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Orangutans are in danger and this is how you can help

Sumatran orangutans are in danger, and their forest home is being destroyed.

A new campaign from conservation charity the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), and supported by Lush, is setting out to fund the purchase of 50 hectares of palm plantation in Bukit Mas, Sumatra. Reforesting this land will give orangutans room to roam, and it all starts with the money raised from SOS Sumatra shampoo bar.

Who will the funds be donated to for the land purchase?

The Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) is a UK-based conservation charity which is involved in developing and funding frontline orangutan and rainforest protection projects, and campaigns internationally to address the threats facing the species and their habitat. Its sister organisation in Sumatra is the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), an Indonesian NGO whose goal is to protect Sumatran orangutans and their habitat. The funds from the campaign will be sent over to OIC to secure the land in their name.

Why is the Leuser Ecosystem so important?

The Leuser Ecosystem covers 950,000 hectares of primary forest in northern Sumatra. This is home to many different ecosystems including alpine meadows, mineral pools, lowland evergreen forest and freshwater lakes and rivers - as well as peatlands which are important ecosystems for carbon sequestration.

There are currently over 4,000 plant species within the Leuser ecosystem as well as 380 bird species, 50 of them endemic. 65% of the animal species of Sumatra live in the Leuser Ecosystem. It is the only place in the world where orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist, and all are critically endangered.

What are the main threats to the Leuser Ecosystem?

Conventional agriculture is the main threat to the primary forest. This includes large palm plantations encroaching on the forest borders and smaller scale farms growing cocoa, palm, oranges etc. In recent years, the biggest threats are hydroelectricity and geothermal plants which require large areas of the rainforest for energy production.

Why does SOS think it’s important to secure an old palm plantation and revert back to forest?

The 50 hectares of old palm plantation is set in Bukit Mas, right on the edge of the primary forest. SOS believes in the importance in using the 50 hectares as a buffer zone so that it becomes harder to encroach on the forest. It also means that this currently wildlife free zone will provide a biodiverse rich habitat to many endangered species. The land will be given back to nature.

What is the reforestation process?

The oil palm trees will be cleared, and replaced with 20-30 indigenous climax species. Once these start to establish it will provide the shade for other plant species to thrive. By planting these species that are more habitable for birds and mammals, as they start moving onto the land, they will also contribute to seed dispersal. With time, this land will turn into a biodiverse rich forest.

What is the purpose of this campaign?

  • To provide an example of positive change – giving a plantation back to nature, such as orangutans.

  • It’s a reminder of the importance of carbon sequestration in climate change - protecting rainforest is key to capturing and storing carbon.

  • To build awareness around fragmentation of important ecosystems due to plantation style agriculture.

  • To highlight the complexity of the issues around palm oil.

  • A reminder of exploitation and marginalisation from plantations for indigenous tribes and wildlife.

I missed the soap, what can I do to take part in the campaign?

To support the orangutans in Sumatra and help protect the rainforest, join the conversation using the hashtag #SOSsumatra and join the Sumatran Orangutan Society: https://www.orangutans-sos.org/join/

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