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Borneo Orangutan Survival

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Title: Borneo Orangutan Survival  
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Subject: Balikpapan, Forestry in Indonesia, The Disenchanted Forest, Kalimantan, Borneo
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Borneo Orangutan Survival

Borneo Orangutan Survival
Founded 1991
Founder Willie Smits and others
Type organization
Focus Environmentalism, conservation
Area served Borneo
Key people Jamartin Sihite, Current CEO
Slogan A secure future for orangutans, free and safe in their natural habitat, living in harmony with local people
Website Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation is an Indonesian non-profit NGO founded by Dr Willie Smits in 1991 and dedicated to the conservation of the endangered Bornean orangutan and its habitat through the involvement of local people. It is audited by a multinational auditor company[1] and operates under the formal agreement with the Indonesian Ministry of Forest to conserve and rehabilitate orangutans. BOS manages orangutan rescue, rehabilitation and re-introduction programmes in East and Central Kalimantan. With 804 orangutans (per November 2012) in its care and employing between six hundred and a thousand people at a hundred sites[2] BOS is the biggest primate conservation NGO worldwide.

Nyaru Menteng and Samboja Lestari are the BOS sites that have received most extensive media coverage. Nyaru Menteng, founded and run by Lone Drøscher Nielsen, has been the subject of a number of TV series, including Orangutan Diary and Orangutan Island. Samboja Lestari featured recently in a 2009 TED talk, "Willie Smits restores a rainforest"[3] in which Smits describes how he recreated forest to provide habitat for rescued orangutans.


In 1989 Dr. Willie Smits, then a forest ecologist, had his first encounter with an orangutan, a sick baby female in a cage, while walking in the market in [4][5][6]

Orangutans endangered

The Bornean orangutans are endangered[7] according to the IUCN Red List of mammals, and is listed on Appendix I of CITES. The total number of Bornean orangutans is estimated to be less than 14 percent of what it was in the recent past (from around 10,000 years ago until the middle of the twentieth century) and this sharp decline has occurred mostly over the past few decades due to human activities and development.[7] Their habitat is so much reduced that they are now only to be found in pockets of remaining rainforest.[7] The largest remaining population is found in the forest around the Sabangau River, but this environment too is at risk.[8] According to the IUCN, it is expected that in 10 to 30 years orangutans will be extinct if there is no serious effort to overcome the threats that they are facing.[9][10]

This view is also supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, which states in its report that due to deforestation by illegal logging, fire and the extensive development of oil palm plantations (see Social and environmental impact of palm oil), orangutans are endangered, and if the current trend continues, they will become extinct.[11]


  1. Orangutan reintroduction
  2. The rehabilitation and habitat protection of wildlife that is protected under law, especially orangutans
  3. Information, outreach and education, community capacity-building, community empowerment and public awareness-raising.

Orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centres


Wanariset began as a tropical forest research station near Balikpapan in the Indonesian Province of East Kalimantan and was developed as an orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centre.

Nyaru Menteng

Kevin, one of the young orangutans at Nyaru Menteng, takes a nap.

Nyaru Menteng is an orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centre 28 km from Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan. Lone Drøscher Nielsen sought the advice of Dr Smits about the possibility of creating a new project in Central Kalimantan to deal with the swelling numbers of orphaned orangutans. Dr Smits agreed to help and, with the financial backing of the Gibbon Foundation and BOS Indonesia, Drøscher Nielsen founded Nyaru Menteng in 1998.[12] She was able to build the facility under an agreement with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, and Nyaru Menteng officially opened its doors to the first dozen orangutans in 1999.

The sanctuary was designed to hold up to 100 orphaned orangutans while they go through rehabilitation. In addition to quarantine cages, medical clinic, and nursery, the sanctuary had a large area of forest in which orangutans could learn the skills needed to live in the wild.[13] Nyaru Menteng quickly became the largest primate rescue project in the world, with nearly 700 orphaned and displaced orangutans in its care at the present.[14][15]

Many of these orangutans are only weeks old when they arrive, and all of them are psychologically traumatized.[16] The sanctuary not only saves the mostly orphaned baby orangutans from the local farmers and illegal pet-traders, but has developed a process for their gradual re-introduction to the remaining Borneo rainforest.

