You would be hard-pressed to find people more dedicated, resilient, and selfless than the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) patrol rangers. Stationed at remote wilderness posts across more than one million acres of forest in Central Indonesian Borneo (Central Kalimantan), OFI’s indigenous rangers are the heart of our Protect and Patrol Program. This program plays a critical role in our comprehensive conservation strategy. Rangers spend their days trudging through dense rainforests and wading through peat swamp forest to monitor and counteract illegal encroachment that threatens precious orangutan habitat.
Over the decades we have watched poachers, loggers, miners, palm oil concessionaires, and others permanently demolish tropical rainforest in Borneo to accumulate what often is illegal corporate and private wealth. Tanjung Puting National Park, where I began my orangutan research and conservation work over fifty years ago, holds one of the largest wild orangutan populations in the world thanks to OFI’s heroic efforts to protect orangutans and forest habitat there.
Orangutans from Tanjung Puting wander beyond the park boundaries into adjacent forests. With its local allies, OFI has made it a priority to purchase remnant neighboring forest. The Rawa Kuno Orangutan Legacy Forest is one such forest reserve. Thousands of acres in size, Rawa Kuno is a key conservation area neighboring Tanjung Puting.
But simply purchasing forest is not enough. By working with local authorities, OFI helps prevent illegal resource extraction in the forests that we have bought. Without such protection, these forests could be rapidly destroyed or degraded, taking generations to recover. OFI has seven active patrol posts throughout the Rawa Kuno Orangutan Legacy Forest. However, we have an urgent need to rebuild a patrol post that recently burned to the ground. This post is vital because of its positioning at the edge of Rawa Kuno, next to a huge zircon strip mine that threatens to extend into the forest. While the existing mine may be legal, it is not uncommon for such operations to illegally expand into protected areas. There are usually no repercussions for such illegal extensions. Zircon strip mining creates virtual moonscapes and totally destroys local ecology. For orangutans and other wildlife, these moonscapes make traveling between sections of forest extremely difficult.
We can’t know whether bad actors were involved in setting the fire that destroyed our patrol post. But we do know that rebuilding and staffing the post will be crucial in ensuring that the zircon strip mine’s ongoing expansions do not cross into Rawa Kuno, and that the orangutans who call Rawa Kuno home are not harmed.
We also need to hire additional patrol rangers as soon as possible. With our current staffing, teams struggle to conduct patrols as frequently and extensively as is necessary. Adding rangers to each post will ensure rangers have a consistent, strong patrol presence throughout Rawa Kuno. Rangers also need to carry out other important duties like fire prevention and firefighting during the dry season as well as general camp protection and maintenance.
The job of a patrol ranger is an exhausting and isolating one. Rangers take up permanent residence at their remote patrol posts, often living there for months at a time with few creature comforts and minimal communication with the outside world. OFI’s rangers feel deep pride and responsibility for the orangutans and tropical rainforests that are unique to their homeland in Borneo.
As with all things involving the protection of critically endangered animals like orangutans and fragile ecosystems like the tropical rainforests of Borneo, time is not on our side. With each new year the threats become more varied and intense. We have no shortage of motivation and expertise. We just need more resources.
Please make a donation today to help us maintain and expand our Protect and Patrol Program in the Rawa Kuno Orangutan Legacy Forest and beyond. It is the only way to ensure the wilds of Borneo remain wild for future generations of orangutans, humans, and other animals.
Please remember that by contributing to our Protect and Patrol Program, you are not only helping protect orangutans and tropical forests, but also helping ameliorate climate change.
With thanks from the bottom of my heart for your continued support,
Biruté Mary Galdikas