In 2001, BOS Indonesia, led by BOS founder Dr Willie Smits, started purchasing land near Wanariset.
The 2000 ha area it acquired had been deforested and was covered in alang-alang grass.
The aim was to restore the rainforest and provide a safe haven for rehabilitated orangutans while at the same time providing a source of income for local people.
The name of this reserve is the "Samboja Lestari Project", roughly translated as the "everlasting conservation project of the Samboja district".
The reserve is divided into three zones:
- The outer zone consisting of a 100 metre wide ring planted with sugar palm providing income to up to 600 local families and protecting the central area from fire;
- The middle zone which is being reforested with a wide variety of local rainforest trees to provide a permanent wildlife sanctuary;
- An inner zone of about 300 ha with various facilities including smaller forest sanctuaries for specific animals unable to be released as well as the nursery, arboretum and environmental educational facilities.
Since 2001, the land has been planted with more than a million trees covering more than 1000 different species.
The alang alang grass was killed as it was shaded out with fast-growing acacia trees which could then be harvested and used in construction.
With the growth in the forest, the density and diversity of wildlife returned. So far 137 bird species and nine primate species have been recorded.
Air temperature has fallen by 3 to 5 degrees centigrade, cloud cover increased by 12% and rainfall by 20-25% with the forest cooling the atmosphere and attracting rain clouds.
Orangutans & Sunbears
The Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Wanariset has moved to Samboja Lestari with just over 200 orangutans now living there.
Several Forest Schools provide natural, educational playgrounds for the orangutans in which to learn forest skills before returning to cages to sleep at night.
A Clinic and Quarantine area has been established as well as many new forest cages for larger orangutans and a Babies' Room for the little ones.
Six orangutan islands have been created to accommodate orangutans suffering chronic hepatitis B or other disabilities which prevent them from ever being released into the wild.
Samboja Lestari is also the home to 46 sun bears. To read more about the sun bear sanctuary, click here.
Benefits to the community
The local people are gaining both financially and environmentally.
They receive income from the sale of the land, from salaries working in the rehabilitation area, from money made by selling the fruits and vegetables grown in between the planted trees, money from the sugar palm activities and from the salary they receive every month for protecting the area.
However they also benefit through less fire hazards, improved health conditions, the creation of local industries, year-round supply of better water for irrigated rice fields and less flooding or severe water supply problems during wet and dry seasons.
"In this way the people are given an alternative and so they do not need to destroy the forest any more. This means you can show the world that nature and people can live together and do not need to exclude one another" according to Dr Willie Smits Founder of BOS.
You can view a Willie Smits TED talk regarding this project here.