Protect and Restore Orangutan Habitat, Southern Borneo

The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Trust seeks to preserve, protect, restore and safeguard the tropical peat-swamp forests of southern Borneo and the biodiversity found within them, notably the endangered orangutan, both for the benefit of the biodiversity and the public.

The Sabangau tropical peat-swamp forest is one of the most important rainforests found on Borneo. It is of major conservation importance for its carbon storage abilities, and for its high biodiversity, including the orangutan and other endangered species that, with relevant permits, local and international travellers trek to view. This area is under massive threat from conversion, swamp drainage, illegal logging and wildlife hunting. These result in out of control fires and permanent damage to the peat ecosystem, threatening the orangutan’s survival. This project will:

  • Build dams to restore areas of peat swamp damaged by logging and fires
  • Replant burnt forest areas with 1,500 locally sources seedlings annually
  • Enable community patrol teams to protect the forest and its orangutans from the threats they face

To watch a video with Dr Susan Cheyne, a Director at OuTrop, please click HERE.

The Update

This project was completed by the end of 2014. The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Trust reported that Sabangau itself is threatened as a result of earlier illegal logging that was rampant during the late 1990s and early 2000s and needs urgent restoration work.  Their work with the local community had succeeded in stopping the widespread illegal logging before it could do too much damage to the forest cover but the damage to the peat is longer lasting and it is this damage which this project aimed to address. The damage is in the form of drainage, resulting from narrow channels dug by illegal loggers in the peat in order to float felled timber out.  Dried peat is highly flammable and fires frequently break out in the forest margins, sometimes burning large areas. Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere, and habitat and wildlife lost.  Hence this project focused on building dams to fill in channels and restore natural hydrology, and replanting burnt and degraded area of forest.  35 double walled dams where built on a particularly large Bahkan canal, which benefitted a large area of forest, as well as on smaller canals.  Water loving plants were also planted to promote natural re-colonisation.  So far 600 trees have been planted out from the nursery to degraded forest areas and the funding has driving the project to reevaluate their nursery and reforestation program.  Four patrols were undertaken each week to protect the orangutans and their forest, and monthly monitoring of the organutan’s nests also took place to assess numbers of these special animals.

Image: Orangutan. Image Credit: Thea Powell/OuTrop