Habitat Protection

The SOCP invests a great deal of effort into habitat conservation, as a foundation to ensure the long-term survival of the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan

The Leuser Ecosystem

The SOCP works constantly to prevent the destruction and fragmentation of the 2.6 million hectare Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, which harbours around 85% of all remaining wild Sumatran orangutans.

Notable successes have been achieved, including the cancellation of a major palm oil concession in the Tripa peat swamps region of the Ecosystem, and record fines against the company. Nevertheless, constant vigilance is required to prevent inappropriate developments within Leuser’s critically important forests and ensure the continued existence of what has been referred to as one of the World’s Most Irreplaceable Protected Areas.

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The Batang Toru Ecosystem

 The Batang Toru Ecosystem, totaling close to 150,000 ha in North Sumatra, Indonesia, is home to the southern-most naturally occurring viable population of orangutans in Sumatra– in fact this population is genetically distinct from those found further north in and around the Leuser Ecosystem. The Batang Toru Ecosystem in Tapanuli is now the last home to the Tapanuli orangutans, and there are thought to be only about 800 individuals remaining.

The SOCP has already succeeded in closing a major timber concession and establishing protected status for 88,000 ha of the Batang Toru forests. We now work with local stakeholders to manage and conserve this important orangutan habitat and critical watershed, both for its biodiversity and its surrounding human communities.

Drone Technology

Since 2012 the SOCP has been working closely with Dr Lian Pin Koh and Dr Serge Wich and colleagues at Conservation Drones  to develop innovative remote control aerial surveillance “drones”.

These are standard remote controlled aircraft adapted to carry either video or still photographic equipment, and equipped with an autopilot system. The autopilot can be pre-programmed to fly at any height and follow a particular route, such as following the forest edge, or to cover a given area with a specifically designed transect system.

The onboard still camera can also be programmed to ensure photos overlap, so that they can then be stitched together to produce a mosaic, and even tied to a less detailed satellite image, giving a much more detailed view of a selected area of the image. In this way, we are able to survey areas that would be very difficult to reach otherwise, with current battery capacity up to as far as 30km or more from a launch site.

Potential uses for this new technology seem limitless. Not only do they include habitat monitoring and research, we have even been able to photograph orangutans in trees, and their nests, and hope in the future to be able to detect radio transmitter chips implanted into reintroduced orangutans. If we are able to do this, it would be an enormous help in monitoring the progress of orangutans newly reintroduced to the wild, something which is not always so easy on foot only.

Currently, the SOCP team primarily flies with Skywalker fixed-wing (airplane) airframes, but we also pilot a selection of multi-rotor copters.