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The Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) is dedicated to the conservation of Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) and their forest homes. Our grassroots projects in Sumatra work with local communities living alongside orangutan habitat. The OIC plants trees, visits schools and villages, and provides training to help local people work towards a more sustainable future. We are a local NGO staffed by Indonesian university graduates, believing that Sumatran people are best suited to have an impact in and help Sumatra.

The Orangutan Information Centre works to:

  1. Raise public awareness of threats to and conservation strategies for the Sumatran orangutan through community education and global communication
  2. Educate and empower Sumatran youth through environmental education and awareness projects for local schools
  3. Promote sustainable community development initiatives in local communities through training and capacity building in local communities
  4. Collaborate with other local and international NGOs and businesses working towards parallel goals

Long-term goals:

  • Conserve the endemic, critically endangered Sumatran orangutan and its rainforest ecosystem home
  • Work with local people towards the preservation and regrowth of rainforest habitat
  • Assist local government in the protection and maintenance of protected areas
  • Promote orangutans as global conservation ambassadors for the rainforest ecosystem
  • Support the establishment of conservation education curriculum and community empowerment programmes in Sumatra

Brief summary of current programmes:

I. Gunung Leuser National Park Rehabilitation Programme

Donors: LUSH (UK), Musim Mas (Indonesia), Lonsum (Indonesia), Sumatran Orangutan Society, Rainforest Rescue (Australia), TheRainforestSite.com

We have been involved in the reforestation of degraded land through tree nursery and replanting projects in Sumatra since 2005, and have planted over half million trees to date. Our latest project involves the regeneration of illegally cleared forest land in the Besitang region of the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP).  The programme is the first of its kind in Sumatra, with OIC being the first and only NGO granted permission to conduct restoration work within the national park.  Working in close collaboration with the national park government authorities and local communities, the project aims to undo damage caused through illegal large-scale conversion of forest into oil palm plantation agriculture.

Our initial target is to replant 500 hectares of orangutan habitat lost to development. A group of farmers in Besitang have committed to supporting the rehabilitation effort, and to actively protect the national park from further encroachment. To date we have planted 200 hectares of degraded land with more than 200,000 seedlings of indigenous tree species, with the assistance of the farmers group and the local community.  We are currently in the nursery/cultivation stage of preparing seedlings for the restoration of an additional 100 hectares of degraded land, and we are looking to expand into Aceh province.

In addition to forest rehabilitation, the project provides sustainable alternative livelihood schemes for local people living adjacent to the park. They benefit from the restoration of natural ecological services (having previously suffered droughts as a result of high water uptake from the illegal planting of oil palms), and also receive agroforestry and business development training. There is a strong educational element to the project, with training and skills development on tree nursery management and replanting seedlings. Indigenous tree species planted include …………

II. Gunung Leuser Ecotourism Development Programme

Donors: Australian Orangutan Project, WWF (USA), Sumatran Orangutan Society, Chester Zoo (UK), Oregon Zoo (USA), Orangutan Outreach (USA), Lush (UK), Toronto Zoo (Canada), UNESCO

Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra, was once the site of an orangutan rehabilitation project, and continues to provide the opportunity for viewing both semi-wild and wild orangutans on daily excursions into the Gunung Leuser National Park. Although it is forbidden to touch, feed, or disturb them, such practices still do occur for the enjoyment of visitors. Large groups are often brought within close proximity to, and in actual physical contact with the orangutans. This is a major cause for concern in terms of both zoonotic and also anthropozoonotic disease transfer due to the close phylogenetic relationship between humans and orangutans. Accompanying this is unauthorised food provisioning, which in addition to potential disease transfer also serves to discourage the semi-wild population from reducing any dependence on human and again becoming free-living in the wild.  These problems are not restricted to the semi-wilds as there are also wild orangutans within the area, and there is regular interaction between the two populations. Thus what affects one population can affect the other.

It is therefore crucial that measures are taken to intervene and raise tourism standards and set new visitation protocols, such as minimum distances from the animals, limited group sizes and viewing times, etc.  This is done through assisting the existing, but poorly trained, Bukit Lawang guide association, in hosting an extensive training programwhich provides a comprehensive guiding curriculum. This covers issues such as the concepts of conservation, ecotourism and forest ecology, fauna and flora, lessons on conducting environmental education, as well as methods of maximising visitors’ experiences, first aid training, forest survival and navigation skills. We have also produced a range of information materials for local and international visitors through the installation of signboards, an information centre, production of a film reviewing park guidelines, brochures, national park guidebook, and lecture sessions.

