2 Oct 2015

Last year’s Go Orange for Orangutans campaign raised a magnificent £19,150 to plant 1,950 trees in Borneo by HUTAN, our partners working on the frontline of orangutan conservation.

Your support and donations really do help us to make a difference!

So, we asked Dr Marc Ancrenaz, co-director of HUTAN – Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP), to update us on how your support is helping orangutans in the wild.

“The KOCP Tree Planting Unit is working hard to rehabilitate several areas in the Lower Kinabatangan. The forest in these areas has been destroyed either by logging or for illegal palm oil development.

“The team chooses only areas where natural forest regeneration doesn’t happen, either because the soil is too compacted or because creepers entangle the young treelets and suffocates them.

Hutan - trees planted in 2010 at one of the planting sitesTrees planted in 2010 at one of the planting sites. This place was completely opened up all the way to the river illegally and was cutting off two patches of forest. Today a continuous corridor of trees, allow for safe dispersal by orangutans, proboscis monkeys and many other species, has been re-established. Photo credit: HUTAN

“Other threats jeopardize the survival of the seedlings: insects and caterpillars, rodents, wild boars or deer, etc. In order to ensure a better survival rate, the team monitors and maintains the plots every few weeks. This work is very demanding in terms of efforts and time, but it is necessary to achieve a survival rate that is more than 80% after three years of maintenance.

“After three years, we stop maintaining the sites where some of the treelets are already more than five meters high. At this stage the main threat is elephants; when they pull or push down some of our planted trees.

“The year 2015 has been very dry to date, with very little rain from February to May. Consequently nearly half of the young seedlings that were planted since the beginning of the year died already. The team is currently replacing these seedlings with new ones.

Field staff showing a young seedling planted in 2014 at the Avicess plotA member of the planting team shows a young seedling planted in 2014 at the Avicess plot. We see the palms behind the trees that provide some shade and protection cover to the seedlings. Photo credit: HUTAN 

“This year, some of the trees that were planted in the past by our team started to produce fruits: ficus tree, mallotus, payung payung, dillenia, etc. We have seen an afflux of trees, squirrels, monkeys and other fruit eater species during period of fructification in these plots. Orangutans started to roam in these plots as well, but no nests have been identified in our plot yet. Maybe next year…?

The team on the way to the planting sitesThe planting team on the way to the planting sites. Photo credit: HUTAN

“The funding allocated by Go Orange has been used to restore a 30 acre plot that had been illegally planted with oil palms in the past. So far nearly 10,000 seedlings from about 30 species have been planted here.

“The team monitors the growth and the survival rate of all these seedlings in order to determine what species grow better in this type of soil and tree cover conditions. We found out that removing the palms is not necessary for the seedlings to grow. In the contrary, mature palms provide some shade that benefit the seedlings and make them more resistant to dry periods.

The team assessing the overall health of this seedling through a pre-established scoring systemThe team assessing the overall health of this seedling through a pre-established scoring system. Photo credit: HUTAN

“The results are analyzed every year. This information is used to issue recommendations for forest restoration initiatives that are currently undertaken in Kinabatangan and in other areas that were encroached by the oil palm industry and other types of human activities.

A young strangling fig tree that is growing out from a mature palmA young strangling fig tree that is growing out from a mature palm. Strangling figs are keystone species in Kinabatangan and their fruits sustain a wide diversity and abundance of species. Mature palms can offer efficient support that will allow these strangling figs to grow faster and better in the plots. Photo credit: HUTAN

“The work of the Reforestation team is an eye opener for many about the value of the forest. Throughout the year, the team welcomes school children who can plant their own trees in order for them to become more aware about the importance of trees in our lives.

A seedling planted this year at AvicessA seedling planted this year – mature palms are visible in the back of the picture. Photo credit: HUTAN

“Last June, we also welcome two groups of students from the American-based Dragonfly programme. One of these students wrote the following:

“After speaking with many of the other Dragonfly students, it became clear that amongst all of the amazing experiences we had while traveling, many people felt most moved, motivated, and inspired by planting a tree in the rainforest. It seems this ‘simple’ act has permanently impacted their lives and really energized their desire to do more for orangutan conservation efforts.  I myself even wrote about working with the Reforestation Unit as the most impactful moment of my trip and I still smile when I think about the trees I planted being watched over by such a dedicated group of women in hopes that they will someday support orangutans and much of the other amazing biodiversity in the area.”  

This really captures what the KOCP Reforestation team is trying to achieve through their hard work: inspiring people to care more about trees and their environment!

Let’s beat last year’s fundraising efforts and reach £50,000 for orangutan conservation! It’s time to Go Orange for Orangutans!