One man's mission to save Indonesia's orangutans

With forests disappearing at an alarming rate, zoologist leases land from government to give primates safe haven.

    Indonesia's orangutans are facing a grim future as forests are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    Now, after failing to convince authorities to protect the forests, an Australian zoologist is taking matters into his own hands.

    Leif Cocks, the president of the Orangutan Project, is one of the first people to reintroduce rescued orangutans into the wild.

    He is using donations to lease large tracts of land in Central Sumatra from the government to ensure that the primates have somewhere safe to live. 

    "All up, 178 orangutans have gone back into the forest and are inhabiting this ecosystem at the moment," Cock told Al Jazeera.

    "Ultimately we hope the population expands so there are 2,000 orangutans living in a sustainable population here for ever."

    The reintroduced orangutans have already started breeding independently. 

    "An orangutan living in the wild is one thing, but reproducing and producing offspring, well that’s the ultimate goal for conservation," Cock said.

    He works with Indonesian forest rangers to help keep illegal loggers and poachers out for the forest.

    But in a country where countless hectares have already been destroyed and palm oil is a lucrative money earner, making the forests safe for orangutans is a never-ending battle. 

    For more on this story, watch 101 East's full programme 'The Orangutan Whisperer'. It will air at 22:30 GMT on Thursday March 24 and also be available online.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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