As of 2009, up to 20 young orangutans arrive every month. The centre's running costs are $1.5m a year.[17] There are 170 staff: babysitters, assistants, people working in the medical department, guards and other workers.[18] Associated with the centre are:[18]

  • "The Workers' Village" which accommodates workers from outside the locality;
  • The Islands: Kaja, Palas I. and II., Hampapak Matei and Bangamat, all islands in the Rongan River with primitive feeding-platforms and jetties;
  • The Information Centre, where local schools visit, and from where information campaigns about alternatives to the cutting are sent out all over Borneo.
  • The Fruit plantation, "Nyaru Menteng Lestari", 3 ha planted with fruit-bearing trees, such as mango, pineapple and rambutan.

With helicopters, mapping and other logistical support from the world's largest mining company BHP Billiton that operates a coal mining concession in Central Kalimantan, Nyaru Menteng released 36 adult orangutans in 2007, and 25 in 2008, filmed for Orangutan Diary. A planned airlift of 48 orangutans scheduled to take place in July 2009 was cancelled as BHP Billiton intended to withdraw from the area for strategic reasons.[19]

Forest conservation, reforestation and research

Samboja Lestari

Samboja Lestari is a reforestation project on nearly 2,000 hectares (7.7 sq mi) of deforested, degraded and burnt land in East Kalimantan. In 2001, BOS started purchasing land near Wanariset. The area it acquired had been deforested by mechanical logging, drought and severe fires and was covered in alang-alang grass (Imperata cylindrica). The aim was to restore the rainforest and provide a safe haven for rehabilitated orangutans while at the same time providing a source of income for local people. The name Samboja Lestari roughly translates as the "everlasting conservation of Samboja".[20] Reforestation and rehabilitation is the core of the project, with hundreds of indigenous species planted. By the middle of 2006 over 740 different tree species had been planted;[21] by 2009 there were 1200 species of trees, 137 species of birds and nine species of primates.[22]

The Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Wanariset was moved to Samboja Lestari. "Forest Schools" were established, areas that provide natural, educational playgrounds for the orangutans in which to learn forest skills. Here the orangutans roam freely but under supervision and are returned to sleeping cages for the night. "Orangutan islands" were created where the orangutans and other wildlife that cannot return to the wild are nevertheless able to live in almost completely natural conditions.

Alongside the orangutan reintroduction work, BOS has promoted forms of farming that do not involve burning and destroying forests, by switching to agriculture combining rattan, sugar palms and fruits and vegetables. A community has developed that can now support itself on the land. Smits believes that to develop the orangutan population, their forest habitat must first be built; also, to achieve sustainable solutions the root social problems must be addressed by empowering local communities to take up livelihood options that is more rewarding than logging.[23]

Yellow-vented bulbul, one of the 137 species of birds now found at Samboja Lestari

In his 2009 TED talk Smits claimed there had been a substantial increase in cloud cover and 30% more rainfall due to the reforestation at Samboja Lestari.[3]

To finance the nature reserve, BOS created a system of "land-purchasing", a "Create Rainforest" initiative where donors can sybolically adopt square metres of rainforest[24] and are able to view and follow the progress of their "purchase" in the project area with Google Earth satellite images from 2002 and 2007 with additional information overlaid.[25]

The Samboja Lodge[26] was established to provide accommodation for visitors and volunteers at Samboja. Its design was based upon local architecture and its interior and exterior walls are made of recycled materials.

