Category Archives: Belantikan Conservation Programme

Belantikan’s big ape count

Determining wild population sizes of orangutans and gibbons, both highly arboreal (tree-dwelling) apes species, is a conservation challenge. But, over the years, scientist have come up with methods that enable accurate estimates. For example, with orangutan their nests are counted and with gibbons, it is their songs that are recorded and used.

Bornean orangutan by Ian Wood.

Bornean orangutan by Ian Wood.

We are trying to find out more about the wild ape populations of the Belantikan Hulu region which is part of the greater Belantikan Arut – a spectacular landscape spanning 500,000 hectares across Central and West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). The Belantikan Conservation Programme (BCP) is a joint initiative of Yayorin (an Indonesian NGO) and ourselves.

The Belanitkan Hulu comprises primary and secondary lowland forests, including both recently logged forests and post-logging forests that have since recovered (over the last 35-40 years). The area has ravines, rivers, cliffs and logging roads – all synonymous with Borneo.

There is a large wild orangutan population, which was first surveyed in 2003, and a gibbon population, whose size is unknown. In 2012, The Rufford Foundation awarded funding to the BCP to build a small research station and to commence surveys of the ape species. The research station is now in use by BCP’s field researchers and by a team of biologists from the National University of Jakarta.

Our initial surveys indicate there has been a continuing decrease in the orangutan population over the years. This population was estimated to be the largest population of orangutans existing in the wild outside of the protected area system. In fact, more than 70% of the total Bornean orangutan population in the wild is found outside of designated conservation areas. Hence, it is important to determine the size and distribution of the Belantikan population accurately, and to be able to monitor the current apparent population decline, so that appropriate conservation actions can be taken.

The gibbon survey estimated a density of just over 3 groups per km2, which is considered high. The BCP will conduct further research to determine how orangutans adapt to living in logging forests and to the varying degrees of disturbance. Further studies on gibbons will also survey the wider area and the estimated territory and cruising areas, study group composition as well as changes in habitat conditions between seasons.

We hope to provide you with new and exciting findings from Belantikan as we start to find out more about its forests and what lives within.

We are extremely grateful to The Rufford Foundation and to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Great Ape Conservation Fund for supporting this research project, and to the Arcus Foundation for supporting the on-going conservation project.

Thank you,

Orangutan Foundation and Yayorin (Belantikan Conservation Programme)


Sunda clouded leopard cub rescued

On Saturday April 28, we received information from our partners, Yayorin, that there was a baby Bornean clouded leopard,  or Sunda clouded leopard as it is now known (Neofelis diardi), which had been hit by a car in the village of Bayat, district of Belantikan Raya, Lamandau regency in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.

The Orangutan Foundation team left the port town of Pangkalan Bun late morning and arrived at the village of Bayat four hours later. After some discussion with the villagers we saw the leopard cub which was being stored in a cardboard box and was silent and motionless.

 Dr Fikri, the Orangutan Foundation’s vet, examining the cub being held by villagers

Information obtained from the villagers was that leopard cub was found at night on the road leading to the iron ore mining site.  They saw the mother clouded leopard walking across the road carrying her cub in her mouth.  When the iron ore vehicles passed they must have startled the mother who dropped her cub and ran away.  It is thought that the vehicle hit the cub, though very lightly.  The iron ore mining vehicles were heading to the port of Pangkalan Bun.

The people of Bayat village had been looking after the cub for 2 days before we arrived.

Orangutan Foundation vet with the cub

Baby clouded leopard weak and silent

Cub not able to walk


The good news is that the cub is progressing well and is in pretty good health. Initially it was always unsteady when standing and its walking wasn’t normal.  It had problems with both hind legs. This pain seems to have now gone and its walking is normal and sometimes it even climbs the wall of its cage.

Cub alert and seems healthy


It is eating and drinking. Its current weight is ± 2 Kg. Looking at the husbandry manual on the Clouded Leopard Project website this suggests its age may be between 60 and 90 days old.  It is still very early days for the cub.  More news to follow soon…

Thank you

Orangutan Foundation

Please consider a donation to support our work by visiting our website or bid on a Gary Hodge’s print that is being auction in aid of the Foundation. Thank you!


