Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

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Racing Against the Clock: Saving Orangutans and Forests from Extinction


The biggest threat to orangutan conservation is habitat loss which has led to the serious decline in the orangutan population across Borneo and Sumatra. Many thousands of orangutans have been killed or displaced from natural habitat due to human development activities such as the establishment of plantations, logging and mining. Fires have further devastated huge areas of forest. This has led to both the Bornean and Sumatran species being classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). If deforestation continues at the current rate, orangutans will ultimately become extinct. International Forest Day, which falls on March 21, is a timely reminder of the issues at hand regarding conservation of our forests and ecosystems, and the effects on the future survival of orangutans.

Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation has rescued over 2,300 orangutans over 25 years and one of the most significant challenges faced is locating and securing suitable forest areas where rescued, rehabilitated orangutans can be released in safety free of human threat and interference. In 2009, we overcame this challenge and established a company called PT. RHOI specifically to acquire an Ecosystem Restoration Concession from the Indonesian government. Through this concession, a safe forest area suitable for the reintroduction of rehabilitated orangutans was identified and secured, and we could finally prepare to release orangutans from our centres.

Landscape of the Kehje Sewen Forest. PT RHOI manages 86,450 hectares of forest

Landscape of the Kehje Sewen Forest. PT RHOI manages 86,450 hectares of forest

The forest that PT. RHOI manages is called ‘Kehje Sewen’, which means ‘orangutan’ in Wehean Dayak language. At the time of our surveys, the Kehje Sewen Forest was found to not only harbour high levels of biological diversity, but also it fulfilled national and international criteria for selecting reintroduction sites; within that criteria the site should be free from threats from humans, be within the historical range of orangutans and large enough to support a viable population, and did not have a wild orangutan population. Research results clearly demonstrated that the Kehje Sewen Forest was found to be a suitable habitat for releasing orangutans.

Several species commonly found in the Kehje Sewen Forest

While it is common knowledge that conserving forest plays a significant role in mitigating global warming, mankind is still destroying these critically important ecosystems every day.

BOS Foundation CEO Jamartin Sihite, who also serves as the President Director of PT. RHOI, says the presence of orangutans determines the health and quality of a forest: A healthy forest, in turn, provides clean, water and environmental services for us all. BOS Foundation strives to give #FREEDOM to the orangutans in its care, to enable them to create new, sustainable wild populations in natural habitat.

In addition to securing safe areas for the reintroduction of orangutans, BOS Foundation and PT. RHOI is focused on a whole host of forest-management activities, including forest restoration, long-term environment management and habitat protection involving and empowering local communities through partnerships and capacity building, training, education, research and development, and trade (sustainable, non-wood forest products) for the domestic and international market. Everything that our teams focuses on aims to create a better future for orangutans and support the global movement to alleviate the effects of global warming and climate change.

Text: BOS Foundation Communications Team, HQ

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