Panut Hadisiswoyo, the Principle Conservationist and Founding Director of the Orangutan Information Centre is here in Singapore and he came down to NUS to give a talk on the Human-Orangutan conflict mitigation program that he initiated in Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP), Sumatra, Indonesia earlier today!
As with many other countries, habitat loss is a major problem, especially due to illegal settlement and plantation. The impact is felt more dearly here, as GLNP is one of few legally protected national parks where 4 large mammals can still be found: Sumatran tiger, Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran rhino and Asian elephant, all of which are classified as Critically Endangered or Endangered under CITES. With increasing encroachment of human settlement and palm oil plantations into the forest, inevitably conflict between wildlife and humans will occur.
Hence, Panut set up the Human-Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) to deal with this issue of human-wildlife conflict, especially with regards to the Orangutans. Apart from dealing with reports from farmers on crop-raiding Orangutans, the unit also conducts research, surveying the locals' perception of wildlife and how they deal with problems arising from such conflicts. They also work with local communities to raise awareness, restore previously cleared forests and run educational programs.
His talk was really inspiring, and I could see his passion and determination in trying to conserve this charismatic animal! Conservation of any animal is never easy, and requires a multi-pronged approach dealing with the local community, big corporations, law enforcement agencies and government policies. Although he has seen some measure of success in outreach and education, there is still a long path to go, especially with regards to law enforcement and dealing with the root of the problem. He has lots of determination though, and I was very inspired by his talk. That one person can have so much energy and passion and have achieved so much, that really gives hope that our wildlife are not doomed to extinction! (:
Panut will be conducting the talk again tomorrow (17 November 2011) at the National Geographic Store in Vivocity at 7.00pm. Do support him by registering here.
More information on the topic can be found here.
On a separate note, last month I saw some camera trap footage of animals found in Gunung Leuser National Park and they were really cool! Muntjac, Crested Serpent Eagle, Golden Cat, Eurasian Pig, Banded Civet and more! You can check the video out on Youtube.