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QUEEN ELIZABETH HONORS IAN SINGLETON Ian at the quarantine and rehabilitation station, where wearing the mask to protect the orangutans has not only been practiced since the pandemic. - © Foto: Charlie Dailey Full view


What a big honor: The British Queen honors Dr. Ian Singleton. Ian has been the director of the Sumatran-Organgutan-Conservation-Programme since the beginning in 2011.

We are delighted to announce that our very own Director of the SOCP, Dr Ian Singleton, is to be recognised as an «Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire» or OBE, for his Services to the Environment and Conservation, as announced earlier today with the publication of this years Queen’s Birthday Honours List. This highly esteemed award is in recognition of Ian’s more than 30 years of work and dedication to the protection of orangutans, and their habitat in Indonesia.

Dr Singleton began his career with orangutans in 1989, working with 13 of them, both Bornean’s and Sumatran’s, at the world-famous Jersey Zoo in the British Channel Islands. He left Jersey in 1996 to study wild orangutans in Sumatra for his Ph.D., with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, and after completing his thesis in 2000, headed back to Sumatra immediately to establish the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and help protect and conserve wild orangutans and their habitat.

«I am extremely honoured, and very proud, that all of our hard work over the years has been recognised, but it hasn’t been the work of any one individual, or organisation. This award is recognition for the entire team of dedicated conservationists, most of them Indonesian, that I have had the pleasure and honour to work with throughout my career, and our many colleagues within the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s own Conservation Department» Singleton emphasises. In addition, the primatologist says: «The work also remains unfinished. There are still many orangutans in Sumatra being kept illegally as pets, or trapped and isolated in fragmented forest patches. We need to get these individuals back to safe and protected rainforests again, where they can contribute to the future of their species. We are releasing these ’refugees’ to create new, genetically viable populations of orangutans. These populations act as a ’safety net’ or ’backup’, should a catastrophe befall the remaining truly wild populations».

The value of these new wild populations has never been more evident. The Scientific consensus is that orangutans and the other great apes should be just as susceptible to infection by the coronavirus as humans are. We are therefore very much on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic, only having to try and protect THREE Great Ape species, not only one!

With these facts in mind, this award by Queen Elizabeth II is an impressive reminder of how urgent the situation is for Critically Endangered species like the orangutans, and underlines the importance of protecting our own habitat too, for our own survival.

Twice a year, Queen Elizabeth II honours British citizens with Orders of Merit like Dr Singleton’s new OBE. The awards are given regularly on New Year’s Day and in June, on her official birthday. This year the British royal family postponed the award to October 10 due to the corona pandemic, so that some of those battling the current corona virus pandemic can also be included.

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