The Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) has been investing in the future of Indonesian conservation and wildlife management since 2006 by offering scholarships to motivated Indonesian students seeking degrees in the natural sciences. Called the Orangutan Caring Scholarships (OCS), 244 have been awarded through partner organizations located in each of the Indonesian provinces where critically endangered orangutans still range in the wild.
The latest graduate, Zetli Decosta, happens to be the first recipient of the OCS in Central Kalimantan. Zetli comes from a village in Central Kalimantan where wild orangutans roam in the nearby community forests. He graduated on August 22th during a ceremony at Palangka Raya University where he received a degree in Forestry. Zetli’s research project was on the choice of nesting trees by orangutans from the community forest near his village.
Zetli and his family pose for an official graduation photo.
When asked about how the OCS benefited him, Zetli’s said, “The OCS Scholarship taught me to care more about endangered animals, especially the Orangutan, which is the mascot of Central Kalimantan. The OCS scholarship also allowed me to contribute to saving the orangutan habitat in my village forest.” He further went on to say, “Being part of the OCS Scholarship was a valuable opportunity for me because here I received knowledge and experience that I could not get during my studies.”
His last statement referred to the extracurricular experiences he received from the OCS implementing organization, the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF). BNF is the locally operated NGO in Central Kalimantan that implements the OCS for OURF. The organization provides in-kind services and resources to the selected students and provides the perspectives and opportunities not available at their university. BNF continues to administer the scholarships to 17 other recipients who received OCS from 2018 through 2022.
The other three implementing organizations are the Orangutan Information Center (OIC) in North Sumatra and Aceh provinces, Yayasan Palung (YP) in West Kalimantan, and Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) in East Kalimantan. OIC has been operating the longest and has partnered with a half dozen universities offering degrees in biology, forestry, and veterinary science. YP supports students at Tanjung Pura University in Pontianak while COP works with Mulawarman University in Samarinda. Since the program began, 148 recipients have graduated with many going into the fields of conservation and wildlife management, and medicine. Others are continuing their degrees or finding employment in government and nongovernment institutions. All become advocates for orangutan and rainforest survival.
As the only scholarship given in the name of the critically endangered orangutan, the OCS is an investment in the future for an enlightened and committed populace who will be responsible for sustainably managing Indonesia’s biodiversity and natural resources. Zetli is only the latest graduate who realizes his role in inspiring the youth of his community. According to Zetli, who wants to become a conservationist, “the knowledge and experience that I have gained are the basis for me in the future to bring the younger generation to be more active in orangutan conservation in their respective areas, namely by protecting forests, because forests are the habitat for orangutans. And just as humans need each other, so orangutans need us humans to care for them.”
Zetli surrounded by friends at the graduation ceremony at Palangka Raya University
For more information about OURF’s Orangutan Caring Scholarship program and how you or your organization can participate, contact Dr. Gary Shapiro, OURF President at email@example.com.