Friday, 22 October 2010

Tackling the 'palm oil problem' by Helen Buckland, SOS UK Director

The world’s voracious appetite for palm oil - an ingredient found in up to half of all packaged supermarket products in the UK - is fuelling the destruction of some of the most biodiverse rainforests on the planet, home to countless species, including the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (see Whilst every individual has the right to make choices about the food they eat and the cosmetics they use, I feel that a boycott of products containing palm oil is not the answer to saving Indonesia’s forests, for a number of reasons.

In order to boycott products containing palm oil, you need to know which ones to avoid – which is not easy. Palm oil is usually a hidden ingredient in food and cosmetic products, listed simply as “vegetable oil” on packaging, so it is currently almost impossible to make informed choices about what you buy at the supermarket. 

Even armed with a palm-oil-free shopping list, protesting with your wallet may have some unintended consequences. Oil palms are the most productive oil seed in the world – more than 10 times as much oil is produced from a hectare of oil palms as other crops. If companies are forced to switch to alternative oils, even more land could be put at risk by increasing demand for oils which need larger plantations. Soybeans, for example, tend to be grown under a similar model to oil palms: huge monocultures, often at the expense of tropical forests in South America. We do not want to export the problem - saving the Southeast Asian rainforests from conversion at the expense of the Brazilian Amazon, swallowing up even more forest in the process. We simply want forest conversion to stop.

Palm oil is a “wonder crop” when it comes to meeting the huge global demand for vegetable oils, accounting for more than a third of the world’s supply. Countries such as India and China rely on huge palm oil imports to meet their populations’ nutritional needs, bringing billions of dollars to top producer countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. As long as the world needs vegetable oil, there is no question that the palm oil industry will continue to grow; what we need to be concerned with how this expansion happens.

The development of new oil palm plantations does not need to entail forest destruction. While precious ecosystems are being devastated, millions of hectares of abandoned land lie idle, available for cultivation.  It is estimated that the amount of land growing oil palms in Indonesia could quadruple without impacting forests (, enabling the industry to grow whilst drastically reducing its environmental footprint.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ( was established to create a clear set of standards for reducing the environmental impacts of the industry. Change has been slow, and it’s not a perfect system, but oil certified as sustainable according to these standards has started to trickle into the world market.

Many millions of hectares of forests have already been lost to the palm oil industry. It is absolutely critical that the conversion of forests is stopped. We need more research into how to increase output on existing plantations, as current yields are in many cases well below their potential, and this would reduce the need for cultivating more land.  Environmentally-sensitive land use planning, improved productivity, responsible investment by banks and purchasing by manufacturers and retailers are all crucial to halt the conversion of Indonesia’s forests for agricultural development.

So what can you do to help? If you know a certain product contains palm oil, and would rather not to buy it on that basis, make sure that you write to the company that makes it and tell them. You can also demand that companies use only certified sustainable palm oil, and to clearly label this on their packaging. Making your voice heard really can make a difference – several big companies have already made commitments to cleaning up their palm oil supply after hearing from their customers about this issue (see for a list).  We can all also pressure our elected officials to make decisions that help conserve our planet's limited resources and threatened biodiversity, and save precious species, including the orangutan, from extinction.

For further information on the environmental and social impacts of the palm oil industry see:


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The power of the flagship species

How protecting one species can help protect thousands more – and aid in the fight against climate change too.

As awareness about our impact on the world around us grows, so does the power of the flagship species – emblematic animals which draw attention to an urgent environmental issue, or a critical habitat under threat.

Take the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), a critically endangered species, and deforestation of the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, one of the most biodiverse forests in the world. While these iconic animals consistently win hearts and minds thanks to their intelligence, unique character and striking similarity to humans, many people don’t realise just how much we can achieve through their protection.

Like the more numerous, but still endangered, Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), Sumatran orangutans are a fantastic flagship species for Indonesia’s forests, incredible animals that can act as ambassadors for this unique habitat and all the other wildlife within it.  

By protecting orangutans and their rainforest home, we can help literally thousands of other species, from the world’s smallest fish - Paedocypris progenetica, discovered just a few years ago, to the world’s longest snake, the reticulated python. Then there are the Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos, clouded leopards – the list goes on.

Orangutans also play a crucial role in forest regeneration. Spending most of their time up in the trees and with a diet consisting of over 400 different plants and fruits they spread seeds over great distances, helping maintain the diversity of the entire ecosystem.