Conservation in unprotected areas -reply to comments

Thank you to everyone who has recently left comments, especially about Brian and Rosa’s release – they do mean a lot to our staff (Rosa, lovely to hear from you and of course the orangutan Rosa was named after you. Rosa was our vet who previously work at the orangutan care centre).

I’d like to respond to Louis McCarten, who left a comment about Belantikan’s protection – I think it is time to press the Indonesian government to provide actual legal protection to the Belantikan rain forest. And quickly. I do not see a future for the biodiversity here if this is not attempted (and financed). Why not a Belantikan National Park? Better that than a Belantikan alan alang wasteland (or yet another oil palm plantation the world doesn’t need–which of course is what is the world is going to get if we don’t do something to save the Belantikan). 

Your point about Belantikan needing protection is entirely reasonable and this is why we are working in this area. Belantikan has the world’s largest population of orangutans outside of a protected area and it is important for many other ecological reasons.  However, the situation in Belantikan it isn’t black and white – there are many factors to consider when deciding how best to protect a high conservation value forest area. Designating the forests as a national park isn’t the answer either. We must deal with the reasons behind deforestation otherwise they will persist despite the change in land status, as we have witnessed in other Indonesian national parks.  

A lot of the land is community owned, adat and so rightfully it is the local people who make the decisions about their land.  The logging concessions are legal and still have many years left before they expire. However, rather than seeing these as only negative factors we need to find a way to work together.   

A co-operative management approach, where all the stakeholders (local communities, logging concessions, government) are recognised, have a voice and are taken notice of is one of our aims. The Belantikan Conservation Programme, funded by the United Nations Environment Programme – Great Ape Survival Partnership, began in 2005 and it is attempting to engage and work with all the stakeholders of Belantikan.   

One of our objectives is to see more of the area designated as protected forests (not national park) therefore maintaining key ecosystem functions, such as watersheds.  We are also helping the local communities, who are highly dependent on the forests, to earn a living that is ecologically and economically viable.  The communities have to make vital decisions about their land (whether to sell to oil palm companies, lease to timber concessions, how to farm it) and through increased education and awareness we can help them to understand the future implications of their decisions.

It is terribly depressing that you have to drive for 6 hours through uninterrupted oil palm plantations before you reach the forests and it is upsetting to think of all the wildlife that has been lost.  Our work in Belantikan is still in it infancy and we are working to set strong foundations for what we hope will be a future for these forests, its village communities and the wildlife. However, the ultimately responsibility lies with the Indonesian government and it will be to their detriment, as well as everybody else’s, if they fail to make the right choices. 

Thank you,

Cathy – Orangutan Foundation (UK office)

Hope for another Bornean Orangutan.

The translocation of the young female orangutan (we rescued her last week from an oil palm plantation) to the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve is planned for this week. The young orangutan was named “Memes” by Tigor, Orangutan Reintroduction Manager.  Dr Fiqri, our vet, has said Memes is healthy and clear from worms and can leave the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine facility for the Lamandau reserve.

Hopefully we’ll have more news from Hudi on his return from the stakeholder meetings in the Belantikan Hulu region. 

Thanks for your recent comments Theresa, Amy and Wanda (very sorry to hear about your dog Wanda but glad we could bring you some good news).

Thanks for all your support,

Cathy – Orangutan Foundation

 Please support our ‘Protect Me and My Tree Appeal’

orangutan in tree

Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme

You’re probably aware that the Orangutan Foundation runs a Volunteer Programme (see Categories for past posts) 

This year’s programme has been different in that we are working closely with our partners Yayorin on a water purification project in the Belantikan Arut region of Central Kalimantan. Belantikan is home to the largest remaning population of orangutans in an unprotected area and is a biodiversity hotspot. 

Our strategy involves community empowerment, education and agricultural management to help villagers protect their forests. This year’s Volunteer Programme fits in by working with the local communities and further improving our relationship with them, whilst gaining their respect and providing villagers with a cleaner, safer water-source.  Each team will work in a different village. At each village, a natural spring has been identified as an alternative source to the river which is currently used for transport, bathing, washing and as a toilet. The teams build a dam to harness the spring water and then a pipe system takes it down to the village.

