Today on World Orangutan Day we’re celebrating our friends and partners from the Sumatran Ranger Project (SRP) who’s great mahi with their forest-edge communities is helping mitigate human-orangutan conflict - for the benefit of all!

Our very own deputy curator of mammals and primate expert, Amy Robbins, who founded SRP in 2016, recently returned from the forest border area just outside North Sumatra’s Gunung Leuser National Park where the rangers are based.

Currently in Sumatra durian season is in full swing - a time that can exacerbate conflict. The highly nutritious durian (nick-named the ‘King of fruits’ and renowned for being the most pungent fruit in the world!) is a favourite food of orangutans. Also loved by Indonesians and of high economic value, it’s a vital source of income for some forest-edge landowners.

“For arboreal great apes like orangutans, moving out of the protected national park to the forest border area to range over and climb the towering durian trees (some up to 50 metres high!) to take their pick of the durian crop is both easy and irresistible. But it’s behaviour that threatens people’s livelihoods and can in turn fuel negative attitudes towards wildlife, and sometimes lead to people taking lethal action against orangutans,” explains Amy.

“The solution from the rangers, locals themselves, is to safely move the orangutans out and back to the national park by using various noise deterrent methods. SRP also funds the provision of mobile phones for local landowners so that they can call for immediate assistance from the rangers, rather than taking matters into their own hands. In situations where individual orangutans are reluctant to move on, our rangers work with local Government authorities to relocate them. 

“Because of the fragmented landscape of Sumatra’s rainforests – from decades of deforestation, it’s physically impossible to prevent wildlife like orangutans from moving into areas where people are living and working in this area of North Sumatra. But these mitigation efforts are proving highly effective, and it’s very heartening to be seeing positive outcomes for orangutans and forest-edge communities,” says Amy.

Along with working closely with forest-edge communities and the patrolling and intensive monitoring of the forest to help ensure the protection of wildlife, SRP is also establishing a seedling programme.

“Our goal is to be able to support communities to benefit from alternative livelihoods, and long term for wildlife to benefit from forest restoration and corridors. We’re very excited about its potential long-term benefits for all wildlife that live in the Gunung Leuser National Park that’s part of the wider Leuser Ecosystem and one of the most biodiverse habitats on the planet.”

Auckland Zoo’s Conservation Fund has supported the Sumatran Ranger Project since its establishment in 2016. You our visitors are an integral part of this ongoing support as simply by visiting the Zoo you’re contributing to these efforts. Ngā mihi nui!