Protection through Local Collaboration
The Batang Toru Forests harbour one of the last substantial orangutan populations. SOCP is facilitating a sustainable, collaborative management system for the entire area.
The remaining forests in Tapanuli region of North Sumatra Province cover a total of approximately 135,000 hectares, comprising the West Batang Toru block (81,000 ha) and the adjacent East Batang Toru block (also known as the East Sarulla block) of 54,500 ha. These forest ares host exceptionally high biodiversity as a consequence of the geomorphology, being deeply incised hill country of volcanic origin, mixed with limestone outcrops. These forests also support the most southerly naturally occurring wild orangutan populations on Sumatra and the only natural population surviving south of nearby Lake Toba. The most recent estimates of the population sizes in these forests indicate around 600 - 800 remaining in the Western block and around 250 - 300 in the East Batang Toru block, a combined total of circa 1000 individuals. These therefore represent a significant and highly important portion of the total remaining Sumatran orangutan population, estimated at 6,600 individuals for the whole island. Hence, after numerous visits and surveys of the area since 2001, the SOCP decided to intensify its efforts to protect these orangutans in 2006. From production to protection forest
Threats to the orangutans and forests of Batang Toru primarily arise from encroachment, illegal logging and poaching (hunting). Fortunately, however, as a result of the extremely rugged terrain and the inaccessible nature of large regions of these forests, these activities have to date been largely confined to the forest edges. The main goal of our programme is the long term conservation of the Batang Toru forests and their orangutans.
Following the successful example of the Sungai Wain Protection Forest in East Kalimantan, in which the local government takes a leading role in the forests conservation, SOCP is working with the three local district governments and other stakeholders to establish a local level, multi-stakeholder management system for the area. In 2007, working groups representing the main stakeholders of the districts of North and South Tapanuli were established and data on the socio-economic status of the 377 villages surrounding the Batang Toru forests has been compiled. In 2009, the three District heads and the Government of North Sumatra province requested a change in land status for most of the remaining primary forest in the Batang Toru area to be changed from production forest to protection forest. We are now waiting for a decision from the central government on this crucial aspect that will determine the future of the management of this area.