Orangutans are the only endemic great apes that are now only left on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Facts on the ground show that orangutans are mostly found outside of conservation areas, one of which is in the Wehea-Kelay Landscape, East Kalimantan. In this area, which is predominantly forest area, there are units of forestry concessions, plantations and community-managed areas. "Therefore, in the context of orangutan conservation, partnerships are needed from all parties to play an active role in protecting orangutans and their habitats," said Head of the East Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Sunandar Trigunajasa in the talk show "Conservation Talk: Orang Utans". and Us," on Wednesday, August 19, 2020.
Conservation Talk (CT) is a regular discussion event from Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN) which discusses various issues related to conservation. This online talk is part of the commemoration of World Orangutan Day which falls on 19 August. The theme “Orang Utan and Us” is a reminder that the life of orangutans is very important and requires efforts from all of us to protect these animals. There is a lot of information and lessons to be learned from the life of this great ape native to Indonesia.
"Orangutans are an umbrella species, so protecting these mammals is expected to protect other species that live in the same habitat," said M. Arif Rifqi, an Endangered Wildlife Habitat Conservation Practitioner, Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara.
Arif explained that as an umbrella species, orangutan activities will affect the surrounding ecosystem. He describes how the wide range of orangutans is able to disperse the seeds of the forest fruit that is eaten and out through the feces. Seeds from their faeces are of good quality and thrive better than seeds from conventional human nurseries or plantings. "That's why orangutans are also called the best forest regeneration agents," said Arif.
There is still a lot of potential for orangutans that has not been explored by humans. So far, studies on this animal surnamed Pongo have mostly explored its population and habitat. In fact, according to Arif, the plants consumed by orangutans have the potential as medicinal plants and human food plants. Given that the level of DNA similarity between orangutans and humans is 97 percent, the study of orangutan behavior is still open from the perspective of anthropology, biology, forestry, to biotechnology. This message of nature through the orangutans has not been fully translated. On the other hand, the population must continue to be maintained so that it is sustainable for future generations.
The question is, how to maintain the population of animals that have entered the critically endangered status (two steps before extinction)?
Sunandar explained that the best way to protect the orangutan population is to protect their habitat. Habitats that support the breeding of orangutans are those that have a good forest canopy, dense tree canopy, and most importantly have high fruit tree productivity. It is undeniable that most of the forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra have been fragmented by the activities of human business units. Sunandar underlined that cooperation and commitment from various parties for conservation can be carried out. This is proven by the management of orangutan habitat in the Wehea-Kelay Landscape, which now involves 23 partners representing the central government sector, local government, private sector, universities, communities and non-governmental organizations.
The existence of orangutans in the company's area is an ecosystem asset. “We have joined the Wehea-Kelay Essential Ecosystem Area Forum, learning together about the landscape in this region, understanding and realizing the potential for biodiversity in this region. We surveyed together, we mapped it together, and made a mutually agreed protocol,” said PT Gunung Gajah Abadi Group Forestry Concession Advisor Prof. Soeyitno Sudirman.
The 2016 Orangutan Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) study also showed that the habitat conditions of the East Kalimantan orangutans were still in good condition, one of which was in the landscape (Wehea-Kelay and the Lesan River). The level of biodiversity in this landscape area is also high. This is illustrated based on the results of a study conducted by Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara in 2016-2018, which was published in the book “The Bornean Orangutan and Their Habitat in the Wehea-Kelay Landscape.”
Based on this study, there are at least 1,200 individual orangutans spread over three submetapopulations, namely Kelay-Gie, Wehea and Telen. This study also identified more than 500 species of wild animals and more than 400 species of trees, of which about 30% are food for the Bornean orangutan, sub-species Pongo pygmaeus morio.
Orangutan conservation efforts outside their natural habitat are an option to save these animals from extinction. The existence of a collaborative effort involving all parties is the key to protecting it.
Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN) is a scientific-based non-profit organization that has been present in Indonesia since 2014. With the mission of protecting lands and waters as life support systems, we provide innovative solutions to realize the harmony of nature and humans through effective natural resource management, prioritizing a non-confrontational approach, and building a network of partnerships with all stakeholders for a sustainable Indonesia. For more information, visit ykan.or.id.