Along with the Bamboo Community University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, the NARL’s National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC) has teamed up with the Sumatran Orangutan Society/Orangutan Information Centre (SOS-OIC) to protect critically-endangered arboreal orangutans and fast disappearing rainforests in Indonesia. Under this joint initiative, the two Conservation and Digital Opportunity Centres (CDOCs) were established in December 2009 at Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan, two important orangutan conservation sites, in North Sumatra Province. These two centers are to develop a working model on how to apply information and communication technologies on rainforest and orangutan conservation as well as environment education for local communities. Moreover, the CDOCs render to increase global awareness and mobilize assistance from around the world in this important conservation effort.
Indonesia is home to one of the world’s three major tropical rainforests. The other two are found in the Amazon Basin of South America (e.g. Brazil) and Central Africa (e.g. Congo). These tropical rainforests play an elemental role in regulating global weather in addition to maintaining regular rainfall, while buffering against floods, droughts, and erosion. They store vast quantities of carbon, while producing a significant amount of the world’s oxygen, serving as the Earth’s “lungs.”
Regrettably, economic and social development in recent years has been causing rainforests about two-third of Taiwan, i.e., about 9,300 sq. mi. of rainforest, to disappear each year. This makes Indonesia’s rainforests disappear faster than anywhere else in the world. Apart from attributing to global warming and climate change, rainforest depletion in Indonesia is also threatening the habitat of arboreal Sumatran orangutans, which are now critically endangered according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. This means that Sumatran orangutans face extremely high risk of extinction in the wild if degradation, fragmentation and transformation of their habitats are not halted immediately.
The NARL-NCHC’s role in this international conservation effort is to digitize information about rainforests, orangutans, their plights and others, and to establish internet learning facilities located in remote areas of Sumatra. This information revolution for conservation efforts is the first of this kind in the country. It facilitates an innovative program of environmental education and orangutan protection through the participation and empowerment of local communities. It supports sustainable environmental development of the region. Furthermore, it makes sustainable eco-tourism in the regions feasible.