With support from UNESCO and other donors, this programme has also now been extended to provide training for guides in the Tangkahan region, which also borders the Gunung Leuser National Park. The area is most well-known for hosting an ex-captive Sumatran elephant population used in forest trekking.

Through this programme, the OIC has produced wildlife-viewing guidelines, trains forest guides and park rangers in best-practise ecotourism techniques, and educates national and international visitors on conservation issues and wildlife viewing etiquette. Thus far 90 visitor guides and national park rangers have gone through the four-month training programme, with the fourth cohort of 30 people now in session.

III. Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit  (HOCRU)

Donors: USFWS, UNESCO

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered, due to ongoing deforestation, degradation and fragmentation of their rainforest habitats. As rainforest is increasingly converted for cultivation, the frequency of human-orangutan conflict (HOC), such as crop raiding, increases. Implementing effective measures to mitigate such conflict requires an understanding of how local people perceive these crop-raiding orangutans, the response of orangutans to living in these human – dominated landscapes, and impacts on rural subsistence economies. This programme is the first to provide such insights on influential factors of HOC, as well as providing direct support to the agricultural communities that bear the cost of living with crop-raiding orangutans.

This project specifically addresses the problem of human conflicts with the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan over cultivated resources (i.e. crop-raiding) whereby orangutans utilise crops as food resources, in communities adjacent to the GLNP. The project is being undertaken with the Governor of North Sumatra, the North Sumatra Natural Resource Conservation Office (BBKSDA) of the Indonesian Forestry Department and its institutions, and with financial/logistical support from UNESCO. The project is to also be supported by a partnership of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), led by the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC). It is a three-tiered programme consisting of (i) a collaborative Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) working group, (ii) three species specific subgroups comprised of key conservation agencies, and (iii) conflict mitigation response units.

Through the establishment of a Human Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Task Force Group (TFG), coordinated action can be taken to reduce the impacts of conflict on conservation. The OIC directs the orangutan specific aspect of the TFG field unit, and form the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU).  The HOCRU team consists of six local Indonesian staff, all of whom were once farmers, and one expatriate consultant who specialises in Human Orangutan Conflict.

This unit is responsible for responding to and alleviating instances of human-orangutan conflict (HOC) on agricultural and other human developed areas around the GLNP in North Sumatra. Further, as part of this programme the OIC a) gathers information regarding the types, patterns, and methods already utilised by local farmers for dealing with Human Wildlife Conflict, b) conducts regular, roving HWC monitoring to determine areas where conflict occurs or has the potential for conflict to occur, and c) socialises low-maintenance non-invasive farm based mitigation strategies to local communities, and d) develops and implements community conservation education across North Sumatran agricultural landscapes.

In order to be sustainable and suitable for agricultural communities, conflict mitigation strategies must be inexpensive, simple, low maintenance and non-fatal, and affected communities must be involved in their implementation.

IV. Model Conservation Village programmes

a. Community Agroforestry and Education Outreach

Donors: RARE

We have started work under the new RARE Pride campaign with communities in Langkat district. RARE trains environmental organisations, local grassroots groups, and governments to create support for conservation at the community level. The Pride campaign will establish Model Conservation Villages (MCV) to promote the conservation of Sumatran orangutans and the Gunung Leuser National Park.  This focused approach in key regions allows us to build stronger relationships with communities, and allows the communities to develop stronger commitments to conservation action in their local area.

Further, a mixed agroforestry method have been introduced and 200 farmers have adopted this practices. The OIC hosts regular visits to local communities and schools for conservation education outreach activities, and also hold environmental education training for teachers in North Sumatra.   This serves to build local teachers’ capacity to communicate environmental messages, using the Sumatran orangutan as a flagship for the Indonesian rainforests and the ecosystem services they provide. These tools help teachers to communicate conservation information in an engaging manner and inspire the next generation to value biodiversity and their natural environment.

b. Aceh Community Conservation Initiative (ACCI)

Donors:  USFWS Great Ape Conservation Fund, National Geographic Society Conservation Trust Grant, Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund

As with the RARE Model Conservation Village programme, the ACCI promotes orangutan and habitat protection through the participation of local communities.  The ACCI implemented various sustainable development programmes in local communities and schools around the forests of the GLNP. The goal of the both the MCV and ACCI programmes was to develop environmental initiatives compatible with local needs, and then to pass over the management to the communities themselves. With over 80% of Sumatran orangutans living in Aceh, it is excellent news that we are now able to expand our programmes in this province.

