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Greetings!

This is to be the latest development for the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) – entering the realm of the weblog . Hopefully through this medium will be able to better share with the world what we here at the Sumatran Orangutan Society – Orangutan Information Centre (SOS-OIC) are up to.

Which I suppose should start by explaining that distinction. The SOS-OIC is considered the field office of the Sumatran Orangutan Society. It is located here in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia (will post photos of the office soon). Medan is the third largest city in Indonesia – so it has got quite a lot of development and a fair deal of affluence. But it is still Sumatra, meaning that the forests (and the orangutans!) are not that far off (Bukit Lawang, the most popular gateway into Gunung Leuser National Park, is only 80km from Medan). From the SOS-OIC office we base all of our conservation operations in Sumatra, which I shall detail in time from this site (summary details can also be retrieved from: http://orangutans-sos.org/projects).

As you may already know, the SOS-OIC is primarily concerned with conservation education and outreach to local communities in Sumatra (though we also run forest replanting projects {to be detailed soon!} and are soon to start an education programme centered around the tourism situation in the above mentioned Bukit Lawang {also to be detailed soon – I did my MSc research in Bukit Lawang, so I’m quite keen to go on about that site!}).

One such education initiative we have is visiting community schools with our OranguVan service

One such education initiative we have is visiting community schools with our OranguVan service

This is our latest OranguVan in the fleet (two total at the moment), with major funding provided by the Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. The OranguVan is a rugged mobile library that allows for travel to different communities throughout Sumatra (sometimes across roads in various states of disrepair!).

School Visit Activities: Games and Quiz

School Visit Activities: Games and Quiz

Our goal is to reach as much of the community as possible. However, young people are to be the next generation of decision-makers of the world, therefore we have special programmes in place specifically aimed at educating young people.

School Visit Activities: Discussion with the Students

School Visit Activities: Discussion with the Students

In North Sumatra (and perhaps most of Indonesia) there is no conservation/environmental education curriculum in place in schools. However, 40% of Indonesia’s forests were cleared between 1950-2000, reducing ground cover from roughly 162 million hectares to 98 million (FWI/GFW, 2002); Further, forest cover in Sumatra alone was reduced by 61% from 1985-1997 due to logging, infrastructure development, internal migration, and plantation development (McConkey, 2005). There is thus an urgent need for conservation education, so as to inform the people of both the past and the current situation, so that they themselves have the knowledge and power to shape their future.

School Visit Activities: Gifts for the Students

School Visit Activities: Gifts for the Students

The SOS-OIC has therefore created and implented a conservation education curriculum that has officially been accepted by the governments from two large provinces here in North Sumatra (these are mostly rural provinces that border orangutan habitat and national parks – however we have plans to begin the education programme within Medan this coming September). The school visit programme (along with ALL of SOS’s programmes) is run by our local Indonesian staff, many of which have advanced university degrees. The Founding Director of the SOS-OIC, Panut Hadisiswoyo, is currently at Oxford Brookes University (of which he was awarded a full scholarship to attend) in Oxford, England studying for his MSc in Primate Conservation. He is set to return next week and will use that education to further propel the SOS-OIC in its mission to help save the Sumatran orangutan.

OIC Team and the Students Pose in front of OranguVan

OIC Team and the Students Pose in front of OranguVan

The Sumatran orangutan population has decreased by 86% over the past 100 years and the most recent estimate places the figure around 7,300 left in the wild, with steady losses occurring every year (van Schaik et al., 2001; UNEP, 2007). Young Indonesians are to be the next generation that will truly hold the fate of the wild orangutan in their hands. Therefore it is imperative that theythemselves are given a proper and complete education – the sooner the better!

Well, that will do it for now! Any and all feedback is welcomed!

-dave

References: (although perhaps not typical in weblog format – I always like to know where data comes from – so I’ll make it available should you wish to dig deeper into the issues!)

FWI/GFW (2002). The State of the Forest: Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia: Forest Watch Indonesia: Washington, D.C.: Global Forest Watch.

McConkey, K. (2005). Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii). In: Caldecott, J. and Miles, L. (eds.) World Atlas of Great Apes and Their Conservation. University of California Press, pp.184-204.

UNEP (2007). The Last Stand of the Orangutan – State of Emergency: Illegal Logging, Fire and Palm Oil in Indonesia’s National Parks. In: Nellemann, C., Miles, L., Kaltenborn, B. P., and Virtue, M., and Ahlenius, H., eds. Norway: United Nations Environment Programme.

van Schaik, C. P., Monk, K. A. and Robertson, J. M. Y. (2001). Dramatic Decline in Orang-Utan Numbers in the Leuser Ecosystem, Northern Sumatra. Oryx 35 (1), pp.14-25.

First published on http://sos-oic.blogspot.com/2008/05/greetings-from-medan-school-visit.html