Meet our new partners June 2012

Putting out a forest fire

Orangutan Appeal UK are always looking for new ways that we can contribute to the conservation of the orangutan and our new parters “OuTrop” (Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project) have enable us to do just that!

Fighting Fires to Protect Orangutans
The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop) is a not-for-profit organization working to protect wild orangutans in Indonesian Borneo.  We conduct conservation-based research to help improve orangutan conservation strategies and support locally-led conservation initiatives. Our focal site is the Sabangau Forest in southern Borneo, which covers some 6,000 sq.km of peat-swamp forest, or an area almost the size of Devon. OuTrop’s orangutan population surveys indicate that this forest is home to around 6,900 individuals.  Protection of Sabangau Forest – and its orangutans – is crucial for the long-term survival of the species.

This population is under threat from forest loss and degradation, as a result of illegal logging, forest fires and conversion of land for agriculture, including oil palm. The Sabangau Forest grows on peat, which is formed under very wet conditions (these are not called peat-swamp forests for nothing!), and the forest trees are dependent upon these water-logged conditions for their survival. Like most other peat swamps in the region, the Sabangau Forest is crisscrossed by countless small canals, dug previously by illegal loggers to float timber out of the forest. Although these loggers have now moved on from many areas of Sabangau, their canals remain and continue to drain the peat, making it highly vulnerable to dry-season fires. These fires are now the biggest threat to the Sabangau Forest and its orangutans: in a matter of hours they can burn away peat that has taken thousands of years to form, converting the forest into scrub or waste land unable to support orangutans.
To counter these threats and secure the survival of Sabangau’s orangutan population, OuTrop works together with our local partners, CIMTROP, at the University of Palangka Raya, to fight these dry-season fires and dam canals to help prevent future fires. This is essential for the protection of the Sabangau Forest, its orangutans and the myriad other endangered and under-studied species that call this forest home. The Fire Attack Force work under dangerous conditions to fight forest fires, often working around the clock for days on end to ensure that fires are properly extinguished (fire doesn’t sleep, after all!).

This team’s commitment is extraordinary, and we are delighted and extremely grateful that the Orangutan Appeal UK is able to contribute towards supporting the team and helping in the on-going fight to protect Sabangau’s orangutans.

Mark Harrison MD
Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project