Volunteers return to camp after a hard days work

Climbing back up to the jetty after a hard days work 

Team 1 ended on 13th June and the village of Nanga Matu (home to Yayorin’s basecamp) now has taps providing clean water from a natural hillside spring on the other side of the river. The construction was no mean feat and massive thanks go to the hardworking volunteers and Volunteer Co-ordinators who made the project succeed.   Team 2 is already well into their work in the village of Bintang Mengalih and I was there to see the project commence. The team are living in a small community house where personal space is non- existent, and the movements and activities of us visitors is of most interest to the locals.

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party at one of the villages 

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party by a local village 

Whilst there, I encountered leeches, a scorpion, poisonous millipedes and lots of peat. Bathing is in a nearby river and we dug a long-drop toilet behind the accommodation. Before work began we had to go the village hall and formally meet the village head and some local villagers.

Village children keen to “hang out” with volunteers 

Local children were keen to “hang out” with the volunteers. 

The village were so appreciative of our work that they provided us with four local people to help on the project. They really were very excited and grateful about the work of Orangutan Foundation.  By 8th August Bintang Mengalih will have clean water to drink at the turn of a tap!!


Elly (UK Volunteer Co-ordinator)

Double Our Funds For Orangutans

To celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, a philanthropist organisation, The Reed Foundation, has promised to double any donations made to five different wildlife charities through its charity website The Orangutan Foundation is delighted to be one of the chosen charities and donations will go towards our project ‘Protecting Orangutans and Rainforest Biodiversity Through Carbon Markets‘ in the Belantikan Arut region of Central Kalimantan.

On Monday 23rd February at 10am The Big Give will start doubling donations of £5 or more and they will finish when £50,000 has been spent. Please be as generous as possible on the 23rd February, when every donation can go twice as far to achieve our aims in the Belantikan Arut region of Central Kalimantan

Put a note in your diary or an alert on your mobile and just before 10am have your bankcard at hand and simply visit There will be a ‘Darwin’s Natural Selection’ link in the matched funding area of the Big Give.

The money will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, so it is important that you make your donations as soon as possible after the launch of the scheme. The last time The Big Give ran a scheme of this nature, they gave away one million pounds in 45 minutes!

Thank you!!

Who patrols the logging concessions?

A quick answer to Sheryl’s question about David Hagan’s blog Vounteering in Belantikan – Morning Commute , “Are there police patrolling this logging concession? Is there no plan in place to replant trees to rebuild the forest?”.

Logging concessionaires have police on check points on access routes into their concessions, because illegal logging isn’t just a problem for the National Parks, it occurs in many forms. The police, however, only monitor local people who try to extract trees – they are on the side of the concessionaire. It is the Forestry Department who monitor the activities of the concessionaires. The operator in Belantikan seems reasonably respectful of the law. In other areas the ‘legal’ loggers are less responsible.

Personally, I think our partners Yayorin (, a local Indonesian NGO, deserve big credit for the behaviour of the concessionaire in Belantikan. By simply being there, they are helping to keep everyone on the straight and narrow. As for replanting, there is a reforestation program but one hopes the forest there will recover on its own. The soils are more fertile than those we have in the lowlands and there should still be a crop of regenerating young trees left behind.

Volunteering in Belantikan – A Dayak Perspective

During our time in Belantikan we were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have some long conversations with some of the older villagers about their way of life. We visited the ladang of Pak Taryom outside the village of Nanga Matu, to see the new crops he is cultivating with Yayorin’s help and find out how their new methods are bringing benefits to the area.

Pak Taryom

Pak Taryom in his ladang near Nanga Matu, cultivation here has been much changed with Yayorin’s help

Pak Taryom also explained to us about the traditions and ceremonies of the Dayak people. His brother, Pak Maju, is the last man of Nanga Matu refusing to convert to one of the five state approved faiths of Indonesia and still clinging to Kaharingan – the traditional Dayak religion. He is also the father of Yayorin’s cook Ani, the youngest of his seven daughters.

