Today is World Habitat Day and this year’s Go Orange campaign is all about habitat!
We’re helping to stop the destruction of orangutan habitat by encouraging people to buy sustainable palm oil and we’re raising money so that our partners at the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (KOCP) can create new orangutan habitat by reforesting degraded areas.
Photo ©M.D Kapar – Hutan-KOCP
The above images shows a young 18-20 year old unflanged male feeding onDracontomelon sp. locally known as Sengkuang in the protected forest of the KOCP study site. This is a key fruit species for wild orangutan in the Kinabatangan River floodplain.
So what is habitat? Habitat is simply the physical area where a species lives. For a big animal like an elephant this could be thousands of square kilometres of forest, savannah, lakes and rivers but for a woodlouse it could be the underside of a single log. Parasites such as tapeworms live in other animal’s bodies so their habitat could be your intestines!
Orangutans live in the tropical forests of Sumatra and Borneo, some of the most unique and diverse habitats on our planet. Sadly these forests are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate, pushing the species that live there ever closer to extinction. Huge areas have been deforested or degraded by industrial logging, slash and burn agriculture and to make way for mono-culture agriculture on industrial scales producing palm oil, plywood and paper. As their habitat is destroyed orangutans are increasingly forced into conflict with people, many adults are killed and young taken as pets as a result.
HUTAN-KOCP’s Reforestation Project recreates orangutan habitat by planting native tree species in degraded areas. Over 30 native tree species are used, all grown in small-scale nurseries run by local communities.
Many of the trees being planted provide orangutans with food. Some provide fruit on regular cycles all year round whilst others produce a fruit bonanza for just a few weeks. Orangutans also eat lots of leaves, shoots, cambium (the part just underneath the outside bark), insects living in the trees and drink water which collects in nooks and crannies.
You might recognise the fruit on some of the trees being planted (see image below). Species of Ficus, Artocarpus, Durio, Dimocarpus and Syzigium are known to us as figs, jackfruit, durian, lychee and cloves although these are wild varieties so they might look a little different to the fruit you can buy in your supermarket!
After a fruity meal orangutans like nothing better than to have a snooze. They sleep in nests constructed by weaving branches together. A new nest is built almost every night and the reforestation team also plant some of their favourite trees for sleeping. To find out how we’re using orangutan nests and the latest technology to monitor orangutan populations watch this space!
Some of the trees being planted aren’t directly used by orangutans but serve to help other trees to grow. The deforested areas where the reforestation team work have often become choked with weeds, vines and grass. Left to their own devices many of the trees we plant would be swamped by these competitors. Fast growing trees provide shade and help slower growing species to outcompete the weeds. Our reforestation team also help the trees we plant until they are big enough to survive on their own.
©Zul – Hutan-KOCP
Orangutans are particularly adapted to living in trees. Though they do walk on the ground at times, and despite their large size, they are expert at living in trees. There are in fact the largest arboreal (tree-living) mammals so it is no surprise their survival is dependent upon their native forests, forests that we are destroying at an unprecedented rate. Read our blog to make sure the palm oil you buy isn’t destroying orangutan habitat or find out how you can plant your own tree and support orangutan conservation!