One of the greatest threats against the orangutan is the expanding palm oil industry, which is the main motor force behind the severe deforestation of Borneo’s rainforest. Rainforest clearing forces the orangutan out of its natural habitat and in closer contact with humans. The human-orangutan encounters often result in tragic conflicts, and too often it leads to injured or killed orangutans. Save the Orangutan and Indonesian partner BOS Foundation have therefore started up a new project aiming to mitigate human-orangutan conflicts on oil palm plantations.

One of the greatest threats against the orangutan is the palm oil industry as conversion to plantation requires deforestation. More and more oil palm plantations are established in Borneo as the global demand for palm oil increases. Unfortunately, this means that more and more rainforest areas are being cleared, forcing the orangutan out of its natural habitat. You can read more about the palm oil industry threat to the orangutan here >>

The increasing number of oil palm plantations is one of the biggest threats to the orangutan’s survival. Unfortunately, plantations often result in tragic human-orangutan conflicts. This powerful photo shows an orangutan fighting an unfair battle for territory. (International Animal Rescue / Caters News)

While foraging for food in a cleared forest area, orangutans may accidentally wander onto oil palm plantations, bringing them in close contact with the people working the plantations. Tragically, human-orangutan encounters often result in injured or killed orangutans. In many cases, the orangutans are shot or injured as vermin because they eat the fruits from the oil palms. However, recent studies reveal that the majority of human-orangutan conflicts is a result of human fear and lack of education on how to handle orangutans. One of our goals for this project is therefore to spread awareness and knowledge of how to handle the orangutan among the plantation workers to avoid such conflicts. Initially, the project’s focus will be on mitigating conflicts on select oil palm plantations near Mawas, which is home to more than 2500 wild orangutans.

‘Training of trainers’ will maximise the project’s effect

Throughout the project, ‘best management practices’ for handling orangutans on plantations will be established, which will spread to oil palm plantations afterwards. The main focus of the projects’ first phase is the educators. The educators will go through a thorough training to expand their knowledge about the orangutan and how human-orangutan conflicts can be avoided. This ‘training of trainers’ will prepare the educators to pass on the knowledge to spread the best management practices to even more oil palm companies and local communities.

The first phase of the project entails a number of training seminars aiming to teach the participants how to mitigate human-orangutan conflicts. After the training, the participants receive a certificate allowing them to pass on the knowledge. This way – through ‘training of trainers’ – the project’s effect can be maximised.

The first training seminar

The first training seminar of the project was held by BOS Foundation for 38 participants. The participants included representatives from oil palm companies, BKSDA (Nature Conservation Agency), and BOS Foundation. Moreover, the oil palm companies PT KLM (PT Kalimantan Lestari Mandiri) and PT SMJL (PT Sakit Mait Jaya Langit) with oil palm plantations near Mawas have shown interest in participating. This project is the first of Save the Orangutan’s projects with a specific focus on human-orangutan conflicts on oil palm plantations. At both Save the Orangutan and BOS Foundation, we are therefore happy with the plantations’ interest in the training and we feel optimistic about the project.

The first training seminar was held by our partner BOS Foundation with participants from local authorities, BOS Foundation, local communities, and oil palm companies.

The project will spread to more areas and plantations across Borneo

Another goal of the project is to raise awareness and expand and spread knowledge to other areas across Borneo, for instance the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, which has been used as a release site for the release of more than a hundred rehabilitated orangutans. The national park borders on several villages, and it is therefore crucial to expand and spread knowledge on how to handle orangutans within the local communities. Educating the local communities on conflict mitigation is therefore part of a larger project ensuring a sustainable future for both humans and orangutans in this area. Besides funding from private donors, the project is funded by a grant from Civil Society in Development (CISU). 

We are looking forward to update you on the project.