History of the foundation
The PanEco Foundation was established in 1996. Its history is closely connected with the founder Regina Frey. The Swiss woman has been actively involved in the conservation of the habitat of the Sumatran orangutan in Indonesia since 1973.
After finishing her studies in biology at the University of Zurich, she travelled with a fellow student to Sumatra. On behalf of WWF International, the Indonesian government and the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the two women set up the first orangutan rehabilitation centre in Bukit Lawang in the Gunung Leuser National Park.
After returning to Switzerland, Regina Frey continued her active involvement in the projects she initiated or supported in Indonesia. The increased contact with organisations and state authorities made it necessary to institutionalise her work. As a result, in 1996 she established the non-profit PanEco Foundation with headquarters in Berg am Irchel, the place where Regina Frey grew up.
The foundation’s office is located in the old school building in Berg am Irchel. The atmosphere and location of the carefully renovated old half-timbered house in the village centre match the down-to-earth attitude of PanEco with its local networks.
In July 1999 the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme was established when a mutual agreement was signed with the Indonesian Office for Nature Conservation. This agreement describes the mutual obligations and is a prerequisite for all of PanEco’s project activities in the field of orangutan and rainforest conservation. Together with YEL, the Indonesian Foundation for a Sustainable Ecosystem in which Regina Frey was also one of the founders, PanEco now coordinates and implements the orangutan conservation project on Sumatra.
«We can only protect what we know». With this principle, environmental education activities have been carried out in the Zurich Weinland region since the PanEco Foundation was established. In 2004 these activities became institutionalised when the NeulandWeinland Environmental Education Centre was opened. From this point onwards, various courses, projects and adventure days were held to make children and adults aware of how to deal with nature responsibly.
Since it was established, PanEco – as a non-profit foundation with headquarters in Switzerland – has been subject to the foundation supervisory authority of the Swiss Department of Home Affairs. In 2006, when the ZEWO seal of approval was awarded for the first time, it was also proven that the PanEco Foundation uses its donations for a specific purpose and effectively.
The Berg am Irchel Bird of Prey Sanctuary was founded in 1956 by Veronika von Stockar, the mother of Regina Frey. In recognition of her life’s work, Ms von Stockar received an honorary doctorate from the University of Zurich in 2007. At the end of 2008, on account of her age, she handed over the management of the sanctuary to the PanEco Foundation. The success of the care provided at the sanctuary has continually increased since then thanks to the close cooperation with the animal rescue service and Zurich Veterinary Hospital and also the almost 60 years of experience in looking after birds of prey.
With the launch of the project «Hochwasserschutz und Auenlandschaft Thurmündung» (Flood prevention and pasture landscape at the mouth of the Thur), the Canton of Zurich looked for a partner to set up and run a nature centre as a gateway to the new floodplain conservation area. In 2009 the PanEco Foundation was chosen. The close local connections in the Zurich Weinland region and the many years of experience in environmental education matters were important factors in this decision. In 2011 the nature centre and restaurant were officially opened and the previous NeulandWeinland Environmental Education Centre was integrated in the new centre.