Sumatran Orangutans Dying As Fires Burn

Filed in Articles on Apr.03, 2012

Little did I know when I first spoke with Helen Buckland, the UK president of the Sumatra Orangutan Society- SOS last year, offering my help and professional services in order to help and highlight the plight of this great ape and planning our trip to the jungles of Sumatra, that just over twelve months later an area and its Orangutans would be in grave danger of complete extinction at the hands of greed and shocking actions by the government there

Today after several weeks of legal wrangling to save an area of rainforest in Sumatra from burning the government there have refused to make a ruling on the case. Over the last week a man made firestorm has swept through a huge area of the remaining peat swamp forests of Tripa, devastating critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans to the very brink of extinction, possibly within months. To read the shocking ruling please click here. SOS’s website has the full story here.

Critically important, the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh, Indonesia, has long been recognized as a UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership priority site for Great Ape Conservation. In the early 90’s these forests are estimated to have contained between 2,000 and 3,000 but today only a few hundred survive. If the current rate of forest destruction and burning continues, even these will be gone completely within a matter of months. The whole of the Tripa peat swamps lie within the Protected Leuser Ecosystem, a National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection in Indonesia’s National Spatial Plan established in 2008.

Sumatran Orangutans are heading towards extinction, and this latest story on Tripas Orangutan tragedy has circulated around the world –Time Magazine, Washington Post, Guardian, The Australian and many more in an out pouring of anger of such a shocking act.  In an amazing response to the tragedy in Tripa, thousands of people all around the world have emailed the President of Indonesia and key stakeholders calling for the law to be enforced and upheld in Tripa. Click here to see the full story and several links in which will help also.

Spotlight Sumatra see’s me going to the island of Sumatra in mid September for two weeks. The principal focus of my trip will be the Orangutans, capturing them within their natural habitat, looking for behaviours to capture and so on while spending time sleeping and tracking them with my guides among the jungle. This shocking news and ongoing problems have brought home though just how important a trip it will be. Not only to capture the amazing Orangutans with photographs but also to report on the problems and issues facing the amazing wildlife that live on Sumatra.

On a personal level though it will be very rewarding helping SOS a charity I’m right behind in helping to show the world this Orangutan is in serious danger. But I am under no illusion I may witness things that will greatly upset me and touch deep inside my sole but I am determined to tell the story and help bring home the faces and stories of the wildlife that live there that I promise. This will help and highlight what’s going on at the same time show our closest living relative to a wider audience.

Helen along with myself are planning exhibitions, talks and much more to bring this great ape into more of the spotlight to help its survival. So hopefully I’ll be able to help so much on all levels, but in the meantime there is the ongoing problems in Tripa and SOS along with all the other agencies around the world are continuing the fight to stop these forests from burning as we speak. To keep up to date please visit SOS’s website and if you can sign the many petitions that are being passed around calling for an immediate stop to this clearance that that would be amazing and I thank you on behalf of the Orangtuans and the other wildlife that’s suffering there.

I cannot put into words my feelings towards the recent ruling and shocking things that are happening there as I speak. I can only help in the only way I know at this present time and that’s highlighting whats going on there on my blog. Once I am there I hope to do all I can to help and let my heart, eye and camera do the talking for me.

My perpetration’s have already begun, with me brushing up my climbing and abseiling skills, where below you can see an old image of myself as part of a rope access team, climbing on a historic building doing repairs to the windows and general maintenance which was my job before turning professional. I’m hoping these and my many other skills will come in good use once I’m on the ground in Sumatra.

Thank you for reading and if there is anything you can help with then please contact Helen at the Sumatra Orangutan Society, many thanks.

  1. Katie Chlamers said:

    Dear Craig,

    All we Brit animal lovers want is the truth so please bring it to us, warts and all. There seem to be so very few online features from the local communities directly, which suggests they are under alot of pressure to stay quiet or simply don’t have the means to publish. Be assured that internationally there are people that care so much for what is happening in Sumatra.

    Speak to Ian Singleton whilst you are out there won’t you – sure he will have the scenes of the pictures you need to take. He is ‘a Brit man’ in the region and I would love to hear his version of events. If he can’t openly publish the data he has, bring it back for him and I’m sure we will all find a way to publish it without his implication, he will have the information we are all desperate to hear, I’m sure.

    So I guess the big question is my dear, is September going to be soon enough? I’m fairly sure you need to get out there alot sooner to make your pictures tell the story that needs to be told. What needs to happen for you all to get there sooner? Tell us, we might be able to help you to help them.

    Further, there will be a need to export alot of creatures and to raise funds for their protection and the round-up of what remains of these sparse populations in the regions. Be The Key for us. Even if they end up in a Safari Park in the UK or Germany/Europe, its got to be better than the fate that awits them in a tiny cage or even worse, dead.

    Best Regards,

    Katie Chalmers

  2. craig said:

    Hi Katie, sorry for the late reply I have been really busy. Thank you for your message and I will try my best, please email me through my website and we can speak there about what and who you have mentioned many thanks


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