Saturday 23 July 2011

My Wonderful Tangkahan - Prelude 2

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme - SOCP

After having visited what was formerly the Botanic Gardens and which is now Ian Singleton's new project for conservation and education we moved on to the SOCP centre which as we are told is located kind of back to back to the Botanic Garden and hence protecting each other from unwanted visitors.

Now: The SOCP was an very emotional affair for me, and to introduce you to the matter with some facts and stories directly from Ian, please have a look at this video which is provided on YouTube by the centre.

I saw those animals. I saw those cages. One part of me wants to shout out: Oh how cute! the other part of me drives tears into my eyes because I should not see them there, I should not be able to find them cute.  

There we were at the SOCP
The cage in which dad, mum and the two babies live

Mum and one of the babies. We could not get too close, to avoid infections and to not make her too nervous.

Dad, in the adjacent cage

Ian Singleton and Jess McKelson from RAW discussing projects
RAW is supporting the SOCP whenever possible, e.g. part of our fee for the day trip was used as sponsorship for the programme. Jess now will be putting focus on helping to find a suitable site and funding for mum and her twins, so that she will be out of the cage and raise the little ones in a safe environment as naturally as possible.

Some might ask if all that money and all that effort is worth it. I have heard voices saying, that with the same amount of money so much more can be achieved in South America where land is cheaper and circumstances are less difficult; that the approach of rescuing individuals is not helping for the bigger picture.

Well, I have a few things to add. Firstly, if confronted with an individual - who would be able to put it down for cost reasons? Secondly, orangutans play a vital role in preserving rainforest as gardeners of the jungle, as they distribute seeds over far distances. And thirdly, this is what I found on Wikipedia about their conservation status - critically endangered:

from Wikipedia: distribution of orangutan in Sumatra

The Sumatran orangutan is endemic to Sumatra island and is particularly restricted to the north of the island. In the wild, Sumatran orangutans survive in the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), the northernmost tip of Sumatra.The primate was once more widespread, as they were found more to the south in the 19th century such as in Jambi and Padang.There are small populations in the North SumatraLake Toba forests. A survey in the Lake Toba region found only two inhabited areas, Bukit Lawang (defined as the animal sanctuary) and Gunung Leuser National Park The species has been assessed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2000. It is considered one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates." A survey in 2004 estimated that around 7,300 Sumatran orangutans still live in the wild. Some of them are being protected in five areas in Gunung Leuser National Park;

It is estimated that today only around 6000 Sumatran orangutans still exist. Not a lot! Every individual is important to enrich the gene pool. These 6000 do not live in one big area in which genes would be exchanged freely to maintain a healthy population. Roads and logging have cut the population into small groups already, some of them too small to avoid inbreeding. The fresh genes of those two babies are very much crucial for the bigger picture of orangutan survival in Sumatra. They need and deserve our help!
Socialisation cages
The resocialisation approach at the SOCP is pretty much hands-off. Although it appears a bit sad that those little ones are behind bars and don't get cuddles, it is their best chance for getting an ape lifestyle quickly. Humans might be good in cuddling, but they fail miserably in ape-ish skills. Research has shown that these little ones learn much faster from each other. In those cages they bond quickly and like street children they are able to survive in their environment at an earlier age then they would if getting used to a humanoid lifestyle.

Good luck, little fella!

 You can support the SOCP by donations via their website.

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