Together for the Orangutan
rainforest, there can be no orangutans. But there also cannot be any
conservation without the support of the local people.
To protect the habitat and to reduce the numbers being killed or captured we need to directly approach the people who clear the forests and those that persecute them. These are generally those that live in the towns and villages closest to the forest edge. From its inception the SOCP intended to establish a wide-ranging education and awareness programme for people of all ages and backgrounds, as a means to improve public understanding of environmental issues and to change people's attitudes (and ultimately behaviour) towards their environment. Many Indonesians are already well aware that forest destruction leads to lowering of river levels and natural catastrophes such as flash floods, landslides and large-scale soil erosion. What they don't necessarily understand very well is how this affects them and their children in the long-term, how much it all costs the state, and themselves, and how preventable it all is.
The orangutan is the ideal vector to discuss these issues in the open forum. It is a highly charismatic species that Indonesians both know and like. However, even well educated people are often not aware that it can only be found on Borneo and Sumatra. If we can increase concern for the orangutan, and thereby improve its protection, we will automatically be improving protection of a host of other species too, as well as conserving rainwater, maintaining river levels, soil fertility and reducing environmental damage from flooding and landslides.
Illegal hunting and trade in wildlife is not simply a problem caused by ignorance. It is also brought about by poverty and misery. For this reason it is essential that any public awareness programme is accompanied by extension work, exerting a socio-economic impact. For people to comply with the law, they must have a legal source of income. Unless the programme is complemented with education and extension programmes, any successes will tend to be only temporary. Orangutans will continue to be killed and taken from the wild and their habitat will continue to be destroyed.