The Suaq project has two main incentives: conservation and researching the behavior and biology of the Sumatran orangutans. With this, we work towards conservation at its very core, namely protecting one of the last remaining natural habitats of the Sumatran orangutans, as well as finding out the species’ biological needs through behavioral research.
Both steps are indispensable to effectively secure the survival of this fascinating species which is at the very brink of extinction.
Who we are
The Suaq Project is an orangutan research and conservation project at the Suaq Balimbing forest in Sumatra, Indonesia, run by the Department of Anthropology of the University of Zurich (AIM) in collaboration with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) and Universitas Nasional Jakarta (UNAS).
Orangutans are losing their habitat
Belonging to the great apes, orangutans are one of human closest relatives. The habitat of the Sumatran orangutans is increasingly destroyed by legal and illegal deforestation for the production of timber or for palm oil plantations. As a consequence, the orangutans and many other species are losing the basis of their existence. Also, orangutan babies are still illegally traded as pets whereby their mothers are killed. Following most recent estimations, less than 15’000 Sumatran Orangutans are left.
Suaq is one of the last strong holds of the Sumatran orangutan
The forest of Suaq shows the highest density of orangutans on earth. The Suaq orangutans are special as they show the most sophisticated and varied behaviors of all orangutans, including the use of tools. At the same time, they are uniquely tolerant to each other, allowing them to pass on acquired knowledge from one generation to the other. This unique constellation gave rise to a fascinating orangutan culture of which new facets are still being discovered.
Protecting the Suaq forest and its inhabitants
Our two main goals are habitat protection and learning about the biology and behavior of the Sumatran Orangutans. Protecting the Suaq forest will not just save one of the last populations of Sumatran orangutans but an entire orangutan culture. On top of that, it will contribute to the conservation of many other species.
The presence of the research camp and the job opportunities it provides to the local community greatly contribute to the protection of the area. This gets further enhanced by regular monitoring patrols of the research area and its surroundings. Through behavioral research we aim to understand the conservation relevant biology of the Sumatran orangutans and find ways to secure its survival. By gaining understanding of the behavior of a species that is closely related to our own, we also aim to shed further light on our own evolutionary history.