As forest is degraded and humans move ever further into orangutan habitat, instances of human-orangutan conflict (HOC) increase. Such conflict can occur on large scale plantations and small-scale smallholdings or local farms, and in both instances occurs when orangutans are forced out of degraded forest and travel into plantations in search of food, or are merely attracted out of the forest by the sudden appearance of an appetising and easily accessible food source. HOC can often result in the death or capture of the orangutan, and the increase in HOC seen in Borneo and Sumatra, as the human population has grown and more land has been allocated for agriculture, is considered one of the greatest threats to their survival.
HOC Response Team
To combat this threat, in 2011 IAR established the first Human Orangutan Conflict Response Team in West Kalimantan. The team immediately began investigating the extent of the HOC in West Kalimantan, examining the causes and the different mitigation methods currently used. It was immediately clear that, unless HOC could be mitigated, we would need to rescue more and more orangutans, and the species would be in an even more dire state.
We therefore immediately began training people living near orangutan habitat. The training has two components: training in the manufacture of the HOC mitigation device, and understanding basic orangutan movement patterns, so people have a better understanding of how orangutans behave, where they are likely to travel and how to move them away from possible sources of conflict. We teach people how to make hand-held firecracker cannons (manufactured from bamboo and tin, using calcium carbide to produce a loud noise when detonated), to steer the orangutan back into the forest or away from humans and/or crops. Our HOCRT have successfully been using this methodology for a number of years, and it has proved incredibly effective. Training is also provided in how to ‘cut off’ the pathway of an orangutan, steering it in the desired direction, i.e., from a garden/ plantation and back into the forest.
Community Prevention Units
In areas where HOC instances are high, we have established and trained Community Prevention Units, who have used the methods taught by our team to monitor orangutan populations in their local areas, helping other residents if orangutans enter their farms, and reporting back to us if there are any instances of orangutans being killed. These units have been instrumental in mitigating conflict, and are an example of how IAR believes conservation projects should be managed by people from the community, working with people in their local area to protect local wildlife.
We have also taken our HOC mitigation training to local palm oil and timber companies, helping to establish and train conservation and orangutan monitoring teams on plantations. These teams help protect orangutans in and around plantations, steering them away from conflict situations and helping to enforce Best Management Practices that our team has developed with management. They also monitor orangutan populations and record sightings of individuals and nests, helping us to understand how many orangutans are living in these landscapes, and how far they are travelling.