Bringing Research to the Village

By Wahyu Susanto, GPOCP Research Director
Cabang Panti Research Station is often thought of as this mystical place. The research station is not open to tourists, so even though many people have heard of it, few have actually been to Cabang Panti. So this month we decided to bring the research station to the villages! We wanted to let the local communities know about the research that is being conducted and how it is being used to make conservation decisions for orangutans and their habitat. We focused on three of the villages surrounding Gunung Palung National Park with which we interact the most – Tanjung Gunung, Sedahan Jaya, and Teluk Melano. We gave presentations about the research activities, showed short films about orangutans, and held question and answer sessions to clarify any confusion about what actually occurs at Cabang Panti Research Station (CPRS).
Cabang Panti Research Station located in the heart of Gunung Palung National Park. Photo © Tim Laman.
Although researchers have been working at CPRS for over 30 years, very few villagers around the Park have actually been there, and fewer know about the activities we are doing. This has led to many questions from local residents. They often see a flux of strangers coming through their village to get to the National Park. On the other hand, there are some residents who are somewhat familiar with our activities, but they did not understand why we do behavioral follows and data collection on wild orangutans. To address these issues, we held these community discussions in the three villages that we primarily work with. It was also a great opportunity to spread awareness and knowledge about orangutans and their current plight on the IUCN Critically Endangered List.
Critically endangered orangutans of Gunung Palung National Park. Photo © GPOCP
The first presentation took place in the village of Tanjung Gunung and was held at the home of Pak Bahrul, the head of the village. Access to Cabang Panti starts with a two kilometer walk through this village and the residents often wonder why foreigners and other strangers are so interested in this forest. We were pleased to explain why GPNP is so special and why people travel from all over the world to experience this amazing forest. This activity had over 30 participants who were all eager to learn about GPOCP, Project OH, and about orangutans. They were particularly interested in one of our new short films, Person of the Forest, where we highlight how culture, much like human culture, exists in orangutans too.
Wahyu holding a community discussion in Tanjung Gunung about the research activities at Cabang Panti. Photo © GPOCP

The second night we held the socialization in Sedahan Jaya. This village is actually quite close to the CPRS, only eight kilometers if you draw a straight line. However, there is no cut trail and most of those eight kilometers is peat swamp, one of the more difficult terrains to try and hike through. This presentation was held at the village community center and was also well attended. Many people from Sedahan Jaya have worked with Project OH either as research assistants, camp staff, or as our logistics coordinator who sends all food and supplies to camp. They were all excited to see their friends and family in the presentation.

The third presentation was in Teluk Melano. Before there was an airport in Ketapang, researchers would take a ferry from Pontianak to Teluk Melano and then a long boat, similar to a canoe, from Teluk Melano to Cabang Panti. Many of the original research assistants from when Mark Leighton started CPRS in 1983 resided in Teluk Melano. Pak Margono, the village head, opened the event. There was an interactive discussion afterwards and we heard many stories about orangutans. Some said that, in the past, they had kept orangutans as pets, but have since turned them over to local authorities. Others told about how often they used to find orangutans and their nests along the Perawas River, but now that forest has been converted to an oil palm plantation and they rarely see orangutans anymore.
Wahyu presenting the research activities to residents of Teluk Melano. Photo © GPOCP.
Overall, this event was a great success. We interacted with about 100 residents between the three villages giving them valuable information about the importance of orangutans and why we are researching them and their habitat at CPRS. If you have any questions about any of our research or conservation programs, please feel free to email us at