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IAR Indonesia thanks the groups and individuals who support its award-winning conservation work

Earlier in October 2020, thanks to the hard work of all involved, IAR Indonesia was honoured for its innovative and holistic approach to saving wildlife and natural habitats, particularly in West Kalimantan. 

The award was given by the BBVA Foundation in Spain in the category of biodiversity for “an innovative and integrated approach to protecting biodiversity in the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (TNBBBR) and several iconic species including orangutans.” 

This award would not have been achieved without the excellent support and cooperation of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) of the Republic of Indonesia. It is thanks to the Directorate General of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation (Dirjen KSDAE) and the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park that the IAR Indonesia programme in West Kalimantan operates smoothly and efficiently.

 IAR Indonesia Programme Director Karmele L Sanchez expressed her appreciation for all those who play an important role in the conservation work of IAR Indonesia.

 "I am very grateful to all management and staff at IAR Indonesia because without them, this programme would not exist. I am also very grateful to all IAR Indonesia's partners, particularly the Ministry of Environment and Forestry because without their support and involvement, our programme would not be able to operate. We also thank all the people in our programme locations around the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park area because they are actually the main protagonists in this programme.” 

A jury consisting of scientists working in the field of environment, communicators, experts in environmental law and policy making, as well as representatives from several conservation NGOs praised IAR Indonesia's long-term conservation strategy in ecosystems stricken by deforestation challenges. 

Protection of nature is a top priority for the BBVA Foundation which for more than 20 years has supported research in the fields of ecology and conservation biology. The award prizes given for each category reach 250,000 euros or the equivalent of 4.3 billion rupiah, making this award one of the biggest prizes in the world. The use of this prize will be applied as much as possible to the conservation programme at TNBBBR with further involvement of the National Park, the government and local communities. 

All conservation work carried out by IAR Indonesia has been based on a vision to create a life where humans and animals can coexist in a sustainable ecosystem. "We strive to realise our vision with a mission to build awareness of environmental conservation and implement an effective system where habitats and animals can be protected. Therefore, the activities carried out by IAR Indonesia are not only focused on saving orangutans and wildlife but also aimed at helping humans," Karmele added. 

Since its establishment in 2009, IAR Indonesia, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, has saved more than 250 orangutans and released 129 of them, 46 of whom have been released inside the TNBBBR area beginning in 2016. Some of these released orangutans have successfully reproduced back in the wild. Particularly in terms of the release of orangutans in TNBBBR, the support of the Kalimantan Tropical Forest Conservation ACT (TFCA) played a major role in its implementation from 2017 to early 2020. 

"We congratulate IAR Indonesia on the award and hope that it will enable IAR to increase its contribution to biodiversity conservation," Puspa Dewi Liman from TFCA Kalimantan said. TFCA Kalimantan is a debt transfer cooperation programme between the Indonesian and American governments, with TNC and WWF as swap partners, while the KEHATI Foundation acts as the administrator of TFCA Kalimantan. 

In implementing activities, IAR has integrated orangutan conservation efforts with community economic development, particularly for people who live in the traditional use zone of the TNBBBR area.

Through community involvement in various activities, apart from increasing economic alternatives and understanding of orangutan conservation, community support for national park management has also increased: for example, more than 50 local residents who had been involved in illegal logging are now working for IAR in orangutan rescue and recovery.  With this increased support, the management of TNBBBR can realise its function as a buffer for living systems. 

Realising that residents in the two buffer villages of the TNBBR area live far from health and education facilities, and recognising the need to improve human welfare, IAR Indonesia also conducts educational and community development programmes in these two buffer villages. “This is one of the poorest rural areas where people don't even have adequate access to health and education facilities. 

This situation is exacerbated by the unavailability of decent work opportunities there. Economic pressure is what then encourages them to carry out several activities that are not in line with conservation,” explained Karmele. 

The peak of the development of the education programme occurred in 2019, assisted by several donors to IAR, particularly Heidi Drymer. For the first time IAR Indonesia provided a scholarship programme for 18 children who met the requirements to pursue higher education in Nanga Pinoh. The programme, which is planned to run for 3 years, will also provide daily needs and health care until these children can finish school and can become role models for other hamlet children.  

Involving young people from an early age in activities to save animals and conserve their habitat is one of IAR Indonesia's strategies gradually to improve the standard of living of local communities, as well as educate the public about the benefits of preserving forests and the environment. 

In its community empowerment programme, IAR Indonesia assists the community to process natural products in a sustainable manner without destroying the forest. This knowledge is what IAR Indonesia strives for in all empowerment activities for people living in forest areas and areas close to animal habitats. In addition to avoiding conflicts between humans and animals, processing natural products wisely can be an alternative and even main job for the community. 

All of these holistic approaches to education and community empowerment aim to change the mindset of village communities around the national park from deforestation behaviour to forest guardians by stopping illegal logging in the area and teaching villagers about the special nature of their forests and explaining that saving forests is a long-term economic solution which is more sustainable than destroying it. 

"This award is not the ultimate goal of our orangutan conservation programme with community empowerment. However, it does show that our programme is going in the right direction and we are motivated to develop it more broadly with relevant stakeholders,” said Tantyo Bangun, Chairperson of IAR Indonesia, affirming IAR Indonesia's commitment to the future.