E y e s   o n  t h e   F o r e s t 
O c t o b e r   2 0 1 4 

eyes in the forest


Forest fires threaten the orangutans' habitat in Central Kalimantan


It's fire season again! This is the time for which OFI prepares each year. This is the time we all dread!


The dry season was slow to come this year, but all it takes is a solid week with no rain to get the forest to burn. When it came, it came, as it always does this August and September, with a vengeance!


OFI is no stranger to fire fighting and prevention. It seems to be always in our thoughts, even during the long wet season when we often dream of being dry. We often greet the returning rains with comments like "At least it means no fires". 


Since May this year at OFI's remote release camps on the edge of Tanjung Puting, where the palm oil plantations meet the forest, our staff have been preparing for the coming fire season.


In May 2014 our OFI construction volunteer team helped build a fire patrol and prevention post near the boundary of the forest to help staff identify fires early. Since May OFI staff has been rotating days at this post and going on patrols looking for local encroachment and identifying fire risk areas.


OFI staff fight fires in an effort to protect the orangutans' habitat

Our busy but small field staff spent weeks in July and August cutting two fire breaks several km long at the forest edge to try to get ahead of the burn and prevent fires in open areas spreading into the forest.  We hoped these efforts would prevent the fires from approaching our release camp and threatening the forest home where we have recently released wildborn ex-captive orangutans. But the fires came, as they always do.


So far, four fires have been fought and extinguished by our OFI field staff this year. The most recent blaze started September 14,2014.  OFI staff fought this fire for over three days with backpack spray equipment as nearby streams and swamps had dried up, preventing the use of pumps and fire hoses. Staff managed to put out the fire just before nature lent a helping hand and it finally rained.   The rain, hopefully, putting the final stop to the fire spreading.  The fires this year burned an area of over 84 ha on the edge of our release forest.  These fires reached within several hundred meters of our latest release camp in the Seruyan forest. We have no doubt that these fires were started intentionally. We believe that these fires were most likely started by locals working with nearby palm oil concessions in order to open up and claim new agricultural areas for palm oil! 

OFI staff carry water and use make shift watering cans to carry the water needed to fight the fires


Despite personal and financial costs, OFI and local field staff will continue to defend the Seruyan forest and camps, to the best of our ability. We plan to cut wider fire breaks that seem to work well. We now have plans to dig wells to help provide water during the height of drought. In August 2014 we built another fire patrol post in a different area of the Seruyan forest for further fire prevention. We are constantly buying new equipment including pumps, hoses, and shovels. 


You can help! Please donate to our fire prevention efforts. This annual reoccurring threat is one that we must fight. Your dollars can help us hire new staff, buy better equipment, and lift monetary restraints on a job that is physically and emotionally draining.


OFI sends many thanks to our tireless local staff and to you for supporting OFI's efforts to protect orangutans and the forests which are their only home. 



In this Issue

Feature Story:
Fires Hit Close to Home

Orangutan of the Month:

News from the Field: 
Best Friends

OCCQ Staff Spotlight:
Ibu Tuti
Orangutan of the Month
Ariel the Archeologist!

Upcoming Events

November 3rd - 10th
"Orangutans: A Disappearing Indonesian Legacy" 
November 20th
A speech by Dr. Galdikas at the Indonesian Heritage Society in Jakarta

Summer 2015 Construction Teams!

We are excited to announce the dates for the Summer 2015 Construction teams!  Project TBA.

Team 1: July 5th- 25th

Team 2: August 2nd- 22nd

Volunteer Positions


Want to spend the next year or more in the jungle? Like to get your hands (and feet, and everything else) dirty? Maybe it's you we're looking for! 



Larry and Ray



Ray and Larry love hanging out on their daily releases to the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine baby playground. Larry is more timid than Ray and sometimes needs Ray's encouragement to start exploring the playground. Often Larry will sit in his caregiver's lap while Ray climbs around the jungle gym. After Ray has had enough play time, he goes to Larry for some cuddle time. 



Darren and Lanang




As two young adolescent males, Darren and Lanang like to play rough with each other. Lanang is the smaller of the two and is easily overpowered by Darren. Sometimes the play wrestling evolves into real wrestling and Lanang runs away to hide. But then, when Darren is least expecting it, Lanang will come up and tackle him from behind and the play starts all over again! 


Eglet and Meli




Egle and Meli are like 2 peas in a pod! They play together, eat together, and sleep in each other's arms. On release, Meli is the more adventurous of the two. When she ventures off into the forest to explore the trees on her own, Egle will start crying for her friend!





Click here to read the whole story!

OCCQ Staff Spotlight



When caregivers at OFI's Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine are having difficulty handling an orangutan, they often do the same thing: turn to one person for help. That person is Ibu Tuti. 


As a young girl Ibu Tuti lived in a small Dayak village that was only accessible by river. She grew up with many animals that also lived in her village and dreamed of one-day working with animals professionally. Shortly after marrying at the age of eighteen, Ibu Tuti followed her husband
into the forest where he worked as an assistant at Camp Leakey, Dr. Birut´┐Ż Mary Galdikas' famous research station in Tanjung Puting National Park. Tuti accepted a position cooking the meals for the all the staff who lived and worked at the Camp. It was during this time that Ibu Tuti discovered her love for orangutans. She admits that she was at first afraid of the ex-captive and wild orangutans that lived in the forest surrounding Camp Leakey. But after only a few days she had warmed to their presence. Ibu Tuti still thinks fondly of those early days working in the park and living in such close proximity to the orangutans. "The sounds at night-time, the river, and the orangutans climbing in the trees... It was very beautiful," she recalls "I miss it all the time."... 



You can support OFI by purchasing our new 2015 Calendar (preview below), which features some of the most breath-taking and memorable photographs from Camp Leakey and the Care Center taken in the last few years. You can support OFI by building a calendar with your own photos.


Get a closer look at the 2015 Calendar!

Orangutans need you!

Thank you very much for  following "Eyes on the Forest - Bulletin from Borneo". 

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