The Long Call
Choosing Sustainable Palm Oil Just Became Easier!
June 15, 2022As consumers have become more aware of the need to choose sustainable palm oil, tools to help them navigate the thousands of products which may contain palm oil are being developed. The latest is the ...
May 24, 2022by Jane Griffiths & Emma Lokuciejewski
TTN | Seeing red for the good of all this planet’s apes
May 5, 2022“Orangutans’ habitats are under threat of deforestation for production of palm oil, processed in food & beauty products. An easy aid? Only buy from those that use sustainable palm oil ...
Deforestation, Poaching & Wildfires
Orangutans are (critically) endangered, with current populations estimated to be >>INSERT TEXT<<. Three main human activities threaten – roughly equally – the remaining wild orangutan are deforestation, poaching and wildfires.
Deforestation has a significant impact on orangutan populations. Orangutans are arboreal primates that depend on forests for their survival, and their habitat is rapidly being destroyed by deforestation.
The loss of forests due to deforestation destroys the natural habitat of orangutans and leads to a decline in their population. Orangutans rely on forests for food, shelter, and breeding, and the destruction of their habitat affects their ability to find food, mate, and raise their young.
As forests are cleared for logging, mining, agriculture, and human settlements, orangutans are forced to move to new areas or become isolated in small fragments of forests. This isolation can lead to inbreeding and genetic problems that can further reduce the population’s fitness and adaptability.
In addition, orangutans are also threatened by hunting and poaching, which are often associated with deforestation. As their habitat shrinks, they become more vulnerable to poaching for their meat, bones, and other body parts, which are highly valued in traditional medicine.
Overall, deforestation poses a significant threat to orangutan populations, and conservation efforts are essential to protect their habitat and ensure their long-term survival.
Over the decades, the Bornean and Sumatran rainforests have steadily degraded and perished, resulting in the serious loss of orangutan habitat. Around the 1960s and the 1970s, these tropical rainforests were logged during the plywood boom (see image right) and many were then converted into paper&pulp plantations and transmigration areas during the 1980s and 1990s. Since the turn of the century, the remaining rainforests are further threatened by the oil palm cultivation boom. Currently, timber extraction and agribusiness – both legal and illegal – are the main causes of deforestation and orangutan habitat loss.
Orangutans are hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some parts of Indonesia and Malaysia. Their infants are also captured and sold as pets or for use in the entertainment industry. In addition, some orangutans are killed by poachers to protect crops, as the animals are known to raid agricultural fields in search of food.
The removal of adult orangutans from the population can have a significant impact on the reproductive success of the species. Orangutans have a slow reproductive rate, with females only giving birth once every 7-9 years, and the loss of adult females can have a particularly significant impact on the population.
Overall, poaching is a major threat to the survival of orangutans and has contributed to a significant decline in their populations over the past few decades. Conservation efforts aimed at reducing poaching, as well as protecting and restoring orangutan habitat, are critical to ensuring the survival of this iconic species.
Wildfires can have a significant impact on orangutan populations. Orangutans primarily live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, which are increasingly subject to fires due to a combination of natural and human causes.
The direct impact of fires on orangutans can include injury or death from burns, smoke inhalation, or being trapped in trees or on the ground. In addition, fires can destroy the forests that orangutans depend on for food and shelter, leading to long-term habitat loss and fragmentation.
Furthermore, the smoke and haze produced by fires can have significant health impacts on orangutans, particularly young and vulnerable individuals. The smoke can cause respiratory problems, eye irritation, and other health issues, which can be particularly dangerous for infants and juveniles.
Overall, wildfires pose a significant threat to orangutan populations, both directly through injury and death, and indirectly through the destruction of their habitat and the effects of smoke and haze. To protect orangutans from the impacts of wildfires, it is essential to prevent and manage fires, as well as to protect and restore their habitat.
Learn more about the threats to orangutans
- Drivers of Deforestation in Borneo and Kalimantan - Historically, forest exploitation (for timber) and forest conversion (for coffee, paper & pulp, rubber, tea, etc) have been the leading causes of orangutan habitat loss in Borneo and Sumatra. For instance, the habitat of the Bornean Orangutan was mainly replaced by grassland/shrubland or oil palm – both commercial and smallholder plantations – between 2001-2016 (see...
