COMMITTED TO THE COMMUNITY
An essential component of all our efforts to conserve Sumatra’s rainforests is our work with communities living at or near the forest edge. Our activities in this regard have expanded further, however, during the current Corona pandemic.
Since the early 2000’s we have been active with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme SOCP in and around the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra, to protect the habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan. Our efforts in the area of «community development» are particularly important. We provide assistance to the local communities and help them find solutions to some of the problems and challenges they face. Our Indonesian team explain the value of the rainforest for people and their livelihoods, and therefore how important it is to protect it, not just for the orangutans but also for their own long term prosperity.
More than 130,000 people live around the Batang Toru ecosystem and depend on it for the ecosystem services it provides them. Most of the human population make their living from agriculture. They harvest rubber, resin, and various fruits, including the ‘infamous’ durian. From our own surveys, we know that the local communities value these forests as a reservoir for drinking water and irrigation, especially for rice farming, and as a natural protection against environmental disasters such as flash floods and landslides. Our community development team works with villagers, and with schools and other groups, to get the message across that not only orangutans and other species need these forests and in-tact watersheds, but people do too, it is their own habitat as well, and it is in their long term interests to protect it.
But during the current Corona pandemic, our work with local communities around the Batang Toru ecosystem has altered somewhat. Our work to raise awareness regarding the orangutans and their habitat continues, but we have also been active working with the local communities to help them better understand and protect themselves from the virus too. With the local authorities we have been disseminating up to date and accurate information regarding the pandemic and how to minimise the risks of transmission. We have also been assisting with the implementation of disinfection programmes, as a preventive measure. We will continue this work, in addition to our normal education and community development activities for as long as is necessary.
The Batang Toru ecosystem extends over 150,000 hectares in the province of North Sumatra. The ecosystem offers a unique habitat for wide range of animal and plant species, many of them rare or endangered, and many of them endemic too, found nowhere else in the world. It harbours the world’s largest flower species, Rafflesia, and is of course the only remaining habitt of the recently described new Tapanuli orangutan species, which with fewer than 800 individuals remaining is the most Endangered great ape species in the World! Indeed, the Batang Toru ecosystem is a genuine ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’ that simply must be protected both for its incredibly rich biodiversity, and for the long term economic prosperity of the region as a whole.