The Pongo Awards



Recognizing and honoring individuals and organizations that have contributed to the improved understanding and appreciation of orangutans and endangered species, rainforest habitat, and for improving conditions for orangutans and other animals globally.

The 2023 Pongo Environmental Awards - WATCH THE REPLAY HERE

The recipients of the 2021 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

  • James Balog and his organization, Earth Vision Institute, for his many decades as a scientist, photographer, and filmmaker documenting with stunning imagery the changes taking place on our fragile planet

James Balog- Earth Vision Institute

  • Heal the Bay, for four decades of environmental advocacy, science, education, and protecting the coastal waters in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Heal the Bay

  • Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL) and their leadership including Rudi Putra, for many years of effective environmental activism, advocacy and conservation of the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh, Sumatra

FKL logo

Sponsors of the 2023 Pongo Environmental Awards

The 2021 Pongo Environmental Awards - WATCH THE REPLAY HERE

The recipients of the 2021 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

Jonnie & David

Dianna Cohen - copyright Kieran E. Scott

  • Ashley Leiman, OBE, and the Orangutan Foundation UK, for dedication and commitment in administering effective projects and programs for over 30 years to conserve orangutans and their rainforest habitat in Central Kalimantan.

Ashley Leiman

  • Aspiration Financial Services, for being an innovative B-corp financial institution that divests from fossil fuels and supports charities and green activities that put Planet & People first.

Aspiration logo

  • Tomy Winata & Artha Graha Peduli Foundation for establishing and dedicated commitment to Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, Sumatran Tiger conservation & holistic management of the natural ecosystems in S. Sumatra.

Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation

Sponsors of the 2021 Pongo Environmental Awards


The 2020 Pongo Environmental Awards - WATCH THE REPLAY HERE

The recipients of the 2020 Pongo Environmental Awards are:


  • Mongabay, and CEO and founder Rhett Butler, an award-winning source of environmental news reporting and analysis including the establishment of Mongabay-Indonesia


  • HAkA, and Chairperson and Co-founder Farwiza Farhan, for many years of exemplary leadership in Acehnese conservation protecting the Leuser Ecosystem.


  • "If Not Us Then Who?", and Project Director and Founder Paul Redman for bringing awareness and advocacy to the role indigenous and local people play in protecting our planet.


  • "Guardians of Life", and film Writer, Producer, and Director Shaun Monson for a stunning and impactful cinematic call to action to save our imperiled world.


The 2019 Pongo Environmental Awards

The recipients of the 2019 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

  • The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and Executive Director Justin Winters, for sustained and significant environmental activism and philanthropy.


  • Netflix, and producers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, for their television series “Our Planet

Our Planet

  • Dr. Anne Russon for her 30 years of cognitive and behavioral studies of the Bornean orangutan

Anne Russon

  • The Gecko Project and Tom Johnson for investigative journalism uncovering the corrupt aspects of palm oil.

Gecko Project

The 2018 Pongo Environmental Awards

The recipients of the 2018 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

  • Hardi Baktiantoro, founder and director of the Centre for Orangutan Protection,  for his activism and advocacy saving orangutans in Indonesian Borneo over many years.

Hardi Baktiantoro


  • Animal Planet, for educating the public over many decades about the diversity of life and struggles of animals through effective storytelling on television.

Animal Planet


  • Bill Weir, of CNN, for effective environmental reporting on the plight of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge under the Trump Administration’s efforts to open the area to oil and mining.

Bill Weir


  • Greenpeace, for decades of grassroots activism, focused on protecting endangered species and habitat and on the efforts to end conflict palm oil around the world.


The 2017 Pongo Environmental Awards

The recipients of the 2017 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

  • Dr. Cheryl Knott, For significant field work furthering our understanding of the Bornean orangutan as well as dedicated efforts to conserve the species and educate the public over the past quarter century

Cheryl Knott


  • Carnegie Airborne Observatory & Dr. Greg Asner, For creating a aerial platform and remote sensing technology that has provided the most detailed assessments of the biodiversity of natural ecosystems, including tropical rainforests, home of the orangutan.

Carnegie Airborne Observatory


  • Rainforest Action Network. For over three decades of activism and advocacy benefiting the rainforests of the world and campaigns highlighting the detrimental effects of large-scale agriculture on rainforest ecosystems, wildllife, and people.

Rainforest Action Network


  • Fisher Stevens, For “Before the Flood” a documentary that discusses the dangers of climate change, its effects on endangered species, ecosystems, and native communities, and the possible solutions.

