Pongo Foundation, Orangutan Conservation and Research
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Introduction | Threats | Solutions | What can You do?

Umbrella species for rainforest conservation
An organism is considered an umbrella species when its existential requirements are believed to encapsulate the needs of the largest numbers of species in the particular ecosystem type under consideration.
Orangutans are extraordinary sensitive with regard to habitat disturbance. They’re specialized in feeding from particular communities of tree species that occur in patches which may take up no more than 50% of larger forests’ expanse (usually 35%). As a consequence of this sensitivity the Orangutan can be considered a major representative of the biodiversity of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The relationship between orangutans and their habitats is one of interdependence. Orangutans act as seed dispersers and predators that help maintain the species diversity of the forests they inhabit. For this reason, the presence of orangutans is a good indicator of the biological diversity of Southeast Asian rainforests. If orangutans are present at normal densities, then the area is likely also to contain at least five other species of primates, at least five species of hornbills, at least 50 different fruit-tree species, and 15 liana species. Thus, orangutans are an excellent umbrella species for rainforest conservation. This species’ requirements with regard to area and habitat are wide enough that if orangutans were made a focus of protective management, the biodiversity of species within its range would also automatically be preserved.

The Sumatran and the Bornean Orangutan were classified as being Critically Endangered and Endangered respectively in 2008 (in The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, www.iucnredlist.org).

A taxon is Critically Endangered/Endangered when it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future, as defined by any of the following criteria:
1. Population reduction in the form of an observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction of at least 80%/50% over the last 10 years or three generations. A reduction of at least 80% projected or suspected to be met within the next 10 years or three generations
2. Extent of occurrence estimated to be less than 100 km2/5000 km2, area of occupancy estimated to be less than 10 km2/500 km2, estimates indicating area of occupancy severely fragmented or known to exist at only a single location
3. Population estimated to number less than 250/2500 mature individuals
4. Quantitative analysis showing the probability of extinction in the wild is at least 50%/20% within 10/20 years or three/five generations, whichever is the longer.

Travel advice for tourists
Orangutan sites play a major role in the conservation of the species in Sumatra and Borneo. Travellers can visit orangutans in these sites and their visit helps maintain local jobs and the enhancement of environmental values across locals. Some of the orangutan sites that can be visited in Indonesia and Malaysia are:

> Ketambe Village (Kutacane, Aceh, Sumatra); a rustic place where you can see wild orangutans in their natural habitat.
> Bukit Lawang (Medan, North Sumatra, Sumatra); a touristic place with wild, semi-wild and rehabilitant orangutans. Be aware and well informed, many guides fail the rules described below.
> Tanjung Puting (Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, Borneo); with wild, semi-wild and rehabilitant orangutans.
> BOS Samboja Lestari Project (Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Borneo); a remarkable reintroduction programme.
> Kinabatangan (Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo).

Please follow the rules below when visiting one of the sites:
1. Take only local guides (stimulate the local economy).
2. Do not disturb the orangutans by banging trees or yelling (next time you still want to see them, right?).
3. Do not feed the orangutans (they have to find their own food in their habitat in order to survive independently).
4. Do not come closer than 10 meters from the orangutans (disease transmission!).
5. Do not make pictures of the orangutans with flash.
6. If you see your guide failing one of these above mentioned rules please let him know.
7. Do enjoy seeing the orangutans moving, playing, resting, feeding and building nests.

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