Of course it’s not just plants and animals that benefit as a result; millions of people are dependent on these unique ecosystems too. As well as supplying food, fresh water, fuel and natural medicines, the forests are also crucial for soil fertility, flood control, prevention of fires and more.

The forests of Indonesia - and of Malaysia, home to Bornean orangutans – are also crucially important in the fight against climate change. The ancient forests of Sumatra and Borneo are vital carbon sinks - especially those on deep peat soils. Deforestation leads to the release of centuries’ worth of carbon stored in the soil and in the trees themselves. Around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the clearance and burning of forests, more than those from transport, and Indonesia is losing its forests faster than any other country.

The loss of their rainforest home is the greatest threat pushing the orangutan to the brink of extinction; as forests are burnt, logged and converted to plantation agriculture, the call for their protection becomes ever more urgent. Around half of Sumatra’s forests have been lost in the last 25 years. By working with communities living next to the last remaining orangutan habitat, restoring damaged forests, and supporting local government in protecting the Leuser Ecosystem, we offer a lifeline to Sumatran orangutans, and the thousands of other species they represent.

Visit www.orangutans-sos-org. You can help protect Sumatran orangutans and their rainforest home from just £2 per month. Thank you.

Photo: Nick Tignonsini


Thursday, 17 June 2010

Follow the OranguVans and See The Difference

We know boasting isn’t the British thing to do, but we’d like to break with tradition for just a minute.

Some months back, we teamed up with a new not-for-profit video site called See The Difference (STD), and we were one of the very first charities in the UK to get involved. With STD, you can choose a charity project that means something to you (and, not being funny, but ours is totally awesome), know exactly where your money goes and then See The Difference you make as we will post feedback updated clips on on each project. Cool, huh?!

We got together with the team at See The Difference to make three initial videos, which we will show you over the next week or so (or just watch them all on See The Difference). The first one we will share with you shows you our OranguVan project. Many communities living near forests in Sumatra don’t know the importance of conservation. Equipped with a mobile environmental library and conservation cinema, our OranguVans travel around the island to teach locals about the forest, and the impact of deforestation on Orangutans and people.

Click on the picture below to see our video.

We worked closely with the STD producers to make it the very best we could… and, not being modest, we think we did a brilliant job!

So, now we’ve done a bit of bragging, it’s your turn! We wouldn’t want you to feel left out…

Imagine getting proof that you helped change the world? That’s got to be worth a decent amount of bragging right? Plus, you’ll be one of the first people ever to get involved!

If you do nothing else after reading this, please do go and watch our video… leave a comment, and go a bit crazy with the Share buttons! Post it to your Facebook, email it to friends, print out the page and glue it around town… whatever floats your boat!

Get vocal! It’ll be sooooo much easier for us to purchase a new OranguVan with your help!


Thursday, 3 June 2010

Orangutan Sculpture

Jason Hanaman is an American sculptor specialising in orangutans. He has created a sculpture of Abdul, an orangutan Lucy helped rehabilitate many years ago and 25% of money raised through sales is donated to SOS.

The story of Abdul
Abdul died in April 2008 after being shot by a local farmer. He was killed because he was raiding crops. This is further evidence that human-orangutan conflict is on the increase as the forest shrinks. Abdul was 19 years old when he died; a wild orangutan’s natural life span is around 50 years. He arrived at the Bohorok centre as a 4-year-old in 1993, when it was an active rehabilitation centre. SOS founding director, Lucy Wisdom, was actively involved with Abdul’s rehabilitation process. He was fully released into the wild in 1998, but found his way back to the Bohorok centre 7 months later. Looking healthy and mature, he was now sporting a beard. He was again released in 1999 but a few months later turned up at the centre. Lucy says, “In some ways it was reassuring to see him back, looking so well and knowing he had survived the past few months independently in the wild”. Most of his first four years were spent in a cage.

Abdul back in Bukit Lawang relaxing on the grass when he was still alive
Abdul was a good teacher for younger orangutans on the rehabilitation programme. Lucy said “I remember Abdul getting a pointy stick and working it into a hole in a tree. When he withdrew the stick it was covered in wild honey, which he promptly licked off, then repeated the process. Several younger orangutans watched him intently and copied his technique. I had no idea there was honey in this tree; it was in an area I often visited with my young charges as the lianas were good for climbing practice. After that I used it to teach orangutans about wild honey extraction.”