Pak Maju lives outside Nanga Matu and, on our last day in Belantikan, we went to visit him at his ladang tucked away inside the forest. He’s 58 years old and still working in the fields. We found him sat under a tarpaulin sheet in the centre of his ladang, a thin line of smoke twisting to the sky from the fire he was sitting by chewing tobacco rolled in leaves, a rifle and a long knife by his side. I got a little perturbed at one stage during our conversation when he turned to me and mimed pulling off my head and drew his knife. Although it turned out, via translation, that he was just explaining that when a Dayak is angry they can pull off an enemy’s head with their bare hands without recourse to a blade.

Pak Maju

Pak Maju – Nanga Matu’s last adherent of the Kaharingan religion in his ladang

Pak Maju also told us how the villagers of Nanga Matu and Bintang Mengalih still come to see him and ask him to summon the spirits to grant their wishes. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that he could accept the end of the Kaharingan culture, religion being in his mind a matter of personal choice. He could not, however, accept the destruction of the forest. When we asked him what he thought of it he told us that the balance of life has been upset and ‘when the trees and the hills are all gone [to logging and mining] the people will all die.’. The world around Pak Maju is changing so fast that his fears for the forest, and everything that lives within it, could be realised within his lifetime.

We left Belantikan full of great memories. The work of the Orangutan Foundation, Yayorin and the local communities to protect this area for the benefit of people, orangutans and the forest continues.

Thank you,


Volunteering in Belantikan – Working with the forest

The Dayak people of Belantikan have lived with the forest as subsistence farmers for centuries and still it thrives. They carve out their small field (ladang) in the forest for cultivation and occasionally venture into the interior to hunt and gather other food to supplement their diet. However, some of their other practices for example, traditional slash and burn agriculture, unnecessarily destroy patches of forest annually. As the amount of available primary forest shrinks year on year due to the incursions of logging, palm oil and mining, it’s more and more important to ensure that the agricultural methods of the people living in the forest are as sustainable as possible.

Therefore, Yayorin is working to introduce new practices for the benefit of the forest and the people, showing the villagers how they can continue to use the same field year on year. Introducing the cultivation of rubber, which takes five years to mature, means that the villagers cannot simply burn the field after they have harvested their vegetables, and this benefits the forest. The production of rubber is also beneficial to the people as it provides them with a long-term continuous income source. The vast majority of farmers across the three villages have already started to cultivate rubber, significantly reducing the use of slash and burn.

Rubber Training (Photo: Yayorin)

Rubber Training – Photo: Yayorin (“We do not have full-scale rubber cultivation. What we do is agroforestry with rubber as main plants. In the agroforestry system, we mix different plants in one area like vegetables, fruit trees, gaharu and rubber. This way, the community can enjoy the short and long harvest” – Togu Simorangkir, Chairman of Yayorin).

Yayorin’s community development and empowerment work is also helping the villagers to recognise that the long-term value of the forest is more precious than the short-term rewards that could be gained by surrendering their traditional land to those who would destroy it in the interests of quick profit. The benefit of this strand of Yayorin’s work was shown in June 2006, when the villagers of Kahingai chose to reject an astounding offer of 30 million rupiah per family to sell their land to a palm oil company.

Volunteering In Belantikan – An Absolute Pleasure To Teach

As part of Yayorin’s programme of conservation and community empowerment they are also prioritizing improving education generally for the villagers. It’s this aspect of the programme, and the communities’ request for English language teaching, that led us to go to Belantikan to work in the village schools. Living in Belantikan for one month was an absolute privilege and teaching the children an absolute pleasure. They were a joy to work with, keen and enthusiastic, and seeing them go in one month from speaking no English to confidently expressing themselves in their new language showed the enormous potential they have.

Teaching in Belantikan

Class 3 and 4 in Bintang Mengalih after English class.

It was also funny to hear how the children of these remote villages picked up touches of our distinctive Liverpool accent in their spoken English, which might sound a bit odd to any future English visitors who stop to chat to them. The children also seemed to really enjoy the lessons, although some of their teachers looked a bit bemused watching their students dancing around outside class singing “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” or the “happy days theme tune”.

When we were leaving Kahingai after our last lesson there some of the children followed us down to where our boat was waiting on the river. We asked them if they’d rather leave the village behind and go to live in England and they said no. I think their quality of life here, living in this beautiful forest is better, I hope it remains that way.