Students for Orangutan Tropical Peatland

Championed by:  Cleveland District State High School

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$2,600  raised
$400 needed

This project has completed

Deadline  31 December 2015

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about the project

Students for Orangutan Tropical Peatland

Cleveland District State High School


This past April 2015 students from Cleveland District State High School in Brisbane Australia travelled to the Sabangau Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.

The students were welcomed guests by CIMTROP (Centre for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland) and OuTrop (Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project) where they stayed at the base camp in the peatswamp forests of Sabangau.

The students were split into groups and paired with students from a local high school in Palangka Raya (the nearest town to the Sabangau Forest) where they participated in a number of workshops, including: primates, camera trapping, butterfly surveying, climbing the carbon tower, learning about habitat restoration (including damming man-made illegal canals in the forest) and reforestation, and they even completed a walk through the forest at night spotting wildlife.


      Figure 1 - Cleveland High Student Lewis Burgess and OuTrop’s Adul set up a camera trap

While at camp, the students quickly learned how valuable the forest is for both conservation and scientific study. The students quickly wanted to raise funds to sponsor the work undertaken by both

CIMTROP and OuTrop in the Sabangau Forest, specifically for the two following projects.


1) Dam building and repair

Peat swamps have an important regulatory role as reservoirs of water where they control the hydrology of the entire river catchments. The peat acts as a ‘sponge’, storing water during the wet season and releasing it slowly into neighbouring rivers during the dry season. They prevent flooding during periods of high rainfall and maintaining river flow during periods of drought. 

Peat swamps are naturally waterlogged year round; this prevents decomposition, leading to accumulation of organic material, i.e., peat. If they are able to remain waterlogged all year round, this also makes peat swamps very resistant to fire and allows the swamps to act as a natural breeding ground for fish. When peat is drained, however, decomposition starts and the peat becomes very vulnerable to fire. 

During a period of eight years between 1997 and 2004, Sabangau was subjected to intense illegal logging. To extract the timber from the forest, thousands of small canals were dug, usually 1-2 m wide and 1 m deep, and varying in length from 1 to 15 km (most are 2-5 km long). Using these canals, cut timber was floated to the main rivers and then to sawmills for processing.

This caused many issues from lack of drinking water for forest animals, elimination of fish, increased tree falls and shorter fruiting cycles. More seriously, dried peat burns very easily, as evidenced by major fires within Sabangau between 1997 and 2006, which have burnt 15% of the forest area.

To counter this threat, dams are built in canals by members of the local community, directed by the CIMTROP’s Community Patrol Team. The Patrol Team have built hundreds of dams since the start of this project. By retaining water the peat remains wet, significantly reducing the rate of peat degradation and the risk of fire.



Budget for 1 dam (in Indonesian Rupiah): 

(Approximate cost $250 Australian)

It is hoped through this fundraising effort that numerous dams can be built in an effort to dam an entire canal.

Depending on the size of canal – the price can range, with past projects costing 34,000,000 IDR to 50,000,000 IDR ($3,400 - $5,000 Australian).


2) Camera traps

The Sabangau Forest is home to a wide diverse group of animals, including the largest population of wild orangutans. The forest is also home to four of the five Bornean cat species, including the endangered clouded leopard.

Camera traps are a useful tool to allow researchers to monitor wildlife populations and discover more about animal behaviour, especially for elusive species.

The cameras that the students are hoping to purchase are Bushnell HD camera traps that cost approximately $400 Australian each.

Here are some pictures from a camera trap that our students donated to OuTrop.




Figure 2 – Up close curious Orangutan


      Figure 3 - A gibbon enjoying fruits amongst the canopy


    Figure 4 - hornbill



This Project is supported by:




Great initiative, thanks for caring about our orange-haired cousins. Happy to support :)

-  Mark White

I had the pleasure of speaking about my time at OuTrop on National Threatened Species Day at USQ Fraser Coast. The money I have donated came from the generosity of staff, students and the general public that attended.

-  Sophia Fuller

Thank you for all that you do.

-  Margaret Moon