The Sculpture
Two versions are available
One is cast stone with a bronze coating and patina. Limited to 150 castings, price: $100
The other is an eco cold cast bronze made with environmentally friendly aqua resin and bronze powder. Limited to 100 castings, price: $150.
Size: 7 inches tall, 6 inches wide.

The Abdul sculpture

25% of money from sales of the sculpture will go to SOS (and 25% to Orangutan Republik)
Domestic shipping within the US: $12
International shipping: $30

To order your sculpture please e-mail:

Enjoy! XX


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Orphan Orangutan Rescue

On Monday evening our team in Sumatra received a report from a local farmer in Meka Makmur village, of an orphaned orangutan.
The story is conveyed by Putup (a RARE-OIC staff member); the farmer found the young orangutan in his durian tree. After hearing the orangutan crying, and searching for his mother, he decided that the orangutan was stressed as he had been "abandoned" by her. The farmer therefore climbed the durian tree, and gently teased the orphan to the ground. He then placed the orangutan in a small hut on his farmland before returning home for the evening.
The next morning the farmer returned to his hut bringing fruit and sweet tea for the orangutan. The orphan lived in this hut for a day or so until the farmer built him a small cage. One week later the farmer got in touch with Puput, telling him he had an orangutan and how he had come across it.
Miran from OIC was part of the urgent response team

That day we deployed two of the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit team, Rabin and Rudi, to verify this report. They joined Puput to go to the farmland where they found the orangutan and confirmed it is a one-year-old male. Within a couple of hours the team had removed the orphan from his cage and headed to an orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centre.

It is important to remember that infant orangutans are highly dependant on their mothers for survival and development, they stay with her for at least five years in order to learn enough to survive in the forest. The care of such a young orphan needs to be conducted by a trained orangutan rescue centre.

In order to obtain an infant for the pet trade, the mothers are killed. It has been estimated that for every infant that survives the process of capture and transport, at least 3 others will have been lost, and each of these infants also represents the death of an adult female orangutan. We do not know what happened with this infant’s mother, if she was killed accidentally or on purpose. The one thing we do know is that she would have never voluntarily left her baby’s side, and she would have put up a fight if someone tried to take him away.

The young orphan is now in safe hands, in the care of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) at their rescue centre just outside Medan.

Here at the SOS, we are continuously fundraising in order to keep all our projects rolling. It is important to find more money for human orangutan conflict mitigation, as well as our ongoing conservation work.

There are many ways you can help fund our projects: become a member, make a donation, leave a legacy, or fundraise for us. You can see more photos from the rescue on our Facebook page.

Background information:
Organizational information:
The Human Orangutan Conservation Response Unit (HOCRU) is trained specifically to deal with situations where orangutan and human interests conflict. It is a collaboration between SOS, the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), SOCP and the Government. HOCRU works closely with our OIC community conservation team, identifying current and potential problems and how best to solve them. All SOS projects in Sumatra operate trough the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), and SOCP deals with all rescues and rehabilitations of orangutans in Sumatra.

Illegal trading:
In theory, orangutans are protected in Sumatra by legislation dating from 1931, which prohibits the owning, killing, or capture of orangutans. In practice, poachers still hunt them, mostly for the pet trade. In international law, orangutans are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), prohibiting unlicensed trade due to the conservation status of the species in the wild. However, there is a huge local, national, and international demand for infant orangutans to be kept as pets. The maximum penalty for keeping an orangutan captive is 5 years in jail and 100 million rupiah fine (approx £7,500).


Monday, 24 May 2010

Elephant day out

Saturday was the big "Meet the Artists and Conservationists" day in London. We packed our bag full of business cards and headed to town. Luckily for us it was a lovely day, probably one of the hottest days this year, so Londoners and tourists alike headed to the parks for a nice picnic and day out. The turn-out was really great, we must have talked to well over 100 people, telling them about our photo competition, about what we do, about the plight of the orangutan and life in general. Hoping more people will start sending us their photos now so that we get a nice selection before the competition closes on the 30th june. 

