Unique Orangutan Scholarship Program Reaches Major Milestone
2 May 2016 - Santa Monica, CA - OURF Headquarters. Between the recent devastating fires that have overtaken the country’s natural habitats and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio making surprise visits to highlight conservation efforts, Indonesia’s orangutan populations have been all over the news lately. While public awareness is the first step towards making progress, for 10 years the Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) has been on the ground in Indonesia working to save orangutans and other primates in danger due to unsustainable farming and human-wildlife conflict. One of OURF’s key programs is the Orangutan Caring Scholarship, aimed at building a cadre of educated Indonesia citizens that will advocate orangutan survival, and OURF is proud to announce that the 100th scholarship will be awarded this June.
When the Orangutan Caring Scholarship (OCS) was inaugurated in 2006 to support a student’s tuition and research activities, the first recipient, Syarifah Lia Andriati, was able to attend North Sumatra University and earn a degree in forestry. In the decade that followed, 93 other underprivileged and motivated students competed for and received the multi-year scholarship to attend local universities in the fields of biology, forestry and veterinary science. While in school, the recipients conduct research about orangutans, their biology and health, and their habitat. OURF President Dr. Gary Shapiro stated, "Each of the students who have received scholarships have become spokespersons for conserving orangutans and other wildlife." Since the program began, over 50 students have graduated and have gone into careers in academia, government, business and the non-profit sector.
The impact of the scholarship reaches much farther than just the life of the student: "It is hard to overestimate the importance of this scholarship for providing an opportunity to students and their families who will benefit by this award in the name of the orangutan" said Shapiro. "Besides receiving an opportunity to earn a degree, the student's extended family will see orangutans as a symbol of pride - not an animal to be laughed at or feared. The program also builds an important philanthropic bridge between cultures who may not fully understand or appreciate each other."
Ceremonies to honor the students will take place in the cities of Medan (Sumatra) and Ketapang (West Kalimantan) in late-June. OURF President Shapiro will participate in the presentation ceremonies which will take place during the holy month of Ramadan.
The OCS is a partnership with both the local administering organizations (Orangutan Information Center and Yayasan Palung) and the funding organizations. OURF coordinates the OCS and has been grateful for the funds provided by The Orangutan Project (Australia), Orangutan Outreach (USA), the Animal Health Foundation (USA), and the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation (USA) as well as numerous individuals who have contributed towards the OCS fund.