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Orangutan SAFE: Saving wild orangutans through collaboration

Credit: The El Paso Zoo, a proud supporter of Orangutan SAFE

Sumatran orangutan mother Ibu and Zaini, her new baby born on June 2, 2022.

The Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) with the support of the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens focuses on the collective expertise within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audience to save species. SAFE is a framework that focuses on protecting threatened species by developing recovery plans, collaborating with AZA and conservation stakeholders, and implementing strategic conservation and engagement initiatives.

The Orangutan SAFE program focuses specifically on the conservation of the wild orangutan population. The Orangutan SAFE program aims to protect and restore the wild orangutan population and their habitats through public engagement, funding, and field work. Partnerships are critical to species recovery.

SAFE prioritizes collaboration among AZA member institutions and international conservation organizations. Orangutan SAFE has partnerships with 16 AZA zoos and 5 conservation organizations working in Borneo and Sumatra. Through this network, we are able to accomplish our goals to protect orangutans and the wild places they call home.

Two of our field conservation partners, Bornean Nature Foundation (BNF) and Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP), focus on habitat restoration, community forest management, and prevention of wildlife tracking. BNF supports 14 community nurseries and 28 villages with tree planting and community forest management. SOCP works with 3 communities in the area to establish new honey cooperatives as an economic alternative to tearing down the orangutan’s forest home for palm oil plantations.

Another of our field partners, Bornean Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), focuses on rescue and re-release of wild orangutans, and recently reached the milestone of 500 orangutans translocated back in the wild since its start in 1991. This is significant achievement has resulted in 37 wild born babies born to date.

Ape Malaysia’s Project CREATE is our main supported field project dedicated to reforestation and creating forest corridors. To date, they have planted 16,989 total trees across 6 reforestation sites in Borneo. 3 of those sites are fully planted and are now in Stage 2 and Replacement planting. The other sites are ongoing with their Stage 1 planting. The team has plans to acquire an additional two reforestation planting sites in 2023.

These are just a few examples of how our field partners on the ground in Borneo and Sumatra are protecting orangutans and their habitats, and helping the Orangutan SAFE program achieve it’s main conservation objectives of Protect and Restore Orangutan Habitat, Support Anti-poaching and Wildlife Trafficking Prevention Efforts, and Continue and Enhance Research Related to Orangutan Distribution and Numbers.

A huge thank you to El Paso Zoo for their financial support of Orangutan SAFE, which helps us be able to fund these important conservation projects. To learn more about our program and how you can protect orangutans from the comfort of your own home, please visit

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