Everybody loves Harapan

Even the Mounted Branch of the London police force


Thursday, 13 May 2010

Harapan, the painting

And the story about Harapan continues...
We have started getting photos from people who have visited Harapan in Green Park. We are hoping to get loads and loads of photos of you and Harapan so keep sending them in and we will start posting them on our facebook page in a couple of weeks time. For those of you that don't know, we launched a simple photo competition which is open to all, a couple of weeks ago, all you really have to do is go see our elephant in London. Anyway, the lovely Rebecca has just sent us a photo of the painting she is making for the winner of the photo competition. We here at SOS really like it and wish we could have a copy for the office but it's a one off only and will be going straight to one of our photo loving, elephant treasure-hunting supporters!
What do you guys think about it?


Friday, 7 May 2010

Harapan spotted by CNN

Just a quick blog today to let you know that Harapan has been spotted by CNN and is featured on their website
We think he is looking rather dashing, you have to go to the CNN website to see his photo. 
Now we are just waiting for Londoners to start taking their snaps with him.


Friday, 30 April 2010

The Elephants are Coming to London: photo competition

What are you doing this coming bank holiday Monday?

From 3rd May Harapan, the life-size baby (fibreglass!) elephant can be found in Green Park and we are launching a special elephant/orangutan competition!

It’s really easy to enter, all you have to do is go and visit Harapan, take your photo with him and post it on our Facebook Page or e-mail it to and we’ll post it for you.

This is Rebecca Sutherland and Harapan, her creation. 

We want to see how you are enjoying London and the beautiful elephants throughout the summer. The winner will receive an amazing SOS goodie bag which, amongst other things, will contain a one-off original painting of the finished Harapan in acrylic on canvas by Rebecca Sutherland.

Use your imagination and send us pretty, funny, and creative photos. But please, be careful with Harapan so that he doesn’t suffer any damage, we do hope to auction him off to the highest bidder at the end of June to raise funds for our conservation projects.

The competition lasts until the 30th June; which is also the Elephant Parade Mela in the grounds of Royal Chelsea Hospital with Elephant Family Patron Goldie Hawn.

So make the trip to Green Park to visit Harapan and some of his elephant friends.

We look forward to seeing the photos!

Some more info about the Elephant Parade?
Harapan is a part of The Elephant Parade London 2010, which is a conservation campaign that shines a multi-coloured spotlight on the urgent crisis faced by the endangered Asian elephant. Brought to you by, the event will see over 250 brightly painted life-size elephants located over central London this summer 2010. Each elephant is decorated by a different artist or celebrity, ours by Rebecca Sutherland. The elephants will brighten and beautify the city throughout the summer. The elephants will be enhancing parks, street corners and buildings around London. Running from May to July 2010, this will be London’s biggest outdoor art event on record. With an estimated audience of 25 million, the campaign is aiming to raise £2 million for the Asian elephant and benefit 20 UK conservation charities. The elephants will be auctioned off by Sotheby's on July 3 and all the proceeds from the sale of Harapan will support SOS’s work in Sumatra.

The elephants will be sold through a combination of live, silent and on-line auctions, as well as pre-sales over the course of the week of 23rd – 30th June.

We will post a map showing you the exact locations of the elephants as soon as we get or hands on it!

We have just finished picking the five lucky winners of the Facebook competition. Since we made it to well over 100 fans in April, we chose five people who won our Jason Monet designed T-shirts.

The winners are: Jane, Abby, Alexandra, Viviane and James!

 We chose the winners with help from a highly qualified and impartial friend!

So, Jane, Abby, Alexandra James and Viviane; please drop us a note either on Facebook or to and let us know what size t-shirt you would like and also your first and second choice of colour.

Look how many fans we have! 


Thursday, 29 April 2010

We got there! £1000 for Rainforest Restoration Project

Thank you to everyone who helped support us during this past month.
As most of you may know we have been taking part in a special project competition on the GlobalGiving website.

Our aim was to make £1000 in donations from at least 50 different individuals, and it is with delight we can let you know that we just met that target.

Our fundraising work for this project is not yet over, as a matter of fact we still need to raise over £22,000 to meet our current Restore Rainforest goal, but now we will have the added help from the GlobalGiving community to meet this target.

Oh yes, and if we were to miraculously get another well...hmm... £1300 in donations before 23.59 BST tomorrow evening (that;s Friday 30th April) we would also win first prize in the challenge and that means an additional £1000 from the GG team.

We will definitively be keeping our fingers firmly crossed for that one.

