Planting 30,000 Trees to Secure a Sanctuary for Orangutans

Jesse Lewis | October 16, 2020 | 4 min read

Reforestation for Orangutan Habitat Conservation

Biodiversity is one of the most important reasons we plant trees, which is why we're so excited to share this project in partnership with The Orangutan Project and KEHUS! Eastern Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem, which is one of the last wild places in Southeast Asia. Named after the many forested hills in the region, it forms part of a biodiversity hotspot and refuge for Critically Endangered flagship species like the Sumatran tiger, elephant, and orangutan — of which there are only 14,000 left in the wild. In fact, it’s one of only 2 reintroduction sites for orangutans in all of Sumatra.

At the center is a National Park, declared in 1995. The entire protected area, including buffer zones, is almost 200,000 hectares and is home to 2 indigenous tribes. Despite this, parts of Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem are threatened with illegal logging, while other areas have been severely degraded. To help, One Tree Planted has teamed up with The Orangutan Project and KEHUS, a local Indonesian foundation, to restore forests surrounding an orangutan jungle school sanctuary where orphaned orangutans are taught how to live in the wild before being re-introduced. 

How Reforestation Can Help

To reverse the effects of deforestation, over 30,000 native trees are being planted across 50 hectares in the buffer zone surrounding the sanctuary. A suite of native tree species will help jumpstart forest recovery, while providing food and habitat for wildlife. Native hardwoods like Ironwood and Meranti are being planted to restore degraded areas, while fruit trees like Durian and Jack Fruit are included because of the important role they play in the orangutan diet.

To accomplish this, native seeds are being collected in Bukit Tigapuluh by local farmers to be propagated in a project nursery. Outside the conservation zone, economically important tree seedlings like vanilla, jungle honey, and rattan will be distributed to local farmers as part of a complementary agroforestry project.

the majestic Win Gayo orangutan sitting in a tree
a group of female orangutans with a baby
Win Gayo Sumatran Orangutan mom and baby

Top left: Magnificent Win Gayo — who was released in December 2018.
Bottom Left: A group of females. Suna is baby-sitting baby Vanilla while her mother, Violet, swings alongside.
Right: Sam (who got pregnant during her forest school outings in rehabilitation!) and her infant Suli. They were released together two years ago and require extra monitoring, but are doing very well.

A Community-Based Approach

Focusing on agroforestry and alternative income sources for local farmers in the buffer zone is crucial for many reasons. Much of the deforestation that threatens Bukit Tigapuluh is driven by economic dependence on logging and mono-crop palm oil development. The returns on these activities are marginal, while the damage to the forest and ecosystem is severe. By pairing reforestation efforts with agroforestry, farmers can transition to more sustainable, forest-friendly livelihoods, while gradually restoring critical forest habitat for orangutans.

To deepen economic and social impact, local farmers will become stewards of the forest restoration effort by collecting the seeds, maintaining the nurseries, and planting the seedlings. Local staff also live on site or in surrounding districts, making the effort truly community-based. The ultimate goal of the project is to reverse deforestation in priority conservation habitat by engaging the local farmers to form small reforestation teams responsible for planting in specific areas. 

local man tending tree seedlings
Bukit Tigapuluj landscape
aerial view or elephants getting a drink in the rainforest
local men starting seeds
wildlife monitoring professionals
local nursery for tree seedlings


Win - Win Solutions

The Orangutan Project and KEHUS have been building grassroots change from the ground up through reforestation, re-wilding, and sustainable developmentin the Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem since 2001. In addition to restoring critical habitat for orangutans, it’s estimated that over time, the newly planted trees will sequester 3,000 tons of CO2 every year.

Coming together to plant trees is one of the best and easiest ways to make a difference in reversing the damage done to nature and the negative effects of climate change. We are grateful to work with amazing people and partners like The Orangutan Project and KEHUS to create win - win solutions for local communities and the environment. And thanks to dedicated donors like Bangladeshi fashion model, ROLA, who made a significant contribution to fund this initiative. 

This project is ongoing with lots more to be done, so plant a tree in Indonesia today to help restore Sumatra’s iconic lowland forests and ensure a brighter future for orangutans.

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With your help, we will:

  • Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands, including Borneo and Sumatra, the third and sixth largest islands in the world. Extensive mangroves, carbon-rich peat swamps and the third largest reserves of rainforests left on Earth are all found across this sprawling archipelago. Recognized globally for its exceptional biodiversity, many rare and unique wildlife such as Sumatran tigers, elephants, orang-utans and over 1,700 species of birds are found here. Your donation will help to restore ecosystems in this biodiversity hotspot that has experienced profound degradation caused by rampant deforestation for palm oil plantations, damaging peat fires, and extensive logging.
  • Our incredible partners in Indonesia are working to ensure balance is restored to forest ecosystems and the local communities that depend on them. Efforts are focused on mobilizing support from a coalition of local and international partners to develop nurseries and plant thousands of native trees. Your support will help us make a difference on a number of exciting projects. By planting trees in Indonesia, you’re helping to create vital habitat for orang-utans and endangered wildlife in Sumatra, restore tropical forests that sequester carbon and enhance ecosystem processes in Borneo and offer sustainable livelihood alternatives to farmers through regenerative agroforestry practices.
  • A personalized tree certificate (see gallery) to say thanks for your donation. We’ll also send you updates on our Indonesia projects, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • To ensure your donation makes the biggest impact possible, our partners will determine which species are most appropriate to plant. This includes various types of native and agroforestry species. Depending on the specific habitats being restored, native trees may include durian, dipterocarps, ironwoods, teak and other tropical hardwoods.

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