The orangutan is Asia’s only great ape. Today orangutans only live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra as two co-generic species, Pongo pygmaeus and Pongo abelii. 90% of the orangutans live in Indonesia, while the remaining 10% can be found in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia. In Sumatra, the largest population is found in the Leuser ecosystem, while in Indonesian Borneo orangutans are found in West, Central and East Kalimantan.
The orangutan’s unique characteristics, particularly its similarity to us, grant it a flagship status that can attract people to participate in conservation programs. As an effective seed disperser, the orangutan plays an important role in stabilizing the rainforest, and its presence therefore reflects the ecosystem’s health. The high degree of interdependence between the orangutan and the rainforest presents a great challenge to the species’ conservation. If the orangutan can be saved, so can a myriad of other species that live in the rainforest.
Today, both Sumatran and Borneo orangutans are threatened by extinction. The World Conservation Union (IUCN Red Data List 2007) classifies the Bornean orangutan as Endangered, while its relative in Sumatra has been classified as Critically Endangered. Both species have also been listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In both Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans are legally protected. Nevertheless, laws and regulations alone are clearly insufficient to protect the charismatic species. Orangutan conservation requires comprehensive and integrated efforts by all stakeholders, both in the field and in the political arena, to ensure its success.
The dire prospects of the orangutan motivated scientists, conservationists, government agencies, communities and private sector to seek for a viable solution to ensure the species continued survival amidst Indonesia’s drive for economic development. The result is a multi-stakeholder conservation strategy that incorporates public, private, and local interests, and finds common ground in orangutan conservation among stakeholders with various interests.
In 2007, the Indonesian government, represented by the Directorate General for Forest Protection and Nature Conservation of the Ministry of Forestry, in cooperation with the Indonesian Primatological Association (APAPI) and USAID’s Orangutan Conservation Services Program (OCSP), undertook a process that resulted in a basic framework through which stakeholders are directed on the means to generate improvements in the condition of orangutans and their lowland forest habitats over the next ten years. This National Strategy and Action Plan for Orangutan Conservation 2007 – 2017 was signed by the Ministry of Forestry and announced by the Indonesian President at the Bali Climate Change Conference, December 2007.
All orangutan conservation in Indonesia – including activities that we do at BOSF – are based on this Action Plan. Moreover, public participation that is based on awareness, concern and love for nature, is also very necessary to change our behavior to be more environmentally friendly.