- Can palm oil save orangutans? - Millions of people around the world have seen the footage of the lone wild orangutan in an apocalyptic landscape of destroyed forest desperately trying to fight off a bulldozer; it has become symbolic of the catastrophic devastation wrought upon rainforests and wildlife by the palm oil industry. So, it comes as no surprise that caring...
Forests. For Orangutans. Forever.
Human activities – in particular deforestation, poaching and wildfires – have been catastrophic for orangutans and lead to the loss of orangutan habitats and the decline of orangutan populations. But despite being critically endangered, the orangutan is still alive and kicking! Thus, there still is time to implement holistic but strict solutions to halt the loss of orangutan habitats and the decline of orangutan populations.
The future of the orangutan is heavily debated as ongoing habitat destruction, illegal wildlife trade and hunting cause declining populations. The vulnerability of the orangutan is best revealed in the palm oil debate. It is true that palm oil is a major threat to orangutans. Unsustainable practices such as deforestation, forest fires and habitat fragmentation put the future of viable orangutan populations at risk. The palm oil sector is especially relevant because the majority of orangutans live outside protected areas. (In fact, in Borneo alone, over 10,000 orangutans live in areas allocated for industrial oil palm.) Here orangutans live in degraded forest, isolated forest patches in a plantation landscape. But they are still there and can play an important role if we want to connect and protect orangutans in the wild.
Orangutan Habitat Loss
We believe that orangutans are best protected in their natural habitat. Sadly, much of this habitat is impacted by human activity: such as oil palm and timber plantations, logging, mining and small farms, for example. Only 36% of orangutan habitat is located in protected areas, while 49% is located in timber concessions, 9% in tree plantations and 6% in oil palm estates (see image right).
That means you have to work with people living and working in orangutan habitat if you want make an impact. We condemn unsustainable practices such as deforestation, use of fire and harm of wildlife in and around plantation areas. But we support and encourage those plantation companies that save and protect forest on their land, plant trees to create wildlife corridors and manage orangutans on their plantations.
Orangutan Population Decline
Our Theory of Change
Whether we like it or not, human activities occur throughout much of the remaining orangutan habitat and exacerbate its loss and the decline of orangutan populations. That’s why we choose to work with sustainable palm oil companies that protect forest and plant buffer zones and corridors to conserve orangutans in the wild.
>>How does OLT address the three main drivers: (1) Deforestation for commercial agriculture and silviculture, (2) poaching orangutans for bushmeat and the pet trade and (3) wildfires linked to climate change and slash-and-burn practices?<< what does OLT do to address orangutan habitat loss and orangutan population decline???<<
Everyone can play a part to support solutions for the survival of the orangutan. By demanding only sustainable, deforestation-free ingredients in the products we buy, we can change the way the palm oil industry operates to one that protects wildlife and their habitats.
- Wiggs, C and J Cunningham 2022 Orangutan landscapes at risk: The role of industrial tree concessions in protecting key forest habitats (Aidenvironment), PDF accessed 1 August 2022
Read more about our solutions in our latest posts.
- Tweet Storm - text here
- Education - Looking for resources for schools, zoos and other institutions? We’ve compiled some of our favourite sources here to reach out to and inform people of all ages. –PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION–
- Wildfire Fighting - text here
- Tree planting - text here
- PONGO Alliance - text here
“The single most important thing consumers can do to save orangutans is to demand sustainable palm oil.”
Led by Michelle Desilets, Executive Director and Lone Droscher-Nielsen, President and Trustee, with a combined experience of over 50 years in orangutan conservation, OLT is backed by a formidable team of experts who help determine the strategy of the organisation
Michelle Desilets – Executive Director
Michelle Desilets is the Founder and Executive Director of Orangutan Land Trust and has been working in orangutan conservation for 27 years. Michelle previously founded and directed the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK.
