Conservation and reintroduction can only be successful if based on detailed knowledge and understanding of the ecological and biological needs of the species in question. The SOCP therefore takes a leading role in research, surveys and monitoring of wild Sumatran orangutans.
In order to conserve the Sumatran orangutan it is imperative to know as much as we can about them and their needs as a species. Only if based on detailed knowledge and a thorough understanding of their habitat and other ecological requirements can conservation and reintroduction efforts be successful. To achieve this, SOCP has field staff permanently based at the well known Ketambe research station in Southeast Aceh. Also SOCP has re-established research in the peat swamp forests of Suaq Balimbing in South Aceh and has established a new - and the first - research site in the Batang Toru forests of North Sumatra.
Apart from detailed research on specific orangutan populations at the above three sites, SOCP is also a leading player in surveys and monitoring of the species throughout the rest of their range on the island. In fact, most of what is currently known regarding the numbers remaining, their distribution and the threats to their survival is the direct result of work carried out by SOCP staff and affiliates. Indeed, we have taken a highly active role in recent years to assess and update what we know of the status of the wild Sumatran orangutan as a whole. SOCP staff have spent a great deal of time, often in very basic conditions and with a considerable amount of leg-work, finding and documenting some of the poorly known populations remaining in northern Sumatra and pinning down the exact boundaries of their distribution. The initial results of the first surveys formed the basis for a major review of wild orangutans in Indonesia, known as the 2004 Population and Habitat Viability Analysis workshop, held in Jakarta.
Those initial surveys and subsequent work carried out since 2004 suggests that there are now only around 6,600 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and that the numbers are still very much declining. It is also important to remember that the population is already fragmented into numerous sub-populations. Actually, there are only 3 areas where the number of orangutans that can mix and interbreed exceeds 1,000 individuals! Unless the remaining populations can be secured for the long term, there remains serious concern for the future of the Sumatran orangutan as a viable wild species.