SMART Patrols & Wild Orangutans in Nipah Kuning Village Forest

By Edi Rahman, Conservation Field Director

The Sungai Paduan Protected Peat Forest (Hutan Lindung Gambut, or HLG) makes up an area of approximately 6,788 hectares, most of which is peat swamp rainforest. This is a great habitat for many types of animals, including the critically endangered orangutan. In 2017, GPOCP/Yayasan Palung helped get this area the official Hutan Desa (Village Forest) designation. Since then, the area has been sustainably managed and utilized by the communities of the four villages it encompasses, namely Padu Banjar Village, Pulau Kumbang Village, Pemangkat Village and Nipah Kuning Village. GPOCP/YP continues to assist the communities to build their capacities to manage the land responsibly.

Specifically, the Nipah Kuning Hutan Desa Management Board (LPHD) was given the mandate to manage and utilize an area of 2,051 hectares. Throughout the year, various activities are carried out by the Nipah Kuning LPHD, including conducting regular patrols in and around the forest area. These patrols follow the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) model, which we have worked to train LPHD on over the past few years.

The Nipah Kuning SMART patrol team consists of four people. These members are responsible for carrying out patrols in order to monitor any illegal human activities  (e.g., illegal logging, land burning, hunting), monitor and identify wildlife, and monitor and identify plant species found in the Hutan Desa.

During a recent SMART survey, the team identified seven orangutan nests, three sets of sun bear scratch marks, two signs of orangutan feeding, and one wild boar bed. They also heard the sounds of one white-crested hornbill and saw one snake egg. They even had first-hand observations of five orangutans, not far from where the team were camping!

As it turns out, nearly every time the Nipah Kuning SMART team conducts patrols, they encounter wild orangutans. When the GPOCP/YP team carried out recent biodiversity surveys, they too encountered orangutans, saw orangutan nests, and heard orangutan long calls.

A juvenile orangutan seen by the Nipah Kuning SMART patrol team during a recent survey.

The Sungai Paduan HLG landscape is known to be one of the pockets of orangutan populations outside of Gunung Palung National Park. Interestingly, this forested area connects to a Production Forest which is owned by the PT Mayawana Persada company. However, we hope that since this wood fiber concession has slated a special area for conservation, this forest is still utilized by orangutans to move between forests.

Seeing that these orangutans are thriving in the Hutan Desa gives us hope that the work we are continuing to do is making a real difference in the long-term protection of the wild Bornean orangutan.

The tarp camp set up by the Nipah Kuning SMART team during a recent patrol.