The SarVision[27] Satellite Natural Resources Monitoring Centre was established to monitor deforestation and illegal logging and the relentless growth of palm oil in unsuitable locations. A study commissioned by WWF Netherlands with SarVision showed that almost half of present oil palm plantations are not located on suitable land.[28] The use of satellite technology and GIS has enabled Sarvison to monitor forests down to the individual tree level, to develop accountability in the management of the forest and identify where palm oil plantations are destroying areas of forest illegally.[29]


Mawas is a forest conservation, reforestation and research area in Central Kalimantan. The Mawas project is now in its development phase.[30]

The main aim of the project is to protect the fast-disappearing peat lands through collaboration with the Central and Local Governments and the local communities. The Mawas area is home to one of the last tracts of forest supporting wild orangutans. An estimated 3,000 wild orangutans are found in this area. Mawas is also important for its biodiversity and the geological conditions of Mawas make it a storage house of giga-tonnes of sequestered carbon. Over a period of 8,000 years, decaying plant matter from the swamp forests has built up 13 – 15 metre high domes of peat.

In September 2003, the provincial parliament in Central Kalimantan approved a new land use plan that designates 500,000 hectares (1,900 sq mi) in the Mawas area to be managed by BOS for conservation. BOS is currently working in an area of about 280,000 hectares (1,100 sq mi) within the ex-Mega Rice Project area.

BOS has initiated a forest conservation project with the objectives of:

  • conserving peat swamp forest area including reforesting degraded areas;
  • preserving the bio-diversity of the area;
  • providing global greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits;
  • providing access to programs such as health and education; and
  • improving incomes and building capacity and economic prosperity in local communities
  • assisting communities in learning technical skills including aquaculture, rice cultivation, agro-forestry and farm development
  • assisting local independence and self-sustaining livelihoods.
  • providing education to children on the environment and conservation, by visiting schools
  • providing community awareness programs as well as co-operative conservation programs.

The area is important for research activities, with BOS operating the Tuanan Research Station in Kapaus. The Station has been established through extensive consultation with all local people and institutions and the use of local labour. Its purpose is to provide a year-round base for scientists tracking and observing the wild orangutan population. BOS is involved in patrolling and monitoring the area for illegal activities via air and land and supporting law enforcement by providing guidance and legal awareness programs to the community and government.


On 15 July 2010 at an international meeting on orangutan conservation in Bali[31] the Indonesian forestry ministry secretary general Boen Purnama announced that the Indonesian government will grant a permit to BOS to reserve thousands of hectares of forest formerly used for logging for the release of around 200 orangutans in the Kutai area in East Kalimantan.[32] The forest will need to be restored before it can be used for conservation. In response, BOS set up a company, PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia (ROI), to restore 86,450 hectares of former timber concession area in the East Kutai district, to be the new home for rehabilitated orangutans. BOS chairman Togu Manurung announced the start of gradual release as April 2011 at the latest.[33]

Other projects

BOS also runs the Primate Conservation Education Program in the privately funded Primate Centre at the Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta. The centre was designed by Willie Smits so that orangutans would be able to live in as natural surroundings as possible. Visitors view the orangutans through thick darkened glass so that the orangutans are not disturbed by their presence.


The work of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation has appeared in a number of documentaries. The orangutans of Nyaru Menteng were the followed in the two series of Orangutan Diary produced by the BBC[34] and also, as they were reintroduced to a semi-wild habitat, in the 23 programmes of the Orangutan Island series, produced by NHNZ. The Disenchanted Forest was an award-winning 1999 film that follows orphan orangutans as they are rehabilitated and returned to their rainforest home. It centres on three BOS projects – Wanariset, Nyaru Menteng and Mawas. The Burning Season is a 2008 documentary about the burning of rainforests in Indonesia which featured Lone Drøscher Nielsen. Willie Smits appeared in Dying for a Biscuit, a 2010 BBC Panorama investigation which looked into the causes of deforestation, focusing particularly on illegal logging and the palm oil industry.[35]

