OuTrop March 2014 Project Update

Natural Fish Ponds for Conservation

Thanks to the support of our funders we’ve been working with the local Community Patrol Team to construct ‘bejes’, natural fish ponds. These reduce the need for harmful electric fishing and will compensate for declines in natural fish stocks caused by water draining from the peat-swamp.
Simon Husson, OuTrop Director of Conservation, said “the plan is for the largest fish to be harvested and sold, and the income distributed between the families of the Community Patrol Team members, compensating them for times when they are away fighting fires and on patrols. In the future we hope to have a series of bejes, each owned by a single family, up and down the length of the Natural Laboratory in the northern Sabangau Forest.
“The bejes were dug in the dry season, but now the forest is starting to flood so the ponds have been submerged and fish are entering through funnel-gaps in the side of the net. It is easy for fish to enter the beje, but difficult to leave.

“With these families regularly working and protecting their bejes on the edge of the forest, this project is designed to increase the number of patrol team members in the conservation area, thus helping to protect the forest from illegal incursion  by loggers and hunters. We are also focusing our reforestation and canal-closing projects around these bejes, thus making each one a centre for in-situ conservation.”
Orangutan Research

We’ve got three exciting pieces of orangutan news to share. Our latest research has contributed to two new papers on orangutans. We collaborated with researchers at the University of Roehampton to examine how diseases spread in great ape populations. We find that because orangutans are less gregarious, contagious diseases aren’t as much of a risk as they may be to group-living apes, such as chimpanzees. However, among our study population, three females with stronger social connections have the potential to become‘superspreaders’ in the event of a disease outbreak. This research was featured by Scientific American.

Our second new publication looks at how habitat disturbance influences orangutan behaviour.
We classified the habitat in Sabangau into different disturbance levels and looked at how orangutans used these different habitats. We found that orangutans prefer patches with the tallest trees for feeding, regardless of how well connected they are to other trees. But they prefer a connected canopy of any height for nesting in, suggesting that here they prioritise security and protection. It therefore is apparent that selectively-logged forest can support orangutans, provided a sufficient number of tall feeding trees remain.
Finally, since 2010 OuTrop have been providing ecological advice to Starling Resources as part of their ongoing planning for the PT.RMU Katingan Peatland Restoration and Conservation Project. This project will be one of the first REDD+ projects in Central Kalimantan, and aims to protect and restore over 100,000 ha of peat-swamp forest. With support from the Marubeni Corporation, OuTrop completed three weeks of surveys in this area in December 2013. We estimate that around 4,139 orangutans live in/outside of the REDD+ concession in the 200,000 ha Katingan Forest, which is about 8% of the total population in Borneo, and would make the total Katingan population the fifth largest in the world.