OUREI Holds Successful Educational Events to Address Killing of Sumatran Orangutans
November 30, 2006- Santa Monica, CA. The Orang Utan Republik Education Initiative (OUREI), a Santa Monica based nonprofit, held a series of education events from 15-17 November, 2006 in Berastagi and Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Output from the events and federal funding will be used in 2007 to deliver strengthened and coordinated adult education programs on Sumatra where the species is critically endangered.
Billed as the Sumatran Orangutan Education Conference, Workshop and Summit (CWS), the event was OUREI’s first major undertaking with the Indonesian government and local orangutan and conservation organizations to develop curriculum standards to address the killing of orangutans on the island of Sumatra where only approximately 7,000 exist within 11 habitat blocks. Orangutans continue to be destroyed as pests in plantations and in logging concessions, killed to obtain their infants as pets for the black market, and marginalized by large scale development projects that reduce and fragment their remaining rain forest habitat.
A half dozen organizations formed the Secretariat or in-country organizing committee, including the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), the Leuser International Foundation (LIF), the Orangutan Caring Clubs of Indonesia (Jakarta and North Sumatra), Fauna and Flora International, and the Ministry of Forestry’s PHKA. Funding for the CWS came from a diverse group of international orangutan, great ape and conservation foundations and funds, including the Australian Orangutan Project, the Arcus Foundation, the Orangutan Foundation UK, the Shared Earth Foundation, the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Save the Species Foundation, the Orangutan Conservancy as well as OUREI and in-kind contributions from SOCP, SOS, and LIF.
The United States Fish & Wildlife’s Great Ape Conservation Fund is providing matching funds for the delivery of the curricula to targeted communities identified earlier during a pre-conference workgroup held on November 9th at the LIF offices on the North Sumatran University campus. These targeted communities include estate plantations and logging concessions, villagers and farmers, police and military, and local government. The 20 attendees to the pre-conference workgroup came from government, university and non-government organizations (NGOs). The attendees also identified key concepts which were evaluated during the workshop as presumptive standards. The presumptive standards included concepts common and specific to the various target communities. For example, one of the common concepts to be understood by all the target groups is that “it is illegal to buy, sell or possess orangutans as pets”. Survey forms were created by the Secretariat and used by the invited workshop participants during the CWS.
The one-day conference portion of the CWS was held on November 15, in the resort city of Beristagi at the Sibayak Hotel and opened by Mr. Adi Susmianto, Director of Biodiversity in the Directorate General of Forestry Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA) under the Ministry of Forestry. The CWS was held in the national language of Bahasa Indonesia to enhance understanding by the mainly local participants. Mr. Susmianto discussed the legal framework that protects orangutans and other endangered wildlife in Indonesia. Following the Conference, Mr. Susmianto traveled to Thailand to help in the repatriation of 48 orangutans stolen from Indonesia and used in boxing exhibitions at a Bangkok Safari Park. The animals were returned to Indonesia the following week after more than 3 years of persistent efforts by international NGOs concerned about their welfare.
OUREI’s Chairman and CWS Chair, Dr. Gary Shapiro, followed Mr. Susmianto by welcoming the attendees with an orangutan “long call” and describing OUREI’s mission as well as the history of the CWS. OUREI co-founder, Inggriani Shapiro, also welcomed the attendees via video presentation. Then Dr. Sri Suci Utami, representing the Orangutan Conservancy, presented a lecture on the biology and ecology of the Sumatran orangutan. Her discussion on the natural challenges facing the Sumatran orangutan led well into Hardy Baktiantoro’s) presentation on the threats facing the Bornean orangutan. Mr. Baktiantoro, representing the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, illustrated the tremendous challenges facing the orangutan on that island and was instrumental in receiving the 48 orangutans from Thailand. While Sumatran orangutans are fewer in number and face the same impacts from palm oil, logging, other development schemes, fires, and the illegal pet trade, the current rate of loss of the estimated 50,000 Bornean orangutans is probably somewhat more severe at the present time.
Problems facing Gunung Leuser National Park were presented by Mr. Subhan, Section Head of Gunung Leuser National Park. A large proportion of all Sumatran orangutans (25%) are located within the protected boundaries of the national park; however, despite the protection on paper, the park has several palm oil concessions within its borders. Such challenges highlight the need for education programs to reach local government officials in addition to those who are directly killing the orangutans.
