Zurich Zoo supports PanEco in its efforts to preserve the last remaining connected peat swamps on the coast of Aceh in northern Sumatra. These peat swamp forests are home to more orangutans per square kilometre than anywhere else in the world. We also support the running of the quarantine and care centre at Batu Mbelin in the region of Gunung Leuser National Park, which takes in orphaned, confiscated and injured orangutans. In northern Sumatra, there is a station that releases rehabilitated orangutans back into the rainforest in Jantho Nature Reserve.
PanEco, a Swiss foundation, together with its partners of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme SOCP, is committed to protecting orangutans in many different ways. PanEco works for the release and resettlement of illegally captured orangutans and those kept as pets. Its partner SOCP operates a quarantine station where confiscated animals receive medical care and are prepared for their release and return to a life of freedom. PanEco further supports research into the orangutans' habits and protection of their habitat and does environmental education and publicity work in Indonesia to raise awareness of the needs of great apes.
The orangutans live in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Their survival in their natural habitat is seriously endangered. Every year, rainforest areas the size of Switzerland fall victim to legal and illegal tree felling, driven by the increasing demand for palm oil. Palm oil is contained in a great many everyday products, including ready meals, confectionery, washing detergents and cosmetics. Over the last 75 years, the orangutan population has fallen by more than 80%. Because they reproduce very slowly, these great apes cannot maintain a viable population. Today, less than 7,000 orangutans live on Sumatra.
PanEco and Zurich Zoo's work to protect the orangutan is concentrated in the areas near Gunung Leuser National Park, a region also known as the Leuser Ecosystem. The main objective is to conserve the rainforests as a habitat for the orangutans. These forests also facilitate tremendously important ecosystem benefits for the local population such as protection from erosion, floods and high tides caused by storms, as well as keeping water safe for drinking.
Research conducted by PanEco and SOCP has revealed that new palm oil plantations can also be cultivated on previously cleared, underused areas. Therefore, it should not be necessary to clear primary forest to meet the current demand for palm oil. PanEco was a founding member of the Round Table for Sustainable Palmoil RSPO, which promotes and monitors sustainable palm oil production and whose members include both major producers and distributors of palm oil and conservation organisations.