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Rainforest Trust’s long-term efforts to protect endangered orangutans have been formally recognized. The Orang Utan Republik Foundation, a conservation group dedicated to saving Indonesian orangutans, honored Rainforest Trust with its annual Pongo Environmental Award on September 23.
Dr. Paul Salaman, Rainforest Trust’s CEO, traveled to Los Angeles to attend the Orang Utan Republik Foundation’s award ceremony and accept the award. Other awardees included legendary primate conservationist Jane Goodall for her lifelong Great Ape protection efforts and GoPro’s Creative Director Bradford Schmidt for his use of video to highlight the plight of orangutans.
Lacking sufficient protection, orangutans are under threat from rampant deforestation as large swaths of their rainforest habitat are cleared for palm oil and rubber plantations. Over the past decade, orangutan populations in Indonesia have been reduced by a third. Only 40,000 individuals now remain in the wild.
“It is an honor to receive the Orang Utan Republik Foundation’s recognition and strong support of our efforts,” said Dr. Bert Harris, Rainforest Trust’s chief biodiversity officer. “The expansion of palm oil plantations makes protecting orangutan habitat increasingly difficult, but these species — which are so similar to humans — are in desperate need of outside intervention and their protection is one of our highest priorities.”
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Rainforest Trust’s work in support of orangutans includes two land protection projects in Malaysian Borneo that will conserve over 282,000 acres of critical rainforest habitat for Bornean Orangutans. The organization recently helped protect another 110,000 acres of rainforest on the island of Sumatra for the Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutan.
“Rainforest Trust has been doing the vital work of securing large tracts of rainforest habitat and improving conditions for orangutans and other animals globally,” said Orang Utan Republik Foundation president Dr. Gary Shapiro. “We were touched and moved by the accomplishments of Rainforest Trust and our choice reflected our respect for the organization.”
Originally founded in 2004 as the Orang Utan Republik Education Initiative, The Orang Utan Republik Foundation is devoted to conserving orangutans in Indonesia through conservation education, outreach initiatives, and collaborative programs. Since its founding, the organization has made significant advancements on multiple fronts by means of coalition building, providing research opportunities, and supporting the work of similarly-minded orangutan organizations.
Rainforest Trust is currently working in Sumatra to protect some of its last unprotected orangutan populations by purchasing 90,000 acres. Once this purchase and others in Malaysia have been finished, Rainforest Trust will have protected nearly half a million acres of critical orangutan habitat.