Following lunch and a traditional dance, Dr. Ian Singleton, Scientific Director for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), gave an illustrated presentation on the current Status of Orangutan Conservation. Dr. Singleton, who has been studying and conserving the Sumatran orangutan for many years, showed why orangutans and great apes are fascinating. He went on to explain the need to educate the military and police about the laws protecting orangutans as most of the locally owned orangutans are in the hands of police and military. He also explained the work being done to care for the confiscated orangutans at the quarantine facility at Sibolangit, the reintroduction efforts at Bukit Tigapuluh, the research and survey activities on Sumatra, the distribution of orangutans in the 11 habitat blocks, and the current threats to orangutans in several of the most sensitive areas.
The afternoon program then shifted to effective education programs being presented in the field. Madelaine Westwood, Director of the Great Ape Film Initiative (GAFI), gave an illustrated presentation on film as an education media in rural areas. GAFI produces and distributes films about the great apes in Africa and in Indonesia at no cost to the sponsoring organization. One film, Losing Tomorrow, by Patrick Rouxel, depicts the orangutan, diverse wildlife and its relationship to the timber industry that has been unsustainably managed in a visually compelling documentary. That film was taken on a road-show throughout Kalimantan and Sumatra during 2006 where it was shown to over 1,000 people in numerous villages. Based on surveys, 97% of the people enjoyed watching the program while 36% said they were interested in protecting the orangutan and 25% felt the film explained the threatened status of the forest and wildlife. Another documentary, produced by Cockroach Productions, is a training film for workers at palm oil plantations. It explains the laws protecting orangutans, how to humanely scare orangutans aware from plantations, and how to notify orangutan rescue organizations to safely relocate an orangutan within the plantation. Such films have great potential in presenting many of the curriculum standards for the estate plantation target group.
Panut Hadisiswoyo, representing the Sumatran Orangutan Society-Orangutan Information Center, gave a presentation on the organization’s Mobile Awareness Unit (MAU), an equipped vehicle that is able to reach the various villages, schools and other remote areas to enable the delivery of education and awareness programs. The MAU was used by GAFI in their road-show in 2006. Trisna Nando, representing Fauna and Flora International, discussed the various field conservation education methods being employed in Aceh targeting peoples affected by the tsunami as well as the devoutly religious. Understanding the culture and the sensitivities of the local population is essential for these outreach program to be successful. Finally, Fransisca Ariantiningsih, representing SOCP and Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari, presented their outreach and education program. With their MAU, SOCP conducts community visits. They employ film, discussions, games and singing to present the themes and concepts to their audiences. Other audiences include schools, local stakeholders, government and the general community.
The evening provided an opportunity to screen several documentaries produced by OUREI (Sumatran Orangutan- narrated by Angelina Sondakh (Indonesian); and OUREI, narrated by Elise Bailey (English)), Losing Tomorrow, by Patrick Rouxel, and Palm Oil and Orangutans, by Cockroach Films. The films were shown in a small theater located at the conference venue.
The workshop portion of the CWS began on the morning of the second day (November 16), but it was restricted to invited participants. Due to a police operation in the Langkat district, the Secretariat was advised not to hold the workshop in the village of Sikoci as planned earlier. Instead, the workshop was held at the conference hotel in an adjacent meeting room. Surveys previously prepared were distributed to the workshop attendees who completed forms that expressed their degree of agreement with the presumptive standards. Each workshop attendee filled in four forms specific to each of the target communities. By the end of the morning, the first phase of the workshop was completed. The survey forms were collected and participants left the hotel following lunch to take the bus to Medan for the second phase of the workshop the next morning.
