E y e s   o n  t h e   F o r e s t
A   M o n t h l y   B u l l e t i n   f r o m   B o r n e o - O c t o b e r  2 0 1 2

eyes in the forest


 Research and Conservation Team Up to Save Endangered Orangutans  


In 1971, a young woman, who was to eventually create an important scientific and conservation legacy, stepped out of a leaking wooden canoe after a day-long river journey and decided to establish camp. The patch of seasonally flooded swamp forest where she landed was the site of Camp Leakey, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas' long-term orangutan and forest research facility.


Long-term visitor Akmad with her healthy new infant.
Located in Tanjung Puting National Park on the southern coast of Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), Galdikas named her camp after her mentor, the late anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey, who had supported her study of orangutans, the only great apes in Asia and the least understood of all apes. While Dr. Galdikas yearned to learn all she could about the mysterious lives of the red apes, Dr.Leakey was more interested in orangutans as a mirror to hold up to our own ancient shared evolutionary past. At that time--more than 40 years ago--very little was known of orangutan biology and their behavior. But that was about to change.


Dr. Galdikas carried out her research in conditions unthinkable to most of today's scientists. Camp Leakey was isolated and rough. Galdikas and her then husband, Rod Brindamour, often ran out of basic supplies. The study area was swampy, often shoulder deep with water, and full of leeches and malarial mosquitoes. Gradually, Galdikas began to piece together the life of wild orangutans. She documented the highly arboreal nature of these animals, discovering that wild females spend up to 99% of their time in the trees. Dr. Galdikas and her associates also discovered that orangutans eat more than 400 different types of forest foods, and that mothers nurse their offspring for an average of six to seven years while females give birth on average every eight years. While initially Dr. Galdikas followed orangutans alone or with a single local assistant, over time Camp Leakey's ground-breaking science began attracting Indonesian and international students and researchers, as well as Earthwatch volunteers. Supported by local Dayak assistants, the ongoing activities in Camp Leakey and other sites in the national park produced hundreds of articles and theses. At least one hundred Indonesian students wrote their bachelor honor or Master's theses in biology utilizing data gathered during field work at the Camp Leakey study site.


But Camp Leakey was more than just a research site for wild orangutans. Galdikas and Brindamour also worked with the Forestry Department to confiscate and release wild born ex-captive orangutans. Many of these orangutans thrived and some of their descendants also live in the Camp Leakey forest.


Today OFI research assistants, who have grown up listening to stories of their parents' youth in Camp Leakey, continue to follow wild and rehabilitated orangutans whose names they have known from childhood, orangutans such as Tut, Princess, and Gara as well as their offspring such as Tom and Siswi. Dr. Galdikas's home, built in 1975 after her bark-walled hut disintegrated, still sits in the heart of Camp Leakey. She continues to follow orangutans, both wild and ex-captive, now into the third generation. Information collected includes social interactions, diet, and movement patterns. However, understanding orangutans is only possible within the broader context of their rainforest home, and so Dr. Galdikas and her team carry on the monitoring of forest tree communities within the study area in an uninterrupted 35-year study of diversity and growth. Local climatic conditions are also closely tracked to better understand broad patterns of change over time.


Camp Leakey is incredibly diverse, floristically.
The insights gained from Dr. Galdikas research over the years have not only given us perspective on how orangutans survive and thrive in the wild, but have also informed important conservation strategies for this endangered species. For example, when Dr. Galdikas documented that orangutans have the longest birth interval of all mammals, and thus, a very slow reproductive rate, we began to appreciate how vulnerable the species is to extinction. Orangutan dependency on forest fruit highlighted the necessity of preserving primary forest with high diversity and high proportion of fruiting plants. Understanding the differential ranging patterns of males and females defined necessary minimum areas for wildlife reserves.


Dr. Galdikas' pioneering work in rehabilitating orangutan orphans since 1971 broke ground for many other conservation projects, and became especially important when mass deforestation in Borneo caused thousands of babies to lose their mothers and rely on human concern to give them a second chance at life. In addition, the long-term ecological monitoring work within the Camp Leakey study area is especially important now as it will allow us to make connections between global climate change patterns and local effects on forest, wildlife, and forest-dependent indigenous communities.


Collaborative research at Camp Leakey brings diverse skill sets together.
In the face of tremendous threats to orangutans and other wildlife in Borneo, it is often hard to divert resources away from more immediate conservation needs and into research. But research is important because that is how we learn to understand what is going on around us. With your generous support, we will continue to increase our understanding of the natural world so that we may better safeguard it. This is the scientific and conservation legacy that Dr. Galdikas has established after forty years in the field and one that she, her Indonesian and international collaborators, students, and colleagues are continuing to safeguard, against stunning odds, even now in the forests of Borneo.


