Swinging with the orang-utans


What goes swing, swing, shimmy, scramble, thump? That’d be one of our closest genetic relatives leaving one piece of remnant rainforest in search of another. The Bornean orang-utans have lost much of their natural habitat and need our support, and The Intrepid Foundation is delighted to come on board to help.

We have partnered with HUTAN – Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Program to support their work to develop and implement innovative solutions to conserve the orang-utan in Sabah. Intrepid travellers on tours to Borneo, currently have a great opportunity to see wild orang-utans in the Kinabatangan River region. But the ease with which they may see orang-utans is sadly not all good.

The majestic orang-utans are only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. With a shrinking habitat, Bornean orang-utans are classified as endangered. From their base at Sukau, next to the Kinabatangan River, HUTAN’s staff, 90% of whom are from Sukau village, work closely with the communities in and around the orang-utan habitat areas. They believe that to address the conflicts between landholders and orang-utans, and prevent the extinction of the orang-utan, they need to engage and support stakeholders in innovative solutions – where local development becomes compatible with the long-term conservation of the orang-utan and its habitat.

Through The Intrepid Foundation, travellers donations (along with matching funds from Intrepid Travel) will be used to support the OURS team – the Orang-utan Research Unit. This dynamic team has observed and recorded orang-utans daily routine from dawn (when they wake up) to dusk (when they have made their nest to bed down for the night). They have collected data on their diet and know that the orang-utans in the Kinabatangan feed on a broad variety of fruits, leaves, bark, flowers and insects from over 150 species. They know they spend about 40% of their time resting and 40% feeding, with the rest of their activities being split between moving around, nesting and social interactions.

The OURS team also conducts studies on parasites on the orang-utans, stress hormones, breeding and behaviour and conduct an orang-utan population census. The team also actively prepares solutions, like the building of orang-utan bridges to link small forest fragments within the wildlife sanctuary. The orang-utans apparently took quite easily to the bridges made by the local homo sapiens. Wouldn’t you love to see that?

What can you do?
* Travel with Intrepid to Borneo and you will have several opportunities for up close encounters with orang-utans in the wild, and you can learn much more about their current situation.

* Donate to HUTAN via The Intrepid Foundation and you’ll directly support the terrific work of the OURS team. Intrepid Travel will match your donation dollar for dollar – doubling your efforts. (Up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year.)

* Learn more about palm oil and what you can do to reduce your consumption of unsustainably sourced palm oil which is contributing to the loss of orang-utan habitat. Palm oil is present in half the packaged products on our supermarket shelves. Palm oil is used in baked products such as bread and biscuits, fried products like hot chips, confectionery like chocolate and cosmetics, including shampoo. WWF have an excellent Palm Oil Fact Sheet.

Photo: Sebastian McNeilly

About the author

Jane Crouch - Jane is a responsible business guru who writes about all aspects of how travel can bring positive environmental, social and economic benefits. Informed through travel on seven continents, leading Intrepid trips through SE Asia, work in outdoor education, energy conservation, international development, philanthropy and climate change action, plus a big love of walking, mountains and world music.

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