The workshop wrap-up session was held at the Emerald Garden Hotel in Medan during the morning of November 17. During the evening of November 16 and until 4:00 am on November 17, data was entered into a computer and analyzed by Mr. John Page, IT volunteer for OUREI. The results of the survey analysis were presented to the workshop attendees by Panut Hadisiswoyo (SOS) and Fransisca Ariantiningsih (SOCP). Strong agreement for all the presumptive standards was revealed in the analysis for all the target communities. Attendees were assigned to four workgroups to discuss the results for each target community and to develop recommendations to present to the Summit attendees later in the day. Workshop attendees worked vigorously to craft recommendations that reflected the issues of each specific target community. Those specific issues and recommendations were presented by workgroup leaders to the entire workshop assembly. Following lunch and Friday prayers in this mainly Islamic community, the workshop attendees led by Panut Hadisiswoyo, concluded by crafting the CWS Declaration and Commitment to be presented at the Summit. Specific elements of this important document were discussed and edited until the entire group was satisfied.
The afternoon Summit was opened by Dr. Gary Shapiro, OUREI Chairman, who thanked and welcomed the Summit delegates with his signature orangutan “long call”. A presentation of the issues, workshop results and recommendations for each target community was made by Fransisca Ariantiningsih. Then Ma’rifatin Zahrah, from the Forestry Department of the University of North Sumatra, read the “Declaration and Commitment of the Sumatran Orangutan Education Conference, Workshop and Summit of 2006 for Saving the Species through Education and Outreach”. In addition to recognizing numerous aspects of the plight of the orangutan, laws protecting the species, and the need to educate the populous, the document concludes by the undersigned attendees of the CWS accepting the recommendations for the education curricula crafted by the workgroup and committing to delivering the curricula to the target audiences starting in 2007.
This concluding document was an essential element of the set of objectives initially put forth to the US Fish and Wildlife in the grant proposal. Over 100 attendees signed the document which will also be signed by the various high officials in Jakarta who could not attend the Summit due to other obligations taking them out of country during the CWS.
Following the signing of the document, the Summit was closed by Arfan Setiabudi, police official from the Langkat district, who recognized the importance of the meeting and the commitments that it produced.
A press conference was convened to provide the print, radio and television media with access to key participants to the CWS. Later in the evening, an awards dinner was held during which time OUREI Chairman Dr. Gary Shapiro acknowledged the Secretariat with certificates of appreciation for their outstanding work as well as key personnel who spent significant time organizing the events. A presentation was also made to the teenage winner of the OUREI poster contest who flew in from Bali to accept the award and recognition. A ceremonial presentation was also made to the winner of the Orangutan Caring Scholarship awarded earlier in 2006 by SOS and OUREI. Finally, the prestigious Pongo Awards were presented. One was presented to Mr. Soedomo Mergonoto, owner of the Excelso Café chain, for his significant support of OUREI. Mr. Ridhwan Effendi also accepted a Pongo Award for himself, for overseeing the creation of the Orangutan Caring Clubs of Indonesia, and on behalf of Angelina Sondakh, OUREI Ambassador who could not attend the Summit. Ms. Sondakh, Former Miss Indonesia and Member of Parliament, has enabled OUREI to become a national organization with influence in the media and at the highest levels of government. A Pongo Award was also awarded earlier in the week to Minister of Forestry M.S. Kaban for his officially declaring Orangutan Caring Week in November 2005. Because Minister Kaban could not attend the CWS, Mr. Adi Susmianto received it on his behalf during the conference.
One of the most significant aspects of the CWS was that it was locally organized by Indonesians on Sumatra and Java and held in the Indonesian language. By encouraging local orangutan and conservation NGOs to work together to organize and execute the CWS, OUREI was able to unite these groups in a common mission to develop a set of curriculum standards for outreach and education programs to targeted communities throughout the range of the Sumatran orangutan. It is up to the Indonesian people to take on this challenge. OUREI will continue to support them during the implementation of the federal grant period. This consortium of organizations will remain active as they develop the list of priority communities, certify that their education materials meet the curriculum standards, and delivery the programs to the targeted communities starting in 2007. In this way, limited resources can be effectively applied and monitored in an integrated program that will reduce the levels of ignorance and fear among those people who are in conflict with the critically endangered orangutan. The expectation is that the level of killing will be reduced in areas where this curriculum is delivered.
Note: the Proceedings of the Conference, Workshop and Summit will be produced and available during early 2007 (in Bahasa Indonesia).
Report on the Conference, Workshop and Summit: http://www.orangutanrepublik.org/CWS_Report.pdf