Love from the SOS team


Monday, 19 April 2010

Hope for marathon runners left disappointed after volcanic ash disruptions

In light of the recent massive disruptions to UK and European air travel because of the Icelandic volcano eruption, many marathon runners have been disappointed as they are missing their chance to run a marathon. Runners scheduled in for marathons in Paris, Antwerp, Hamburg, Boston, London, Brighton, Vienna, Nice and Belgrade, have been left stranded and unable to make their destinations in time for the marathons.
SOS has one free slot for the Edinburgh Marathon taking place on 23rd May. If you have been unable to get to your chosen marathon due to the flight chaos, please get in touch and you could run for SOS in May.
You have to give us a ring or drop us an e-mail asap as we would need to finalise registrations before Thursday 22nd April at 17.00 BST.
Ida Bondø
PR, Communications and Outreach Officer
Sumatran Orangutan Society
Tel: +44 (0)1865 403341


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Painting Harapan, the elephant.

Hi, I'm Rebecca Sutherland, and I have designed and painted Harapan for The Elephant Parade.

I usually design things that can be scanned, photo-shopped and attached to emails. And although a life-sized baby elephant was never going to fit on my scanner, it was probably one good reason to say yes to this project. It was going to be BIG, three dimensional and extremely unusual. How hard could it possibly be? Paint elephant - job done.

Throwing myself into the project I worked out the design and ordered lots of paint and brushes, then waited. I wanted the design to reflect the endangered elephants and orangutans along with the habitat that links them. As the ele/tree trunk pun was arrived at, the rest followed easily. SOS were originally allocated a sitting elephant, however after measuring both front door and side gate, it was clear it wasn't going to fit. The Elephant Family took pity and found us the slimmer standing variety - which was great. The next problem was where to put it.

When the elephant arrived I was excited. There he was, clean and white, just like the weather outside. We stood him in the centre of our unheated glass box conservatory, and I soon found out that to work out there was akin to working in the garden. A blow heater blasted air at me as I made the first brush strokes. Half an hour later I was driven back by the cold. So behind glass doors the first badly rendered vines caught my eye as winter stubbornly kept its grip on February. Never mind, I had plenty of time.

On into March, and I acclimatised to conditions. And as the weather warmed I'd like to say I painted away oblivious to everything, mixing away on my plates then standing back to admire my progress. But daylight hours were still short and I had a full workload of other projects on. The only solution was to get up early and work late into the night. Progress was made slower by my complete ignorance of painting with acrylics, so I discussed my feeble efforts at length with my arty friends. Ultimately it was time and practice that taught me.

Four weeks later and I was only halfway up the legs, and with one week to go it didn't take a genius to figure out I wasn't going to make it. Yet my old friend fear drove me on. Then as my deadline was extended I breathed a sigh of relief, just before more work that needed my undivided attention fell on to my lap. An illustrator never turns work away, and I was determined to get it all done.

Legs, trunk, back, tail, eyes and orangutan were all eventually underway, but it wasn't until I began the background that I actually began to relax and enjoy what I was doing. I'm like this on every piece of work, not sure of what I'm doing and willing to let the autopilot of experience get on with it. Art and design looks easy, but can be as hard as writing an essay or doing a maths equation. And when that step back moment comes and I take it all in, I know if my work is good or, well, not so good.

Thankfully Harapan was good - I liked him.

Before I started this project I remember telling Helen Buckland I wanted the SOS elephant to stand out like a jewel. Well he certainly became a bit of a local attraction here, with even my window cleaners loving him. One said he reminded him of Goa where he'd seen their festival of colour. That's what I was wanted to achieve; a festival of colour.

Finally, Harapan is Sumatran for hope, a wholly appropriate description of what SOS represents. For all the difficulties encountered Harapan was certainly worth it. Because the reward is riding on the front of him, as the eye-catching and fabulous orangutan we all hope to save.


Thursday, 1 April 2010

Please don't feed the orangutans.

It makes us really sad when people that are visiting the jungle feed the orangutans.
I will tell you why:

Bukit Lawang is a site where both semi-wild and wild orangutans live. The semi wild orangutans have been returned to the forest to that they have the chance to be fully independent again, but in the meantime they will get more dependent on people if tourists feed them.

2. Our DNA is so similar that orangutans can catch our diseases, but they don't have the immunity so they get sick and then die. This doesn’t only affect the individual orangutan but 3 can affect a whole group as they live so closely. It is especially sad when babies are affected and infant mortality is much higher in areas where orangutans are in close contact with people though tourist operators cite lack of direct evidence. This also works the other way; people are vulnerable to zoonotic diseases (carried by the orangutan) as well.

