Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Replanting rainforest

After visiting the orangutans in Bukit Lawang we headed north to visit a replanting site in Besitang, North Sumatra. The area we went to used to be a massive illegal palm oil plantation and is actually located inside the national park; the main problem with the Palm oil here in Sumatra (simply put) is that so much rainforest is being cleared to make room for the plantations that is has a direct impact on wildlife and forest biodiversity. When palm trees plantations are created, little, if any wildlife can function in these new surroundings. The orangutans cannot swing from the branches of the palms and there are no fruit trees around to support their diet.

Oh, and did I mention that OIC is the first and only NGO allowed to conduct restoration work within the park? We have been, and are still in the process of removing Palm Oil trees, thus allowing us to plant indigenous species in their place. A local farmers group is the main force involved in the reforestation process and there are currently 25,000 seedlings in the surrounding nurseries, just waiting to become a part of the rainforest. To cut a long story short, our initial reforesting target is to replant 500 hectares of orangutan habitat lost to development such as plantations. We are doing this by working with the local community group and the local farmers. Not only is this project immensely important for the upkeep of the orangutans and wildlife, but it also provides the all important sustainable livelihoods for the local community. There is a real science to re-foresting areas such as these, and advice on what plants to grow, how to grow them and how to sustain them, is coming in from experts both within Sumatra and from external scientists. We are planting approximately 70% fast growing hardwood trees and the remaining are fruit trees which will serve as good orangutan grub.

In the old plantations of Besitang, we all got down and dirty in the mud and planted some yummy looking Durian trees alongside the workers, the land owner and forest rangers. This was the first time I had the opportunity to plant rainforest myself and I must say it felt good – you should definitively try it some time!

Or, if you don’t have the chance to visit a rainforest anytime soon, you can help by buying seedlings through our online shop, at £1 a pop, it really is a great way of helping us do more crucial reforestation work.

Au revoir

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