The ACCI developed model conservation villages that support the protection of orangutans and their ecosystem whilst simultaneously improving community livelihoods and natural resource conservation. Environmental education has been a cornerstone of the programme, and we informed communities of the importance of forested natural areas, so that the environmental costs of development in the province can be decreased as much as possible. Alternative livelihood schemes such as agroforestry, ecotourism development and other community action plans were presented as potential schemes for each individual model conservation village to implement. Within agroforestry systems, for example, the restoration of damaged forest and buffer zones have been promoted as important elements of orangutans’ habitat matrix which can also serve both economically as well as ecologically the people living adjacent to these forests.

c. Orangutan Conservation Village Initiative (OCVI)

Donor: Rufford Small Grant for Nature Conservation

The Orangutan Conservation Village Initiative (OCVI) is a grassroots programme to promote the protection of Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) and their rainforest ecosystem, working with communities living adjacent to the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP). The OCVI involved village-wide workgroups and training sessions that work towards developing community-led projects to support sustainable alternative livelihoods. We implemented environmental education and awareness programmes in the target villages as well as throughout surrounding communities. We trained the community with skills needed to manage and implement these plans, with the ultimate goal being the creation of a model conservation village.

V. Teacher Training

Donors: International Primatological Society (IPS), Borneo Orangutan Society Canada

We have hosted environmental education training sessions for teachers in North Sumatra. This programme builds their capacity to communicate environmental messages, using the Sumatran orangutan as a flagship for the Indonesian rainforests and the ecosystem services they provide. These tools will help teachers to communicate environmental information in an engaging manner and inspire the next generation to see the value in protecting their environment. By imparting to teachers concepts such as sustainable resource use, the importance of species diversity, ecosystem services and the plight of the orangutan, we aim to cultivate a sense of environmental responsibility in future generations of Indonesians. The training sessions take place in a forested public nature park with an attached learning centre, owned by the government in Sibolangit, North Sumatra, and several sessions are carried out in an outdoor setting so the participants can use local environment resources near forest areas for practical learning and nature interpretation skills.

A handbook is distributed to teachers for future use in their respective schools. Environmental film screenings are also be conducted, as this is a very effective method of presenting information and stimulating concern and action. Copies of environmental films are distributed to teachers to later screen as part of their lessons, and become part of each school’s library. In addition, nature games and workshops are conducted for them to later replicate with students at their schools throughout North Sumatra.

VI. Scholarship Scheme

Donor: Orangutan Republik Education Initiative (OUREI)

A scholarship scheme has now been running for six years to support much-needed study into orangutan ecology and conservation in Sumatra for Indonesian university students. These students can be expected to become key members of the conservation movement, and can help inspire others to care for nature and their environment.  To date, 33 Indonesian students from local universities have been awarded funding. The scholarship covers the full four years of tuition needed for each student, as well as a stipend for orangutan/habitat-related research.

VII. Conservation School Programme

Donors: US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Rufford Small Grants (UK), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) (Indonesia), Sumatran Orangutan Society

The Conservation School Programme (CSP) focuses on students in secondary and senior high schools throughout North Sumatra. Activities include school visits, conservation camps, festivals and the Conservation Savings Programme: tree nurseries for villages, currently being carried out in the Bukit Barisan Forest Preserve. The Mobile Awareness Unit, or OranguVan, has provided communities with outreach services such as conservation training, discussion forums, a mobile library complete with books, pamphlets, and conservation films, tree seedling distribution, and environmental themed exhibitions. The OIC has been officially entrusted as a conservation authority to develop the environmental education curriculum in schools in North Sumatra by the Governor of North Sumatra province and the regional ministry of education. We have visited 350 schools and reached approximately 12,000 students throughout six districts in North Sumatra province: Langkat, Medan, Deli Serdang, Dairi, Pakpak Bharat, and Karo. Sub-programmes of the CSP include:

a. Sumatran Orangutan Education and Awareness Programme (SOEAP)

We promote practical conservation and provide environmental education for schools around North Sumatra and Aceh. During school visits we talk to children and teachers about the plight of the orangutan and the current status of Sumatra’s forests. We show environmental films in the local language, hold discussions, and offer training in activities such as paper recycling and composting. We are frequently requested to set up a tree nursery in the school grounds so that the children can replant the degraded forests around their villages.

The OIC has established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Education in the Deli Serdang region of North Sumatra to pioneer conservation lessons for all state schools in the region. Curriculum guidelines have been endorsed by the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment.

