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Podcast: Omens and optimism for Sumatran orangutans

  • The Sumatran orangutan is a lowland species that has adapted to life among this Indonesian island’s highlands, as it has lost its favored habitat to an array of forces.
  • From forest degradation to new road projects, plus the trafficking of young ones to be sold as pets, this great ape is increasingly in trouble.
  • On this episode of the podcast, Mongabay speaks with the founding director of Orangutan Information Centre in North Sumatra about these challenges and also some hopeful signs.
  • The Centre is successfully involving local communities in this work: over 2,400 hectares of rainforest have been replanted by local women since 2008, creating key habitat for the orangutans which also provides villagers with useful agroforestry crops, for instance.

The Sumatran orangutan is in a difficult position, heavily dependent as it is on the Indonesian island’s Leuser and Batang Toru ecosystems. This formerly lowland species has now adapted to surviving among the island’s highlands, eking out an existence in the face of multiple threats ranging from habitat degradation to new road projects and trafficking of infants as pets, but conservation organizations are coming to their rescue while planting seeds of hope.

On this episode of Mongabay Explores Sumatra, host Mike DiGirolamo discusses these challenges with Panut Hadisiswoyo, Founder and Chairperson of the Orangutan Information Centre in northern Sumatra, who says he’s realistic about the tough challenges, but also hopeful for the future.

His organization not only rescues orangutans under threat, it has also successfully involved local human communities in protecting them and replanting thousands of hectares of key forests, which villagers then can harvest non-extractive, agroforestry crops from, providing them with a pathway and incentive to protect the landscape that this highly intelligent species also relies on.

So are these efforts coming in time, and will they be enough?

Listen here:

Related reading mentioned in this episode:

Mongabay Explores is a special podcast series that dives into the unique beauty, natural heritage, and key issues facing this one of a kind landscape by speaking with people working to study, understand, and protect it. Episode 1 features a Goldman Prize winner from Sumatra about what makes his home so special, listen here, and further programs have focused on the people working to save the Sumatran rhino, the reasons why deforestation is so widespread in the province, and how a hydropower dam in the Batang Toru Ecosystem threatens core habitat of the world’s rarest great ape, the Tapanuli orangutan. The majesty and plight of the Sumatran tiger has also been discussed during the series, as well as that of Sumatran elephants.

Sumatran orangutans in the wilds of Indonesia. Photo courtesy of HUTAN-KOCP.

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Banner image: A young in orangutan in North Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.

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