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25 March 2013- Banda Aceh, Sumatra- Orang Utan Republik Foundation.   Six students from the city of Medan, North Sumatra, travelled overnight by bus to the city of Banda Aceh and joined six local students to receive this year’s Orangutan Caring Scholarship (OCS) in an evening award ceremony held on March 25th at the Dian Hotel.  Hosted by the Orangutan Information Center (OIC), the OCS awards were held for the eighth time, but this was the first time the prestigious awards were presented in a city that nearly nine years ago was devastated by a savage tsunami.  Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) president, Dr. Gary Shapiro, flew into Banda Aceh and joined OIC founder Panut Hadisiswoyo, to present the multi-year scholarships to students in the fields of Biology, Forestry and Veterinary Sciences.

 

The OCS is a program started in 2006 by OURF and OIC to provide competitive scholarships to college bound or college students with tuition and research funds they might not otherwise be able to afford.  Students are expected to participate with OIC in various education related activities as well as report back to OURF and its supporters with updates as they matriculate. Students entering as freshman have their tuition expenses paid though their four years of college or university.

The OCS benefits both the college student and the orangutan. Students clearly benefit from the funds giving in the name of the orangutan. They conduct research about orangutans and their habitat. Once they graduate, these students become advocates for the species, and many go into fields related to their degree. OURF President Gary Shapiro stated, "We hope that these scholars can contribute to the effort to preserve and protect the Sumatran orangutan populations and their habitat through their research and their academic activities."

Of the 61 students who have received the OCS over the past eight years, 19 have graduated and others have gone onto post-graduate school. Biology students have gone on to become teachers or work with orangutan or conservation nonprofit organizations; forestry students have become employed by the forestry department or by plantations; veterinarian students become practicing veterinarians. Each becomes a spokesperson for the orangutan and can better explain why the Indonesian people need to conserve this endangered species.

The program has matured over the past eight years and now involves programs on both Sumatra and Borneo (West Kalimantan). The Kalimantan program is administered by Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program and their local education program, Yayasan Palung. The selection committee in West Kalimantan recently announce the recipients of their Bornean Orangutan Caring Scholarships.

The following students received the scholarship in March 2013:   North Sumatra:  Gabriella Yohana (Forestry, University of N. Sumatra), Bungaran M R Naibaho (Forestry, University of N. Sumatra), Santy Darma Natalia P (Forestry, University of N. Sumatra), Rika Santika Zuha (Biology, University of N. Sumatra), Inggin Trimendes (Biology, University of N. Sumatra), Darsimah Siahaan (Biology, University of Medan); from Aceh: Diah Hestiasy Tanisyah (Veterinary, Unsyiah), Een Maulidia Rahman (Veterinary, Unsyiah), Octora Enda Sari Ginting (Veterinary, Unsyiah), Resti Reimena (Veterinary, Unsyiah) Mifhtahul Jannah (Veterinary, Unsyiah) Misdi (STIK, Pante Kulu);  from  West Kalimantan: Hendry Gunawan (Ketapang) and M. Muhlis Saputra (North Kayong District).

During the presentation ceremony in Banda Aceh, OURF President Shapiro, not only commented on the importance of these investments in the future for Indonesia, he mentioned that, “the government of Aceh should re-evaluate the new forest spatial plan which was putting 1.2 million hectares of primary rainforest at risk to degradation and the local people and wildlife in jeopardy as a consequence of the proposed change in land use designation.” The forests have been under a logging moratorium for nearly the past decade by decree of the former governor of Aceh. Now, the new governor wants to open up the land to development in logging, plantations and mining. Flooding, landslides and habitat loss are all highly likely if the proposed plan is put into effect.

On a more positive note, the ceremony was attended by Syarifah Lia Andriati, the first recipient of the OCS. Syarifah now works in Banda Aceh at Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI 46) as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) officer.  Syarifah’s position with the bank would have been unlikely without the help of the Orangutan Caring Scholarship for which she is grateful. And like the tree-planting programs her bank supports, the OCS can be likened to a long-term seed-planting program- an investment in the future of Indonesia’s conservation-minded citizenry.


for more information on the Orangutan Caring Scholarship program, click here.