A popular element of the SOEAP is the Conservation Camp. This inspires school children to become actively involved in learning about and caring for their environment. During the camp students are given talks on conservation issues. They are also given training in practical aspects of conservation such as paper recycling, composting, and ecological surveying techniques. Students are not offered this kind of training at their schools or universities. The camp also gives teachers the chance to receive training in communicating environmental messages so that the next generation will see the value in protecting their environment. This is one of our best-loved programmes as students are not offered this kind of training at their schools or universities. The camp also gives teachers the chance to receive training in communicating environmental messages so that the next generation will see the value in protecting their environment.  The conservation camp is an extension of the school visit programme, held in an outdoor venue and attended by many different schools.  The camps allow for students from neighboring areas to meet and discuss conservation issues, as well as watch environmental films and attend conservation education courses held by OIC staff.

b. Orangutan Festivals

The orangutan festival is a grander version of the more regularly held conservation camps.  The activities conducted include: film screenings, focus group workshop discussions, tree planting, environmental poetry and song composition and recitation, essay and opinion sharing activities for teachers.

c. Orangutan Friends Club

We host a large youth club organization called “Orangutan Friends” club (Sahabat Orangutan, SOU, in Indonesian) which aims to instill a sense of pride in young Indonesians about their beautiful environment and its unique inhabitants, especially the orangutan. The club currently has over 800 members.

VIII. OranguVan mobile environmental education unit programme

Donors: Lush, National Geographic,

The OranguVans are mobile environmental libraries and conservation film units. The vehicles travel around North Sumatra and Aceh, visiting local communities and schools. We provide free access to books, hold discussions and debates, show environmental films and give presentations on orangutans and the importance of conserving their habitat. The OranguVan programme provides grassroots environmental education and outreach services to local communities living in orangutan habitat areas. We educate them about a range of environmental issues, including conservation of orangutans and their habitat.

The OranguVans are also used in dedicated issue-based roadshows in conjunction with the Great Ape Film Initiative (GAFI). Our mobile conservation cinema screens films produced in local language to raise awareness about issues such as illegal logging, the pet trade, and the dangers of disturbing the rainforest ecosystem.

IX. Islamic Teachings on the Protection of Natural Rescources

Donors: Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

Objectives:

  1. To develop information resources on Islamic teachings related to the protection of natural resources, with a focus on the Sumatran orangutan and the Gunung Leuser National Park
  2. To disseminate information on Islamic principles related to natural resource conservation and species protection to Islamic religious leaders, local Islamic schools as well as communities around the Gunung Leuser National Park.
  3. To engage local communities to actively participate in the conservation of the GLNP and the protection of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, culminating in the replanting of 20 hectares of degraded national park land with indigenous forest tree species.
  4. To train Islamic community organisation leaders and teachers in Islamic schools to integrate natural resource conservation into their regular teaching and curriculum.

We have produced a guidebook of Islamic teaching on natural resource conservation, conducting focus group discussions, establishing an Islamic leader working  group and hosting regular meetings. We distributed the guidebooks to mosques, Islamic community organisations, and Islamic schools around GLNP in Langkat, held a speech competition for Islamic school children, promoted the urgency of rehabilitation efforts for degraded areas of GLNP through conducting a field visit for Islamic leaders and school teachers to visit degraded national park areas in the Langkat District, and establish two tree nursery centers to cultivate 20,000 seedlings for replanting 20 hectares of degraded land in GLNP. Training programmes have been conducted for Islamic community leaders and school teachers on integrating Islamic teaching into their sermons and the curriculum.

X. Conservation and Digital Opportunity Centre

Donors: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan); Bamboo Community University

Dates: September 2009 – November 2010

We have established two Conservation Digital Opportunity Centers (CDOCs) in Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan respectively, the sites of our ecotoursim development programmes, as a pilot project to develop a successful working model on how to utilise information and communication technologies to support rainforest and orangutan conservation and environment education. These consist of 20 new desktop computer stations with their own dedicated internet service, and serve as centres for local people and national/international visitors to learn about conservation and the GLNP. There is a biodiversity conservation theme to each of the buildings, which are complete with conservation libraries. The centres also offer specialised courses for local people about computer and internet familiarisation, graphic design and related tourism development applications, and also conservation/GLNP lectures, all of which with a conservation theme as the backbone. In addition, we have also recently acquired 16 new laptop computers for use in our OranguVan Mobile Awareness Unit, so that these complete services can also be brought to remote villages.

XI. The Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU)

As human populations encroach into wildlife habitats to meet their livelihood needs, competition for space and resources leads to increased levels of conflict between the two1 . Indonesia is losing massive amounts of forest cover per year2 , with virtually the entire rainforest habitat of orangutans exploited to some extent3.
Forest cover on Sumatra was reduced by 48% from 1985-2007 due to logging, infrastructure projects, internal migration, and plantation development 4,5 . There are now less than 864,100 hectares of Sumatran orangutan habitat left, and the trajectory remains downward6. Read More…