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Sumatra

Our Commitment

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.

Conservation in Practice

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.

Challenges

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.

Junger Orang-Utan in der Quarantänestation Batu Mbelin
A youngster learns how to be an indepent orangutan in the quarantine station Batu Mbelin.
Veterinärstation in der Quarantänestation Batu Mbelin in Sumatra
The quarantine station Batu Mbelin offers highly specialised medical treatment to the orangutans.

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.

Plantagen und Regenwald in Sumatra
Dramatic contrast: rainforest vs. plantations.
Dr. Martin Bauer, Head Curator at Zoo Zürich
Dr. Ian Singleton, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme SOCP, PanEco: Dr. Ian Singleton, Biologist and former orangutan keeper at Jersey Zoo, has run SOCP since the project began in 2001. He has worked with apes for over 25 years. His scientific work and his commitment to the protection of Sumatran orangutans have gained global prestige.
Dr. Martin Bauer, Head Curator at Zoo Zürich
Dr. Martin Bauert, Head Curator at Zoo Zürich: director of the Zoo Biology department and is in charge of nature conservation projects at Zoo Zürich. He maintains close communication links with those working on the project in Sumatra. He is Vice President of the specialist Swiss commission for the interests of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).