Lone Droscher-Nielsen – President & Trustee
Lone Droscher-Nielsen is President and Trustee to Orangutan Land Trust. She has worked in orangutan conservation since 1993 and founded what is now the world’s largest primate rescue centre, the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project in 1998. Numerous television programmes have been made showcasing her work in saving over 1000 orangutans, including Orangutan Diary and Orangutan Island. Lone is knighted in her native Denmark.
Prof David Chivers – Chair & Trustee
Professor David Chivers, MA, PhD, ScD, FLS, FZS, FRGS, was born in April 1944, and from Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood, he came up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1963, to read veterinary medicine. Reading Physical Anthropology in his third year, showed him that he could combine his boyhood interest in natural history with a growing interest in our relatives, so he registered for a Ph.D. and went off to the Malay Peninsula for two years to study the ecology and behaviour of the siamang.
Thijs Pasmans – Trustee
Thijs started as a sustainability officer at MVO – The Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry in 2014. During this time he learned from traders, refiners, manufactures, growers, NGO’s, governments and scientific experts how to go about sustainable palm oil. His best experiences were when he worked with oil palm smallholders and plantation companies in Indonesia in 2017. After he left MVO in 2019, Thijs started as a trustee and content writer for the Orangutan Land Trust.
Judith Murdoch – Trustee
Judith first realised her passion for sustainability when she was the Marketing and CSR Manager at a global edible oils Company. Here she developed strategies for these functions and developed training for customers on all aspects of sustainable palm oil. Judith joined OLT in 2019 to share her supply chain and policy knowledge and helps reach out to companies looking for conservation projects.
Dr Erik Meijaard – Advisory Board
Dr Marc Acrenaz – Advisory Board
Dr Ian Singleton – Advisory Board
Dr Ian Singleton is Director of Conservation at PanEco Foundation and Scientific Director for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. He was formerly Senior orangutan keeper at Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust and Animal keeper at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Zoological Society of London. He studied at the University of Kent (PhD, Ecology; orangutan ranging behaviour, 1996 – 2000) and the University of Sunderland (BSc(hons), Environmental Science, 1984 – 1987).
Fitrian Ardiansyah – Advisory Board
Fitrian Ardiansyah is Indonesia Country Director at IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative, among others, in charge of ISLA (initiative for sustainable landscapes) and helping coordinate palm oil and pulp and paper programs in Indonesia. He is a Fellow at the International League of Conservation Writers, and a Scientific Advisor for the Orangutan Land Trust. He has helped think-tank organisations including Pelangi Indonesia and Article 33. He was undertaking doctoral research at the Crawford School, the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.
Dr Carl Traeholt – Advisory Board
Dr Carl Traeholt is the Southeast Asia Programme Director for Copenhagen Zoo.
Dr John Payne – Advisory Board
John (Junaidi) Payne led a Statewide survey of orangutans in Sabah in the mid-1980s, finding that there were about 20,000 individuals. In that period when half of Sabah’s forests had not been logged and oil palm plantations occupied only 2% of Sabah’s land, it was clear that dense breeding populations of the species were linked to low, flat, moist soils, irrespective of forest condition, and the best sites for oil palm. Based on that, he believes that we should help the species adapt over the next half-century to a lowland landscape of oil palm, orang-utan food plants and regenerating forest.
Dr Serge Wich – Advisory Board
Dr Serge Wich, OLT Advisory Board, is a biologist/ecologist with a keen interest in primates and tropical rain forests. His work focuses on pure and applied research. He has studied several primate species, but has been mainly focusing on orangutans and their habitat in recent years. He currently is a professor at Liverpool John Moores University in the Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology.
Bart W van Assen – Advisory Board
An Indonesianist for over two decades, Bart is endorsed as Quality Panel Member by the High Conservation Value Resource Network, as an independent trainer (P&C Lead Auditor and SCC) by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, and as Certification Coach by The Borneo Initiative.
Bart has an extensive track record covering all disciplines of certification (prosperity, people & planet) in Indonesia. He has cooperated with various for-profit and not-for-profit entities in Indonesia and Malaysia and currently supports KAYON, a start-up initiative promoting a new approach to (tropical) rainforest conservation: pirate–a–tree.