Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

About SOCP

SOCP is a collaborative programme of Swiss PanEco Foundation, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari, and the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Directorate General of Natural Resource and Ecosystem Conservation.


Our vision is to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran orangutan. We endeavor to contribute to the long-term protection of wild Sumatran orangutan populations and safeguard their habitat.


The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme is endeavoring to conserve viable wild populations of the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). We do this by habitat protection, rehabilitation and reintroduction of ex-captive orangutans to the wild, education, survey work and scientific research. 


  • To ensure all remaining viable wild Sumatran orangutan populations and their habitat are fully protected and safe from destruction
  • To establish new viable populations of the species in the wild via reintroduction of confiscated illegal pets, serving as a safety net for the original wild population.
  • To increase knowledge of wild orangutan distribution, status, threats, behaviour and ecology.
  • To change perceptions among Indonesian citizens in terms of animal welfare, understanding of sustainable development, and natural resource management.

“Since the start of SOCP over 250 orangutans have been brought to the quarantine center and more than 220 have already been transferred to the rainforest for reintroduction. SOCP continues to take a leading role in surveying and monitoring the status of all remaining wild orangutan populations in Sumatra using remote sensing and field surveys to record presence or absence, density estimates, and threats and population trends.”

Dr. Ian Singleton, Director SOCP

What We Do

Confiscation, Evacuation and Rehabilitation

After the orangutans are confiscated from illegal captivity or evacuated from an isolated forest branch, the SOCP’s rescue and rehabilitation station in Batu Mbelin is the first stop on their way to freedom.


In March 2011, SOCP began releasing rehabilitated orangutans back into the wild at Jantho Nature Reserve, Aceh Province, with the intention of developing a new viable orangutan population in an area that previously housed wild Sumatran orangutans.


Research & Monitoring

SOCP continues to take a leading role in surveying and monitoring the status of all remaining wild orangutan populations in Sumatra using remote sensing and field surveys to record presence or absence, density estimates, and threats and population trends.

Habitat Protection

The SOCP takes different measures in order to protect orangutan habitat, including lobbying, campaigning and drone surveillance flights. An integral part of SOCP is furthermore community development and education.

Confiscation, Evacuation & Rehabilitation

Despite formal legal protection, orangutans still get killed, captured and traded or kept as a pet, due to inadequate enforcement of wildlife law. The SOCP works closely with the Indonesian authorities to address this problem. Confiscated or evacuated individuals, often very badly treated in captivity and thus frequently in poor health conditions, are taken care of at SOCP’s purpose built orangutan quarantine centre at Batu Mbelin, North Sumatra (around 1h drive from Medan). It’s facilities include a fully equipped medical clinic, a “jungle school”, isolation cages as well as larger “socialization” cages and long-term cages for a few individuals that cannot be released in the foreseeable future.


Once “groups” of compatible orangutans have been established in the socialization cages at the quarantine centre, they are then transferred by road or air to SOCP’s reintroduction station in the Jantho Pine Nature Reserve, Aceh Province. Being together as a “group of friends” significantly helps to reduce the stress of the journey and of adjusting to the new environment. Staff from the quarantine accompany them for the same reason. Deep in the jungle, the orangutans are once again placed in holding cages and when ready subsequently taken out on a daily basis. Though returning at night with their caretakers, they explore and learn directly about life in the trees. Experienced caretakers regularly assess the progress of each orangutan individually. Once considered likely to be able to survive in the wild, the orangutans are then transported to a suitable site and finally released. SOCP field staff continue to monitor their progress on a daily basis.

Research & Monitoring

Since its inception in 2000, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) has been concerned with all aspects of Sumatran orangutan conservation. In order to achieve its ambitious goals, the SOCP strives to be a leading source of information regarding the behavioral ecology and distribution of this Critically Endangered primate. As such, the SOCP, in collaboration with its partner organizations the PanEco Foundation and Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari, regularly conduct orangutan population surveys, in addition to managing numerous monitoring stations, where detailed behavioral and ecological data are currently being collected. Because Sumatran orangutans can be found in various tropical forest habitat types, SOCP maintains monitoring stations in each of these habitat types, including, dryland lowland forest (Ketambe and Sikundur monitoring stations), wet peat swamp forest (Suaq Balimbing monitoring station), and upland forest (Batang Toru monitoring station). The data obtained from these monitoring stations allow conservation biologists to better understand the behavioral variability of the Sumatran orangutan, and as such, allow practitioners to make more informed decisions regarding their future conservation and management.


Habitat Protection

SOCP is seen as the foremost authority on the status and distribution of remaining wild Sumatran Orangutans, and it is increasingly active in the battle to save the species remaining wild habitat. Thus the Programme promotes habitat protection both in the aforementioned Tripa swamps (Aceh province) as well in the Batang Toru upland forests (North Sumatra province). It is furthermore actively invested in various awareness and pressure campaigns, the #LoveTheLeuser movement being the latest.

Using drone technology, SOCP is able to provide the responsible Indonesian authorities with high-resolution footage of illegal activities in protected areas. Drones can also hopefully help improving our monitoring activities, as SOCP has even been able to photograph orangutans in trees, and their nests, and hopes in the future to be able to detect radio transmitter chips implanted into reintroduced orangutans.

Read more about SOCP


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