Janie Dubman



 In this Issue

  • Orangutan of the Month: Lia    
  • Events Recap
  • News from the Field: Success with Sun Bears 
  • Jungle Corner: Irrawaddy Dolphin 
  • Conservation Partners: YOU! Double Your Impact!
  • External Link: How Killing Machines Save Endangered Wildlife




of the Month: Lia   


 Naughty, adorable Lia gets tricked into getting her bath AND helping clean  house!   




September Events Recap


OFI Holds 5th Annual 

5K Run for Survival  


More than 250 runners took to the streets of LA on a beautiful Sunday morning in mid-September to help raise awareness about OFI's work to save the endangered orangutans of Borneo. Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas offered her heartfelt thanks to the crowd and shared insight into how we all can help support OFI's mission. 


Many thanks to our runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators for making this day a success!


Race Photos HERE 


Weekend of New Jersey Events Raises Funds to Support Orangutans


Dr. Galdikas delivered a passionate speech about "Endangered Orangutans and Disappearing Rainforest in Borneo" to a standing-room-only crowd at R. Stockton College, then shared news and stories of her conservation work with friends and supporters at two special fundraising events during a busy September weekend in New Jersey. Many thanks to all who made this special weekend possible!



News from the Field  


 Jungle Corner  

Irrawaddy Dolphin

Orcaella brevirostris  


Taxonomy: Animalia; Chordata; Mammalia; Cetartiodactyla; Delphinidae; Orcaella


Threat Status: Vulnerable (on the IUCN Red List)    


Distribution: Bangladesh; Brunei; Cambodia; India; Indonesia; Laos; Malaysia;  Myanmar; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand; Vietnam


Ecology: These dolphins eat bony fish and fish eggs, cephalopods, and crustaceans. Irrawaddy dolphins generally live in pods of less than six. They communicate with clicks, creaks and buzzes.


Habitat: The Irrawaddy dolphin is sometimes called a river dolphin, however it is an oceanic dolphin that lives in brackish (semi-salty) water near coasts, river mouths, and estuaries. Freshwater populations have been found in the Ganges, Mekong, and Kalimantan's Mahakam River. 


Morphology: This dolphin has coloring that ranges from grey to dark slate blue. It has a blunt, rounded head, and an indistinct beak. The short, blunt, and triangular dorsal fin is located behind the dolphin's mid-back. Adult Irrawaddy dolphins typically weigh 130kg (290lb) and are about 2.3m (7.5ft) long. These dolphins have a lifespan of about thirty years. Their gestation period is 14 months, and the weaning period is about two years.


Interesting Facts: Although the Irrawaddy dolphin is similar to the beluga whale in appearance, genetically it is closely related to the killer whale.



Conservation Partners   


This Upcoming Holiday Season 

Why Not Double Your Gift & Double Your Impact?


If you've recently donated online, by mail, or by phone (or plan to), you can make your conservation dollars go further by having your employer match your donation.


Matching your gift is easy. Thousands of companies in the United States offer matching Large male orangutan gift programs, and most Fortune 500 companies have operations in every major U.S. city. That means with a few minutes of your time you can double your donation to OFI!


Click here to find your employer. Then follow the online links for additional information and downloadable donation forms.


Contact Hollis Burbank-Hammarlund, OFI Development Director, at ofinewengland@gmail.com for more information or assistance. 


Defending Rawa Kuno!

YOU are our October Conservation Partner


RKLF Moat/Canal Earlier this year, we reached out to you to help us defend the Rawa Kuno Legacy Forest against encroachment by zircon miners who had set up shop along the forest's eastern border. We asked for your financial help to dig a protective moat, build guard posts, purchase a boat, and hire patrols...and you responded generously! To date, more than $50,000 has been raised for this important ongoing effort.


While we've already built more than six miles of moat, we need to build at least six more, thereby extending the barrier between Rawa Kuno and neighboring mining and logging operations. With your ongoing support we'll keep Rawa Kuno's wild orangutans safe and sound. Click here to donate online (be sure to write "Defend Rawa Kuno" in the Special Instructions box). Thank you!




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Thank you for  following "Eyes on the Forest - Bulletin from Borneo". From now on you can expect this eNewsletter to reach your mailbox monthly.  We'd love to have your thoughts, comments or submissions (Contact Us). In the meantime, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and our official website: www.orangutan.org   
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