Hellabrunn Zoo has been supporting the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) for many years, helping to save endangered species in the FZS’s in-situ conservation project in the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park.

A cooperation agreement now secures long-term partnership for a conservation project for orangutans. Hellabrunn Zoo and the FZS have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish closer ties and forge a long-term partnership. The basis of this cooperation agreement is sponsorship through earmarked legacy gifts as well as donations for Sumatran orangutan conservation, which are collected at the zoo. The cooperation agreement, which includes a pledge of a five-figure sum annually, will support planning of the conservation project in Sumatra. At the heart of the project in the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park is the release of Sumatran orangutans into the wild in order to strengthen the populations of the critically endangered species on the Indonesian island.

The national park, which features one of the largest remaining contiguous lowland rainforests on Sumatra, has been suffering for years due to a sharp decline in forest cover for the native large mammals such as the Sumatran elephants and orangutans. Deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations in the surrounding areas poses a significant threat to their habitat. The animals often have to leave their safe havens in search of food, encroaching into human settlements, which further exacerbates conflicts between locals and wild animals.

In 1998, the FZS launched a conservation project for the reintroduction of orangutans into the wild in order to protect the region's unique ecosystem. The aim of the project is to establish a viable orangutan population in the heart of Sumatra with the help of a team of on-site project staff, who also work closely with the local population to educate and raise awareness about the importance of protecting the rainforest. Orangutan orphans who have been found or rescued from illegal captivity are not only cared for, but also prepared for release into the wild by training them at the jungle school at the Sumatra Orangutan Rehabilitation Center (SORC).

Zoo director Rasem Baban sees the new cooperation agreement as an opportunity to highlight Hellabrunn’s important role as a centre for education and conservation: “As a modern, scientifically-led zoo, we take our mission to raise awareness among visitors about biological diversity and nature conservation very seriously. Our animals in Munich are ambassadors for their fellow species in the wild and so we are pleased to have the opportunity to continue our support for the in-situ conservation of this fascinating great ape species in Sumatra.”

And Hellabrunn's commitment is already bearing fruit on the island: the baby orangutans, Siti and Sudin, who are cared for at the infant station in Bukit Tigah Puluh, which is sponsored by Hellabrunn Zoo, have already reached the next level of training on their path to scheduled release into the wild. The project team expects that the two animals will be released into the Sumatran rainforest in around two to three years. In addition, the zoo also sponsored a complete revamp of the project’s socialisation enclosure, which will soon house more orangutans in order to prepare them for life in the wild through a training programme that usually lasts several years.

Visitors can learn more about the challenges of conserving the great ape's habitat and the conservation projects that Hellabrunn supports by dropping by the Species Conservation Centre and the Orangutan Hall at the zoo. They can also make a small donation to support the conservation effort via the donation box.

Orang Jungtiere Siti und Sudin in Bukit Tiga Puluh
Coypright: Daniel Rosengren