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Bringing orangutans home

‘One Health Approach’ encourages wider conservation efforts and community collaboration on World Orangutan Day
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Orangutan mother with child in wild

Today (19 August) marks International Orangutan Day, a day aimed at inspiring global action to preserve critically endangered orangutan species and their natural habitats.

Orangutans, once flourishing throughout the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, now face a perilous threat of extinction, with their populations reduced to small, fragmented groups.

The main culprits contributing to their decline include habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, illegal pet trade and the far-reaching impacts of climate change.

‘On International Orangutan Day, we want to highlight IAR’s One Health approach – healthy people, healthy animals, healthy planet. With this approach, we consider every animal rescue a failure – because it shouldn’t have to happen. Our ultimate goal is for wildlife to be living safely in sustainable ecosystems and for communities to be healthy and prosper.’

CEO of International Animal Rescue (IAR)

The Graduates

Keeping orangutans safe where they belong, in the wild, is of utmost importance.

Since launching its orangutan release programme in 2016 IAR’s partner, YIARI – which works alongside the Agency for Natural Resources Conservation (BKSDA), the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park Authority (TNBBBR) and Gunung Tarak Protected Forest with the support of the West Kalimantan Province Authority – has been at the forefront of rehabilitating and releasing these majestic creatures back into their natural homes.

To date, 76 orangutans – referred to as ‘The Graduates’ – have successfully returned to the rainforest after receiving rehabilitative care at the orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang.

‘Once released, the orangutans must be allowed to thrive in their rightful home, the rainforest. As part our holistic conservation programme, IARconserves, YIARI has established a highly successful release programme that not only safeguards the released orangutans but also plays a crucial role in the repopulation of this critically endangered species.’

CEO of International Animal Rescue (IAR)

Support from local communities

The success of the release programme is deeply intertwined with the engagement and support of local communities.

To ensure the safety and protection of the released orangutans, YIARI collaborates closely with forest-edge communities in the buffer zone of the national park.

Through initiatives like scholarships, educational support, and training in alternative livelihoods, our Biodiversity Monitoring Programme empowers these communities to become active advocates for conservation, reducing illegal activities in the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park and Gunung Tarak Protected Forest.

‘Wildfires pose a significant threat to orangutans. The loss of forested areas exerts immense pressure on orangutan populations. To address these challenges, YIARI has initiated the Power of Mama programme – a grassroots fire-prevention endeavour. This initiative employs all-women volunteer teams on the frontline of forest conservation and safeguarding. These dedicated teams actively monitor and combat fires while also engaging in community education.’

CEO of International Animal Rescue (IAR)

The primary goal of Power of Mama is to deter fires by raising awareness within their communities and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.

The programme strives to dissuade farmers from adopting destructive slash-and-burn techniques that harm biodiversity and jeopardise the wellbeing, lives and livelihoods of local villagers.

Mangrove restoration

YIARI’s commitment to reforestation harmonises with IAR’s comprehensive One Health approach. The organisation focuses on planting trees in areas ravaged by fire, restoring lands degraded by unsustainable farming methods and creating strategic corridors to reconnect fragmented forest landscapes.

In addition to these efforts, YIARI has undertaken mangrove restoration activities. This particular initiative is of great significance, as mangroves offer substantial environmental advantages while also serving as a protective barrier to low-lying coastal farms.

Given the escalating sea levels and heightened occurrences of storms, the intrusion of saltwater into paddy fields has become a serious issue.

This phenomenon devastates crops. However, mangroves play a pivotal role by acting as a natural buffer, effectively desalinating water before it reaches farmlands. ‘This restoration work contributes not only to ecological resilience but also to the sustenance of local agricultural systems’, said Gavin Bruce, CEO of International Animal Rescue (IAR).

‘As we observe International Orangutan Day, International Animal Rescue calls upon individuals, communities, and organisations worldwide to join hands in supporting orangutan conservation efforts.

‘Together, we can ensure a future where orangutans thrive in their natural homes, contributing to the ecological balance and the preservation of this incredible species for generations to come.’

CEO of International Animal Rescue (IAR)

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