A recent study on the attitudes and knowledge of the local children of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, on the Bornean orangutan, has been carried out in and around the local national park. Gunung Palung National Park is home to a large population of Bornean orangutans, which have been facing, and continue to face, rapid declines.
As of 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Bornean orangutan as critically endangered. At the current rate of decline it is projected that, by the year 2025, their populations will decline by 86% from 1973 levels. Orangutans have a life expectancy of 60 years or more, so this time period (1973-2025) spans just two generations.
The population of the Bornean orangutans in Gunung Palung National Park is estimated to be between 1302 and 1939. Since 2005, this population has seen declines of approximately 500 to 1200 orangutans, and this has been largely attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as hunting and poaching.
The local orangutan population living in and around the national park are protected by the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program (GPOCP). With the aid of the GPOCP, Dr Cathryn Freund and her team carried out a series of six expeditions to communities in the park’s surrounding districts, with the intention of assessing their attitudes towards and environmental knowledge of the Bornean orangutans.
A total of 24 schools were visited during the expeditions, with 1519 students, ranging from elementary to senior high school students, participating in environmental education activities held by the research team. Students were then given surveys to assess their knowledge of and their attitudes toward orangutans.
The study found that their educational activities led up to a 40% increase in the students’ knowledge about orangutans, and a substantial change to a more positive attitude towards conservation. It was, however, found that many of the students did not believe they could personally make a difference in the animals’ conservation. Empowerment is what the researchers believed was needed to link wildlife education and environmental action.
For more information on orangutan conservation, please visit: https://www.orangutan.org.au/.
Research paper used: Conserving orangutans one classroom at a time: evaluating the effectiveness of a wildlife education program for school‐aged children in Indonesia