibly even discovered. Protecting the rainforest protects local and global human interests, ensuring a biodiversity reserve of great benefit to mankind in terms of biology, zoology, botany, medicine and many other sciences, and a potential sustainable resource for future generations in the region.

2.2 The role of environmental education and community-based conservation programs

Despite its wealth of natural resources North Sumatra and Aceh is one of the developing provinces in Indonesia , due to the sustained exploitation of resources including its rainforests, wildlife, minerals, oil and gas. Factors including poverty and the scarcity of adequate environmental education contribute to a lack of awareness of the link between human welfare and the rainforests amongst many communities. There is a sense of powerlessness in the face of the massive destruction of the forest, on which over 60 million Indonesian people are reliant.

Environmental education is almost something new for many Indonesian people especially those who are living around the forests and that they should be educated through formal and informal education processes, environmental awareness raising activities and actual actions that involve participation of the local people. Environmental education should be addressed to encourage the communities to initiate various programmes that relate to conservation and improve their understanding on the importance of conserving the environment. With the initiatives that the OIC will promote, more targeted people in Northern Sumatra will be more motivated to take positive actions and value the environment.

3 The Orangutan Information Center (OIC)

3. 1 Objectives

The primary objectives of the Orangutan Information Center are as follows:

To raise awareness amongst local people regarding the orangutan and its environmental significance as a keystone species

To establish education projects, which empower local communities and promote participation in conservation and community-based environment programs

To provide information on global-local issues related to the orangutan, the environment, and sustainable community development to local people

To develop potential resources related to environmental research

To ensure the long-term operational viability of the institution

3.2 Measurable Objectives

The project's measurable objectives are as follows:

To develop facilities and infrastructure for education and awareness on the conservation of orangutans and their habitat and

To integrate and coordinate the activities of local youths/students/community groups with the interests of environmental protection, in general, and orangutan protection, in particular by:

The development of services and capacity building for the community, including

The set up of a Training Center designed to provide environmental education facilities and infrastructure

The implementation of training programmes designed to organise courses for increasing knowledge and skill levels of community groups in environmental protection, e.g. climbing training, survival techniques in the forest, photography, mapping, tree and plant identification

The development of a p ublic Information Center designed to promote conservation, to increase awareness of local environmental issues and to encourage environmental responsibility

Organizing awareness programs in an effort to raise community awareness and participation and promote orangutan protection, including seminars, presentations, sign and poster placements and other awareness activities and competitions.

The provision of OIC membership for local youths and the establishment of a volunteer scheme providing opportunities for Indonesian volunteers and workers to get involved in various environmental programs

2. The development of media coverage

Promote positive media (local and national) coverage for orangutan protection and for the OIC

Produce periodic bulletins on the activity of OIC and current issues of orangutan and environmental conservation

Develop and maintain OIC web-site

Implement effective administration management

3.1 Recruitment of Management Personnel

3.2 Human resources development

3.3 Establish financial management

3.4 Establish physical infrastructure

3.3 Action Plan

The action plan for the implementation of the OIC is as follows:

PHASE I: STARTUP

Establish an office for the implementation of the program

Operate the office for planning and implementation (This has been underway). An office for the operation of OIC with sufficient office facilities and staff members has been set up and ready to implement projects)

Purchase office equipment, (initiated although incomplete)

Officially introduce the OIC to the public and NGOs

PHASE II: SHORT TERM OBJECTIVES

Collect information and documentation on the orangutan and other environmental resources

Volunteer recruitment

Implement initial awareness and education programs

Media and web-site development

Networking

Establishment of Orangutan Club

Orangutan Field Trip

PHASE III: LONG TERM OBJECTIVES

The OIC fully and effectively operates, management has been implemented, including at least one full-time paid staff member, preferably two and several volunteers

Public awareness raised and community participation secured

Education / Awareness Projects operational

Orangutan Protection Program initiated

Research facilitation promoted

Positive media and web-site developed

Produce orangutan advertisement for national TV (to be co-funded with Pro Fauna Indonesia and other NGOs)

3.4 The need for establishing the OIC in Medan

Unfortunately, despite the high profile of the orangutan, there are alarmingly few conservation initiatives active in Sumatra - less than half the number that Borneo has. Indeed, there are few programs providing environmental education and conservation resources to local people and integrate local communities into conservation initiatives. With so little time left with which to reverse the current trend predicting extinction for Sumatran orangutans in the very near future, the need for such facilities becomes evermore pressing.

The general sense of disempowerment amongst local communities is evident in Medan , Sumatra 's largest and most densely populated city. It is located near the Leuser ecosystem, where the largest population of Sumatran orangutans are found. This is, arguably, the only viable population of Sumatran orangutans. Over the last twenty years, over 50% of the ecosystem has been degraded, including vast tracts of the 'protected' Gunung Leuser National Park which composes roughly half of the ecosystem.

There is an urgent need to improve the protection of this area of forest, including the linking of fragments of forest, some of which contain isolated groups of orangutans which need to regain access to the larger population in order to maintain the gene pool.

There is also a need to encourage local agricultural workers to stop killing orangutans who raid their plantations in search of food, as competition in the ever-decreasing forest becomes more acute. Now that there is an active Sumatran orangutan reintroduction center (Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme ( SOCP)), orangutans that have strayed from the forest can be rescued, relocated and returned to the wild. This initiative will be implemented by the OIC as part of its long-term objective.

In addition, the common practice of capturing, trading and keeping orangutans needs to be tackled. Owning an orangutan is still considered a powerful status symbol in Indonesia and despite legislation prohibiting the activity many high-profile community members keep endangered species. There is a need for campaigns discouraging this trend and encouraging people to give up pet orangutans. It is important to make people aware of the reasons why orangutans do not make good pets (many end up being abandoned or killed as they mature) and why the practice contributes to the decline in species numbers.

The OIC would address all these and other related issues through media campaigns, practical programs, and educational resources (conservation training, seminars, workshops, school and community group visits, government correspondence, etc.).

It is our goal that the OIC, in cooperation with existing projects, as well as the support of individuals, will provide information and services that will filter through to local communities in neighboring regions.

3.5 Target Populations and benefits

The orangutans living in the Leuser ecosystem (currently estimated at 4,800) and the people living in Medan and surrounding areas (approximately 4 million people) will be targeted by the OIC.

Orangutans living in the Leuser ecosystem would benefit from the OIC program. Examples of ways in which they would benefit include the education program that aims at discouraging local farmers from killing orangutans found in their plantations and discouraging the trading and keeping of orangutans as pets.

Local people especially school children, university students, teachers, and community figures will benefit by way of accessible educational resources and opportunities to participate in conservation work.

The OIC volunteer programs and job schemes will provide training in conservation and practical conservation experience. This will harness local talent and enthusiasm and will increase the potential of participants to find jobs relating to conservation.

In addition, because the project has been conceived and will be established by Indonesians from the locality, the local community will essentially have ownership of the project.

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