Orangutans spend their lives in the trees, even building a nest to sleep in each night, high in the forest canopy. Deforestation is the greatest threat to their survival because it destroys their home. As well as thousands of species of animals and plants, more than four million people in Sumatra rely on the existence and preservation of the Leuser forests for crucial ecological services, such as climate regulation and flood control. Tearing down forests for farmlands destroys all manner of natural balances and is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, a danger which affects us all.
All the species that share the rainforest have a part to play in the health of the ecosystem, but orangutans are sometimes referred to as ‘gardeners of the forest’. They eat hundreds of different types of fruit, and spread the seeds throughout the forest in their dung. They also make a new nest to sleep in every evening, breaking branches and allowing light through the thick canopy onto the forest floor, helping young plants to thrive and grow.
Our tree planting projects offer local people in Sumatra a way of supporting their families whilst preserving and restoring the rainforest. In one area, when the rainforest was replaced with an oil palm plantation the rivers and wells dried up, and the villagers’ crops failed. The detrimental effects of deforestation are clear, but strong roots in the community are absolutely essential for this work to succeed, and the groups we work with have become the guardians of the forests, protecting the area from future encroachment.