The Orang Utan Republik Foundation was first founded in October 2004 as the Orang Utan Republik Education Initiative (OUREI). OUREI began its mission as a project under Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE) to save wild orangutans from extinction through education and outreach programs. In 2007, the Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) was incorporated to continue its mission as a tax-exempt organization (EIN 26-0880405). In addition to funding its Education Initiative, OURF also supports a Conservation Initiative through its field operations in Sumatra.
Most wild orangutans are found in the country of Indonesia. The orangutan's forest habitat in that country is declining rapidly due to large-scale conversion and poor forest management. Orangutans are dying in the process from causes both immediate (killed as pests or for pets) and gradual (increased competition or starvation). Therefore, in order for the orangutan to be saved from extinction, local Indonesians must become aware of the unique qualities of orangutans, their need for forest habitat to survive, the laws protecting them, and the consequences of illegally buying, selling or owning them. Ultimately, Indonesians must come to value orangutans and other wildlife that live in their country. This will come about through effective and continuous education combined with outreach campaigns conducted by the Indonesians themselves that move and inspire their society to ensure the orangutan's long-term survival.
At the same time, people outside the habitat countries need to come to better appreciate the orangutan and its role in the tropical ecosystem. OURF therefore targets both local and international audiences in programs of conservation education regarding the species and its threatened habitat.
OUREI was started by the founders of the Orang Utan Republik (OUR), a cause-related company that imports sustainable and environmentally friendly products from Indonesia, home of Asia's only great ape, the orangutan. Wild orangutans are only found on the islands of Borneo and northern Sumatra.
Because OUREI is organized as a non-profit project under SEE (beginning in 2004) and the Orang Utan Republik Foundation (starting in 2007), it can also accept donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, and other charitable and grant-giving institutions in support of its educational programs.
OURF President Gary Shapiro, Ph.D. began his involvement with orangutans 42 years ago when he investigated the symbolic communication abilities of a juvenile Sumatran orangutan at the Fresno Zoo. For his doctoral dissertation project, he spent two years in Indonesian Borneo teaching sign language to ex-captive orangutans in the first such study in any ape's natural habitat. Later he co-founded and served as vice president of the Orangutan Foundation International from 1986-2004. Dr. Shapiro and his Indonesian wife, Inggriani, were inspired to create OUREI in response to the education needs underscoring the crisis facing orangutans today, particularly in Sumatra.
To develop OUREI's goals of empowering Indonesians to become the main drivers of conservation education programs, OUREI Indonesia was established as a legal Indonesian NGO in mid-2007. Through its Indonesian office, OUREI (now OURF) oversees the activities of the Orangutan Caring Clubs, coordinates projects with other organizations, and implements education, outreach and scholarship initiatives being funded by OURF. Orang Utan Republik accomplishments continue to grow as concerned people and organizations support its efforts to collaborate, motivate and move the Indonesian public to save the orangutan and its habitat. The ultimate beneficiaries are not only the orangutans, but the people of Indonesia and entire world population who depend on the important ecological services (for example, oxygen production, carbon sequestration, rainfall patterns) that the orangutan's tropical rainforest home provides. To download the Orang Utan Republik Foundation brochure, click here.