Tazi Phillips, Global Animal

(ANIMAL CONSERVATION) BORNEO — The endangered orangutan is starting to gather a significant following. Recently the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry in association with private sector groups PT SMART Tbk (SMART) and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), announced a partnership with Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) to create a two-year conservation program for the protection of orangutans. 

Borneo orangutan awaits his return to the wild as part of the Friends of Orangutan partnership between OFI, Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, SMART and APP. Photo credit: asiapulppaper via Flickr

The new two-year program, called Friends of Orangutan, will release 40 ex-captive orangutans back into their natural habitat. It will also help support 330 displaced orangutans at the OFI Care Center, a non-profit founded in 1986 by Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas, that is dedicated to the conservation of wild orangutans and their habitat. 

This new announcement comes after the World Wildlife Fund and Indonesian government declared in September that they will invest $28.5 million dollars to protect the ecologically diverse tropical forests of Borneo, and help save orangutan populations. The island of Borneo, located between Indonesia and Malaysia, has been plagued  for years by over-logging, mining, and the expansion of palm oil plantations. Once almost entirely forested, between 1985 and 2005 the island lost an average of 2.1 million acres of forest every year. With only half of Borneo’s forest cover remaining, orangutan and other wildlife populations have suffered greatly. Currently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNC) has classified the Bornean orangutan as endangered and the Sumatran orangutan as critically endangered. 

The Orangutan Foundation International with the support of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, PT SMART and APP rescue and safely release six Borneo orangutans into their wild habitat. Photo credit: asiapulppaper via flickr

6 of the 40 orangutans were successfully released back into the wild of central Kalimantan on November 21, 2011. “We are very pleased to see the partnership between the government, NGOs, and Indonesia’s private sector, in the effort to rescue and conserve orangutan populations, one of the Indonesian nation’s wildlife treasures,”  stated H.E. Mr. Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia, at the ceremony to mark the event. “Hopefully, today’s ceremony will mark the starting point of this becoming a partnership model between government, private and public entities, as a key element in preserving orangutans and other wildlife for future generations.”

With this new short term project following in the heels of the significant investment made by the WWF and Indonesian government, orangutans and endangered Bornean wildlife appear to be getting a second chance. SMART, one of the largest palm oil producers in the world, and APP, a manufacturer who markets its paper products to over 120 countries, can help prove that companies who adopt sustainable practices and aid in the conservation of the environments that they are based in can still be extremely profitable.

Here’s to the ‘man of the forest,’ and to the continued collaboration between government, conservation organizations, the private sector, and the local people insuring the future of Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s biodiversity and the survival of the Borneo orangutan.