Wild orangutans on Borneo and Sumatra have decreased from 300,000 in the early 1900s to an estimated 30,000 today. Their forest homes are being wiped out to make room for large palm oil farms and the logging industry. A creative eco-tourism company has an innovative way to protect the animals and save their habitats: bring more sightseers to the area.
Orangutan Odysseys has the vision of “Saving the Environment through Tourism.” The company believes the best way to save orangutans is by bringing more people to Sumatra and Borneo and let them see for themselves the dangers that threaten the primates.
Their goal is to provide a once in a lifetime tour for guests showing them the real life experiences of orangutans that were forced from their homes and now live in sanctuaries. Visitors also see palm oil farms and the logging and mining businesses that have overrun the region.
Orangutan Odysseys’ plan is simple; informed people will step forward to save orangutans in their struggle for survival.
On the other hand, as practical people, Orangutan Odysseys realizes the more money that comes into the region from tourists will influence landowners and help them see that preserving the forest can reap big cash benefits. The theory goes like this:
“A land holder believes he has value in the land he owns. Trees can be cut down and the timber sold and the cleared land then used to grow crops that provide an income for him and his family (we use the male in this case as this is the norm in Indonesia). These crops and the timber are only sold because there is a demand for them and the farmer or land holder can supply them at a price.
However, through tourism, we believe the land holder or farmer can also derive value from the land by protecting it from logging and farming. If we increase the demand to see the jungle that the landowner owns by visiting it and paying him money for it, then the land owner does not need to fell the trees and grow crops as his needs are met through income derived from tourism.”
The company also thinks employees who currently work on palm oil farms or other deforestation industries could become employed in tourism and the protection of orangutans.
Orangutan Odysseys offers tours through Sumatra and Borneo national parks for the public and a host of educational expeditions for students. A portion of every tour is donated to an orangutan sanctuary in the area and The Orangutan Project.
Photo Credit: OrangutanOdysseys