3. They are wild animals, and really strong. Accidents can happen which could endanger the person and the orangutan.

4. Orangutans do not usually spend a lot of their time on the ground, they generally stay in the trees and avoid coming to the ground. Semi wild orangutans who are used to and like human contact spend more time on the ground where they are more likely to contract parasites which are considered a major threat!

We cannot afford to be giving the orangutans our diseases, please let anyone who is visiting areas with orangutans know that they should keep their distance and under no circumstance feed them or touch them.

If you want to read more about this issue please read our
guidebook to the Gunung Leuser National Park.


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Pedal Power Cinema

Hi, My name is Suzanne Turnock and for the past two months I have been funded by The Vodafone Foundation to work with SOS. I entered a competition called ‘Vodafone- World of Difference’, the prize was to work with a charity of your choice for two months and all wages are paid by Vodafone. I jumped at the chance and I knew straight away who I wanted to work with. I have been the Volunteer Fundraising Officer for The Great Apes Film Initiative (GAFI) since June 2009, SOS is one of GAFI’s partners and have worked together for the past 5 years.
I saw this opportunity as I chance to organise the SOS and GAFI Pedal Power Cinema project in Sumatra. So for the past two months I have been organising and fundraising for the project, based at the SOS UK headquarters in Oxford. One of my main goals was to organise a Pedal Power Cinema event in Oxford, to raise funds and to raise awareness about SOS and GAFI’s work. This event took place on the 10th March at Oxford Brookes University. Using Pedal Power Cinema, we screened Patrick Rouxel’s ‘Losing Tomorrow’, a poetical film on the habitat of orangutans and an insight into the logging industry in Indonesia and ‘Dear Mr President’, a short film created at the request of local communities in Sumatra. World renowned Conservationist, Ian Redmond OBE was our special guest speaker for the evening and David Smith, Olympic Athlete on the GB Rowing Team, started the pedalling for us. We also had a raffle, refreshments and merchandise for sale. From the feedback we have received so far, it seems like this was a really successful event and guests were interested and excited about using Pedal Power Cinema for conservation education.

During my time with SOS, I have been writing grant applications, liaising with the team in the field to organise the project and helping Helen out with the day to day running of SOS when needed. I also helped out with the SOS collection day in February at Victoria Station in London.

This project has the potential to expand on SOS’ conservation education programmes in Sumatra. The Pedal Power Cinema can be taken to remote communities, which often lack electricity and show wildlife films to local people, who may have never seen an orangutan or are not aware of the need to protect the critically endangered species. Film screenings attract large crowds, therefore providing a unique opportunity to deliver powerful and effective conservation messages as well as providing a platform for people to raise their conservation concerns. Once we have received the required funding for this project, it can begin.

I finished my two month placement with SOS on 12th March. I am really proud of what I have achieved in a small amount of time and I have enjoyed every minute of working with the SOS team. I chose SOS as I believed they are an organisation that works tirelessly, with passion and determination, to save the Sumatran orangutan and their habitat from extinction- and they proved me right.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Urgent campaign alert

The EU Commission is proposing to reclassify palm oil plantations as “forest” in order that biodiesel from palm oil plantations can still meet EU biofuels sustainability criteria under the Renewable Energy Directive.
Please click here now to support the campaign to overturn this proposal - and please pass this on far and wide.


Monday, 25 January 2010

Visit to ROLE

A couple of weeks ago we received an e-mail from ROLE Foundations Eco Learning Centre in Nusa Dua. ROLE have leased 1 ½ hectares of land down on the Bali bukit, and they want to use this area in an educational manner, working with the poor and disadvantaged. They are focusing on education and creating eco-friendly job and business opportunities, locals to make a comfortable income, without destroying the environment. ROLE has invited SOS to be a part of their education area on de-forestation which will focus on taking the pressure off natural resources, while reviving the health of the environment through awareness and assistance. The area of land they have available is in an amazing part of Bali, right between Nusa Dua and Uluwatu, and with great views across the peninsula. We are currently putting together an information pack for them and waiting eagerly for the learning centre to open later this month.