See also


  1. ^ See – "every year we are audited by Price Waterhouse Coopers (or similar well reputed firm)"
  2. ^ Thompson 2010, p180
  3. ^ a b February 2009  
  4. ^ "TV & Radio Follow-up – Orangutan Diary (Series 2)". BBC. 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  5. ^ "Filming BBC's Orangutan Diary (Series 2)". London: Telegraph. 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  6. ^ Riley-Jones, Amanda (2008-10-12). "My orangutans sensed I'd had cancer - they were so gentle with me when I was weak". Daily Mail (London). 
  7. ^ a b c Ancrenaz, M.; Marshall, A.; Goossens, B.; van Schaik, C.; Sugardjito, J.; Gumal, M.; Wich, S. (2007), Pongo pygmaeus. In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species., retrieved 2008-04-02 
  8. ^ Density and population estimate of gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis) in the Sabangau catchment, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
  9. ^ "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Wild Orangutans: Extinct by 2023?". 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  10. ^ By NINIEK KARMINI, Associated Press Writer (2006-11-15). "Orangutans in Losing Battle in Indonesia". Fox News. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  11. ^ "United Nations Environment Programme: The Last Stand of the Orangutan – State of Emergency: Illegal Logging, Fire and Palm Oil in Indonesia's National Parks" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  12. ^ "The Organisation".  
  13. ^ The Nyaru Menteng Sanctuary. "Save the Orangutan". Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  14. ^ Orangutan Diaries – Series 1 (DVD). Borneo: BBC. 9 July 2007.  
  15. ^ Orangutan Diaries: Series 2 (DVD). Borneo: BBC. 6 April 2009. Event occurs at 290 minutes.  
  16. ^ Richard Zimmerman (5 March 2009). "Orangutans and palm oil: What's the connection?". TED Blog. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  17. ^ Bowditch, Gillian (22 February 2009). "TV shows Stranrear doctor curing orangutans". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 7 June 2010. 
  18. ^ a b "Nyaru Menteng". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  19. ^ Hickman, Martin (27 July 2009). "Hope of freedom for orang-utans dashed". The Independent (London). Retrieved 7 June 2010.  BHP Billiton did not in fact withdraw, and in January 2010, agreed to sell a 25% stake in the concession instead."BHP Billiton to sell stake in Maruwai to Adaro". The Jakarta Post. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  20. ^ "BOS Australia website". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  21. ^ "Samboja Lodge website". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  22. ^ Thompson 2010, p193
  23. ^ "Welcome to the Frontpage". 2009-07-31. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  24. ^ Create Rainforest website""". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  25. ^ '"Google Earth Hero: BOS, Borneo rain forest"'' on YouTube"'". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  26. ^ "About BOS". Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  27. ^ "Sarvision website". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  28. ^ October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16). "Environmental Hero – Willie Smits : Green Kampong – Inspiring a greener today". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  29. ^ "Willie Smits Shares Methodology for Sustainable Forests - ArcNews Winter 2009/2010 Issue". Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  30. ^ Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Australia. "Mawas". Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  31. ^ "Bali to host orangutan conservation workshop". The Jakarta Post. 26 May 2010. 
  32. ^ "Indonesia pledges forests for orangutan conservation". AFP. 16 July 2010. 
  33. ^ "Orangutans in rehabilitation to get new homes in Kalimantan". The Jakarta Post. 24 August 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  34. ^ "BBC programme information on Orangutan Diary". 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  35. ^ "One Programmes - Panorama, Dying for a Biscuit". BBC. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 


External links

BOS Sister organisations

  • BOS International –
  • BOS Indonesia –
  • BOS Australia –
  • BOS Denmark –
  • BOS Germany –
  • BOS Japan –
  • BOS Sweden –
  • BOS Switzerland –
  • Orangutan Protection Foundation –
  • Orangutan Outreach (USA) –
  • Primates Helping Primates (The Netherlands) -

Other links

  • The Orangutan Conservancy
  • Samboja Lodge website
  • Documentary on Samboja Lestari on YouTube
  • Create Rainforest website
  • TED talk: "Willie Smits restores a rain forest"
  • Google Earth Hero: BOS, Borneo rain forest on YouTube
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