Orangutan Tree Project

Field Conservation

Orangutan Tree Project

Field Conservation

The Orangutan Tree Project grew out of our Apes Like Us filming work in Borneo. It is a partnership between GLOBIO and Yayasan IAR Indonesia, to create real-world change one tree at a time.

Deforestation and fires across Borneo have stripped orangutans of their forest homes. That damage, is horrific, but not irreparable. One tree at a time we can rebuild the forest home of orangutans and safeguard damaging carbon from being released into the Earth’s atmosphere — and you play a critical part.

We have created the Orangutan Tree Project to meet GLOBIO’s triple bottom line — serving Species, People, Planet. Over the next decade here is how you, GLOBIO, and Yayasan IARI will do that.

  • Protecting species by building a new tropical rainforest home for up to 500 orangutans, and other unique species like proboscis monkeys.
  • Employing local villagers to collect seeds, nurture seedlings, and plant and protect small trees
  • Engaging people globally to learn and donate.
  • Ensuring climate changing carbon stays sequestered beneath this new forest in the peat, not released into our atmosphere.
  • Trapping even more carbon and other gases by growing 750,000 tropical rainforest trees.

The forest we are working on replanting with partner Yayasan IARI in West Kalimantan Borneo will restore over 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of native forest—home to over 500 wild endangered Bornean orangutans and other key species—destroyed in horrific fires of 2015. Critically, this is peat swamp forest, which contains megatons of sequestered carbon, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere contributing significantly to global climate change. Each tree costs just $3 US from seed to seedling. This includes protection for two years by dedicated OTP team, until the seedling reaches 2 meters (6-7 feet) tall and begins shading out invasive grasses.

To give the forest and orangutans a fresh start the Orangutan Tree Project will aim to plant and nurture 12,500 seedlings per hectare per year to begin restoring what was lost. In total the project will plant 750,000 native seedlings over the next 10 years.

Orangutan Tree Project Educational Resources

Orangutan in the ForestIn addition to the critical work on the ground GLOBIO is creating as series of learning resources, including videos, educator’s Learning Activity Guides, and web information, about orangutans, peat swamps, climate change and more. Discover that growing range of OTP resources

We are applying for these grant funds to underwrite the administrative and campaign costs of running a new project – Orangutan Forest Project – so that 100% of donor pledged funds for trees can be committed to the on-the-ground reforestation project in Borneo.

Orangutan Tree Project

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OTP News Updates

Patience: Day Seven of Quarantine

Patience: Day Seven of Quarantine

Is it my Western impatience, or the urgency of wanting to tell this story, or film-maker wanting to work impatience, or little kid wanting adventure impatience, or is it the confluence of all those? I’m not certain, but ten days of quarantine, while we make certain neither Tracy or I carried in some pathogen, is a test of patience.

It became a greater test yesterday as the orangutan rescue team went out to check on an orangutan reported trapped in an area being cleared for… wait for it,… what else,… palm oil. What they found we later saw in the photos (deep breath, patience) was a small, maybe four year old orangutan. The little red ape was too small to be immediately release, so returned to the Yayasan IAR center for a couple weeks observation before release. Not that this was the first, nor will it be the last, rescue. It wasn’t even a crazy dramatic rescue, but it was a missed opportunity. As Tracy and I stared at the images on the back of the camera on which the action was recorded, we both kept looking at one another with that – ok, deep breath, patience – look.

The quarantine period, ten days once you’re in Indonesia (not just here at the YIAR Center) is necessary, and I fully support Dr. Karmele Llaño Sanchez’s decision to enforce it; no one is the exception, not even her. It, along with the other list of medical requirements she enforces, is why I hold her standards up as the model I wish all sanctuaries, with any of the great apes, here or in Africa, would institute. There’s constant discussion in the media and medical circles about disease transfer from animals to humans (zoonosis), but far less emphasis is placed on the transfer from humans to wildlife. Think of the laundry list of diseases we humans have shipped, flown and cough across this planet. With great apes we share so much of our genetics, perhaps non-human great apes are the ones to most fear a global pandemic brought on by us.

So, ok, deep breath, we can be patient, only three more days — after all we have that luxury, that newly rescued four year old, whether facing palm oil or pathogen doesn’t have patience on its side.

— Gerry

Pre-Trailer: Beginning Before They’re Gone

Pre-Trailer: Beginning Before They’re Gone

Pre-trailer video for Before They're Gone Film

After weeks of digging through old files, clips, interviews, and oh so much B-roll of great apes, we have just released our new pre-trailer for the Before They’re Gone film. And before I type another word – huge thanks to my co-creator Tracy MacDonald and editor Matt Zadrow for their endless hours – great work!

We’re only a couple weeks out from starting work in Borneo and already I feel like I have been filming there for months, a couple years actually. I have been reviewing everything created on my last trips — like cramming for a final exam — I want every image in my head before starting to film once again. My last trip to Ketapang and Karmele’s orangutan sanctuary was in late 2015, fires were ravaging the region, and orphans pouring in. The work then became the inspiration for wanting to tell Karmele Llaño Sanchez’s story. Like a handful of women across the great ape world, everyday I watched her deal with the crisis at her doorstep, the more I was in awe of this slight Spanish transplant. The more I watched, the more she reflected those other extraordinary women I had briefly come to know: Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.

The pre-trailer (Watch it here) begins to hint at the story we are trying to tell, and why it needs to be told now. But since little about it was filmed with Before They’re Gone initially in mind, there is so much more work to be created. For that Tracy and I are off to Borneo, to begin, before both the apes and these remarkable women are gone.

— Gerry Ellis

Burning Memories

Burning Memories

Packing for Borneo to begin first filming of Karmele Llaño Sanchez for the film and today is Earth Day 2019 — a week before flying out, thinking a lot about how those two things are one.

rainforest burning for palm oil plantation Borneo

The last time I was in Borneo with Karmele the island was on fire — going up in flames. Literally the third largest island in the world was an inferno, a toxic witch’s brew of smoke and flames. Devastating fires, the result of a collision between political and corporate collusion, and El Niño had inflame a disaster long anticipated.

In the real world that meant us, and apes like us, were dying. In the three short months between late August and November of 2015, thousands of forest and peatland fires raged out of control, choking the entire region in a thick, toxic haze. When the haze cleared orangutan sanctuaries, like that in Ketapang, founded by Karmele and her husband Argitoe Ranting, were at crisis level with orphan victims, most were babies. When I arrived in September neither I nor they knew what to expect over the next month — definitely none of us expected the greatest man-made ecological disaster.

There is no El Niño in this April, but fires have already ignited in the peat forests on the neighboring island of Sumatra, inflaming worry in Borneo.

— Gerry Ellis