Good luck guys, looking forward to working with you!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Lucy Wisdom, SOS Founder, sadly passed away

Last month Lucy Wisdom, founder of SOS sadly lost her longstanding battle against cancer.
Lucy was working as a performance artist in Europe in 94, when a holiday to Indonesia to recuperate from cancer treatment unexpectedly changed her life.
On a visit to a rehabilitation centre for endangered Sumatran Orangutans, she found herself overwhelmed with the desire to help. For the next three years, Lucy visited Sumatra regularly as a volunteer to help orphaned ex-captive orangutans return to the wild. In 1997, Lucy set up SOS to raise funds and awareness about threat of logging to the orangutans disappearing habitat. Despite the constant political instability in Indonesia and the onset of secondary cancer three years ago, Lucy refused to give up the fight for the island’s estimated 6.600 wild orangutans.
Lucy founded the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) in Medan In 2001, along with Panut Hadisiswoyo, to promote awareness of environmental and orangutan conservation issues amongst local communities living in North Sumatra and Aceh.
Her passion landed her the UK’s Women in Ethical Business Award in 2008 and saw her appear in the hero of the month pages of magazine Marie Claire.
Here in Bali we had a gathering celebrating her life where all her friends came together to reminisce her, and hold a Balinese ceremony.
Lucy will be much missed by all her friends and SOS who will continue her legacy by working to save the Sumatran orangutan and end deforestation in Indonesia.
Thank you Lucy for all your hard work

You can reach Lucy's tribute page by clicking here.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Balinese wedding ceremony

Being a volunteer in a foreign country should always be more than just sitting in an office. It should be about making new friends and experiencing a different culture. Luckily for me this is easy in Bali, where the locals are superfriendly, and especially being based in Ubud, which is known as the cultural heartland of Bali. So it was with great anticipation and a big smile on my face I accepted an initiation to my colleague – Widi‘s- wedding.
In Bali it is customary to have two separate ceremonies for a wedding, first there is a ceremony in the place where the couple will be living (usually with the groom’s family), then a second one saying goodbye to the old home (usually the bride’s family) and so it was his time as well. Weddings start early here, and at 8.30 we where in the office trying on our new outfits. That is, having someone else dress us as if we where small children, in order not to loose our sarongs or otherwise make a cultural fau paux. For us girls this was not an issue as we work with another female, the boys on the other hand had to poke their heads out the office and ask around until a male staff member of our neighbouring restaurant would help them. Anyway, we eventually got dressed and headed out on our scooters to the small village where the first ceremony would be held. Over the course of the day we made some great new friends, learned about the importance of family relationships, and were fed loads of yummy foods before the ceremonies ended. We never made it to the second ceremony at the bride’s family house, already being knocked out by the intense heat and the massive amounts of rice and whole roasted pork so duly headed back to the office and our SOS duties.
It was all in all a great experience and I wish Widi all the luck in the world now that she is starting a family on her own.
Thank you very much for including us on your special day!


Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year!

First of all Happy New Year, or Selamat Tahun Baru, as we say here in Bali!
A bit belatedly as I have been visiting gorgeous Lombok over the holiday.
I wont go on about that, instead let me tell you about some of the stuff SOS did in the time leading up to Christmas and NY. We were invited to the Bali International School (BIS) down in Sanur to attend their annual Christmas Bazaar. With two days till the bazaar was taking place, we got to work. We already have a lot of merchandise for and heaps of information to bring to these things. Though to draw the kids’ attention to our stall, we had to crank it up a notch so we quickly built a tombola and packed the orangutan suit.
A couple of days before we had another volunteer join our team, so in total there were five of us heading down. In both Norway and England tombola’s are a part of every faith or bazaar, but here in Bali this was a foreign concept to most. Therefore we quickly found ourselves chatting away to old and young, explaining what to do and how the money we raised goes towards saving the Sumatran orangutans and their rainforest home. We had some nice prizes up for grabs, including a stay for two in a plush hotel and were happy to see a young couple on holiday win this.
All in all it was a pretty good day, we met loads of interesting people – including some of the pupils who are currently studying rainforest conservation and working towards buying a big patch of rainforest. We are hoping to start a pilot scheme with BIS where we will work with some of the pupils on a regular basis and educate them about their Indonesian rainforest. Hopefully this is something that can go on for years to come and in several different schools once we have enough resources to keep this going.

Ok, I hope you all have a lovely 2010- hopefully we will be able to spread the word about the orangutans even further this year.


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