Workers of North Sumatra Hydro Energy build an arboreal crossing to allow orangutans to easily navigate the area around the Batang Toru hydropower plant. (Photo courtesy of NSHE)

NSHE Goes Far and Beyond to Protect Tapanuli Orangutan


OCTOBER 09, 2019

Jakarta. The developer and operator of the Batang Toru hydropower plant in North Sumatra has established joint monitoring teams and implemented a zero-tolerance policy on hunting on the project site, as part of efforts to protect the rare Tapanuli orangutan, which is endemic to the area.  

"There is no tolerance for workers who disturb animals. If anyone is caught red-handed, their employment will be terminated permanently," said Agus Djoko Ismanto, senior adviser on environment and sustainability at North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE). 

He said the company had also set up a regular surveillance team, comprised of company employees and volunteers, to patrol the project site, observe wildlife in the area, and respond to any emergencies, particularly related to the Tapanuli orangutan.

"Every incident can be reported immediately to the team with photos or videos," he said.

Agus issued the statement after an injured orangutan was found in the Batang Toru forest area on Sept. 21. He condemned the attack on a protected animal, but said it remained unclear who was responsible.

He said NSHE does not tolerate the harming of wildlife and has been engaging with the local community to inform residents how to deal with orangutans that invade their gardens. 

"We are ready to work with other parties to save the orangutans," Agus said.

The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is recognized as a species separate from its closest relatives in other parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The apes are genetically different from the Sumatran orangutan and they also have curlier hair and smaller skulls and jawbones. 

The Tapanuli orangutan's habitat is restricted to the area near the hydroelectric power plant construction site in South Tapanuli district. 

Agus said NSHE has enough observation data on wildlife and on the orangutans around the project site, which enables the company to build access roads and dams without threatening the survival of the species.

There are arboreal wildlife crossings and signs posted along access roads to remind drivers to be vigilant and look out for animals, Agus said. The company also avoids cutting down trees that serve as animal crossings, he added.  

NSHE has further recruited orangutan experts and enriched the animals' natural habitat with edible plants to encourage them to remain in the wild. The company also offers a free service to restore residents' gardens damaged by the animals, to avoid human-wildlife conflict, he said.