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Can Eco-Tourism Save Wild Orangutans? (Video)

Can Eco-Tourism Save Wild Orangutans? (Video)

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.

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Photo Credit: OrangutanOdysseys

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85 comments

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9:19AM PST on Dec 22, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

8:34AM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

When it becomes more profitable for people to save a species, than to kill it, only then will locals put their actions behind that venture. Eco-tourism, when the money goes to the local community, is the easiest and best way to save animals and the environment they need to survive.

7:37AM PDT on Sep 21, 2012

I'd give my right arm to go to Borneo and help wildlife as well as studying the Borneo tatau culture. All for it

8:32AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

great idea, thanks for sharing :)

2:50AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

Don't just blame the oil palm plantations owners. The government's corrupt officials and those with the power to keep them in check but failed to do so are also to be blamed. And do not for one moment think Orangutan Odysseys is just doing it for conservation. Profit is a major driving force too, people.

2:32PM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

Oh my, what an amazing concept! I would LOVE to take this tour!!!

2:41AM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

Yes, wildlife should be more valuable as tourist attractions than as bush meat or nuisances to be cleared away to make room for mono-crop plantations.

3:59AM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

Interesting theory. I hope it works for the animal's sake.

3:34AM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

By the way, I avoid any product containing Palm Oil, there are alternatives, as with many thing we buy.

3:33AM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

As long as the tourism is controlled so the place isn't overrun with tourists and they don't add a theme park as they did with Chesington Zoo to encourage people to visit the zoo. Also poorer people should be able to visit the sanctuary as well and I imagine Borneo will be very expensive to travel to. If the land owers are able to see that the ecology of the Orangutan is important and he can make a comfortable living from tourism then I think this is a wonderful idea especially if it saves the forest andthe Orangutans. But it would need to be carefully looked into to avoid corruption and avoid distroying more Orangutans lives.

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