 Fisher Stevens

The 2016 Pongo Environmental Awards

The recipients of the 2016 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

  • Dr. Ian Singleton, for his many years of research and conservation activities supporting the survival of the Sumatran orangutan.

  • Louis Psihoyos, for his compelling and visually stunning documentary, "Racing Extinction."

  • Actor Ed Asner for his activism on behalf of humanity and the environment.

The 2015 Pongo Environmental Awards

The recipients of the 2015 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

  • Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, for her achievements in primatology and many decades of dedication to science, conservation, education, and humanitarianism.

  • Panut Hadisiswoyo, for his dedication to Sumatran orangutan conservation and his support of the Orangutan Caring Scholarship program.

  • Bradford Schmidt, of GoPro, for creating "Our Orangutan Brethern", a video that shows the world from the orangutan's perspective.

  • Rainforest Trust, an organization that has protected over 8 million acres of rainforest across the globe, accepting CEO Paul Salaman.

  • Alexandra Saunders, for Nuubia of SF, for corporate environmental stewardship and avoiding the use of palm oil in making award-winning chocolate.

  • Ed Begley, Jr., for his many years of activism supporting environmental causes and charities and using his celebrity status to lead by example in sustainable living.

The 2014 Pongo Environmental Awards

The recipients of the 2014 Pongo Environmental Awards are:

  • Michael Mann, climatologist who coined the "hockey stick graph" 

  • Ronna Phelps, an ethical entrepreneur who produced palm oil-free skincare products.

  • "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", a movie that used CGI rather than live apes.

  • "Years of Living Dangerously", a television series that examined global warming from a human and orangutan impact perspective.

  • George Shea and Mike Farrell for "Dr. Keeling's Curve", a play that looked at the life of a significant climate scientist who early on called attention to global warming.

About the Pongo Awards 

Pongo is the genus for the scientific name of the orangutan: Pongo pygmaeus (Bornean orangutan), Pongo abelii (N. Sumatran orangutan), and Pongo tapanuliensis (Tapanuli orangutan). Pongo, therefore, refers to orangutan in Latin.

The Pongo Awards were originally created to honor individuals for distinguished support to the mission of the Orang Utan Republik Education Initiative. The award consists of a certificate with the recipient’s name, date of the honor, a statement as to why the recipient was selected, and a sculpted bust of an adult male Bornean orangutan mounted on a base with the inscription of the recipient and the date. The orangutan bust design was expertly crafted by artist Jason Shanaman.

The Pongo Awards were first created and presented in November 2006 on the occasion of the Sumatran Orangutan Conference, Workshop and Summit, held in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Four Indonesians received the awards: The Minister of Forestry, M.S. Kaban for officially declaring Orangutan Caring Week in 2005, to Parliament Member and former Miss Indonesia, Angelina Sondakh for serving as “ambassador” for OUREI, to Mr. Ridhwan Effendi, Expert Staff to Ms. Sondakh for creating and overseeing the Orangutan Caring Clubs of Indonesia, and to Mr. Soedomo Mergonoto, Kapal Api Coffee, for providing the initial financial support to OUREI and consistent support to the Indonesian chapter, OUREI Indonesia.

Pongo Awards

Subsequent Pongo Awards have been presented in the United States to Lisa DeSantis in 2007 for hosting OUREI’s annual fundraiser; to the Australian Orangutan Project (now The Orangutan Project) in 2011 for their sustained support of OUREI and OURF, and to Cheri and Naren Shankar in 2012 for hosting OURF’s annual fundraiser.

Leif Cocks receives Pongo Award

Leif Cocks, from AOP, accepting the Pongo Award for his organization via Skype

during the 2011 Annual Fundraiser from OURF President Gary Shapiro.



Broadening the Relevance

Since 2014, the relevance of the Pongo Awards has been broadened to include recognizing and honoring individuals and organizations on an annual basis that have contributed to the improved understanding and appreciation of orangutans and endangered species, rainforest habitat, and for improving conditions for orangutans and other animals globally. Such individuals will be from the fields of entertainment, commerce, academia, and government as well as from the non-profit sector. A nominating committee to the Board of OURF will consider nominees for the award and will choose the honored recipients prior to the annual fundraiser.

New Pongo Environmental Awards were first awarded during OURF’s 2014 Annual Fundraiser in Beverly Hills, CA on October 19th.