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How GAFI Can Help Orangutans

Through the use of film, GAFI can reach urban and rural communities in Borneo and Sumatra to give them a better understanding of the importance of conserving great apes. Through film, GAFI can also empower local communities to find local solutions to issues facing them e.g. loss of natural resources, problems surrounding monoculture (e.g. palm oil) and general issues of concern. Moreover GAFI can also reach the remote communities living adjacent to orangutan habitat to give them an insight into how orang-utan behave when they are not threatened and help reduce human-orangutan conflict. GAFI has the materials and the expertise to further enhance the conservation education programmes run by sanctuaries and NGOs working in orangutan habitats. By providing the sanctuaries with films and the necessary equipment, visitors will not only leave with an impression of captive orangutans but also with an impression of the necessity to save wild orangutans. When funds become available, GAFI hopes to train sanctuary staff in how to make their own films about issues of relevance to their particular sanctuary and the surrounding communities.


GAFI operates in both countries still home to orangutans; Borneo and Sumatra. In Borneo, GAFI works alongside the Borneo Orangutan Society (BOS) and in Sumatra the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS)

In 20 years alone, orangutans have lost 80% of their natural habitat. In Sumatra, there is approx 4 times more hectares of oil palm plantations than orangutan habitat. In Borneo, a million hectares of forest was recently sold to China. As habitat disappears due to legal and illegal logging, and inaccessible areas become easier to travel to, orangutan numbers continue to decline at unprecedented rates.

GAFI Roadshows

Each roadshow is tailor made for the specific region and various stakeholder needs however below is the general structure of GAFI Roadshows:

Week One: Period of “socialisation” in the regions where roadshows are planned. The purpose will be to survey the area, speak with local village heads, government officials, local communities and school teachers. Once this is achieved, a written request will be sent to each potential participating group inviting them to take part in the GAFI Asia road-show.

Week Two/Three:

  • 1.Screening of specific films together with filmmaker or GAFI partner representative who will engage with stakeholders to discuss the content and reason behind the making of the films in local languages.
  • 2.Target groups will be given information on other pressing environmental issues specific to the region and based on concerns raised during previous roadshows/focus groups. Participants will also have the opportunity to debatediscuss the various issues raised on the subjects of orangutan threats and solutions, forest conversion to palm oil, lack of resource access – and what solutions can be found.
  • 3.Questionnaires will be given to all appropriate viewers.
  • 4.Equipment will be handed over to local partners for future screenings
  • 5.Copies of educational materials and DVDs of the GAFI films will be given to each community.

Week Four

Analysis and workshop around the questionnaire results.

GAFI Films

GAFI has negotiated three films for use in SE Asia. Primary consideration was accuracy of information, ease of understanding, quality of filmmaking and translation into the local language of Bahasa.

These films included films on:

  • 1.Illegal logging
  • 2.Palm oil awareness
  • 3.Training for palm oil plantation workers

GAFI established contact with over 60 organisations operating in SE Asia, 14 of who have become GAFI partners. This will allow GAFI to operate at many levels in SE Asia and contribute to the wider distribution in future of the GAFI library.

Pre-screening visits (which preceded all film screenings in local communities, schools and universities to explain the purpose of GAFI and establish local support) were key to the ultimate success of the screenings. Local community leaders praised the teams who made contact with them for their efficiency and the value of the information given to them.

Over 12,000 people attended GAFI screenings from a wide range of communities in both Borneo and Sumatra. Both of these areas are difficult to operate in logistically. None of the communities receiving the roadshows had been accessed in this way by NGOs prior to the screenings.

  • Schools unanimously agreed that the Defra:GAFI roadshow was effective with the additional comment that this kind of information was not usually provided in schools.
  • Community leaders expressed gratitude for the information given about the threats to Indonesia and potential solutions that may be available. They also noted that this was a rare opportunity for them to contribute personal input into new solutions.
  • Discussion groups following the screenings were especially valuable in promoting the creation of local solutions. These included placing an embargo on all illegal logging in their area and creating alternative employment from anti poaching activities, marking the boundaries of protected areas more clearly and lobbying the government to enforce illegal logging and anti poaching legislation.
  • Feedback is always given to all communities regarding their solutions progress.
  • Analysis of GAFI questionnaires provided valuable insight into local solutions for NGOs.
  • Further roadshows were strongly requested by local community leaders especially to target isolated orangutan populations stranded between plantations.
  • Negotiations for broadcasting the films in SE Asia has not yet been successful, due to large payments required for broadcasting the films and existing copyright issues with one of the filmmakers previous distributors.
  • Discussions will continue and, if necessary, funding sought to enable payment for broadcasting to proceed.
  • GAFI has received three request so far for bespoke local issue films to be created in association with OUREI, SOS, BOS, and National Parks in Sumatra and Borneo. Funding is still being sought for this project.
  • GAFI supported the distribution of the orangutan management in palm oil plantations training film at RSPO in Singapore. Many decision-makers, Palm oil companies and government ministers attended the conference.

DEFRA funding allowed GAFI to apply for match funding from US Fish & Wildlife, WSPA and UN

GAFI In Borneo

Current range of orangutans in Borneo

GAFI and the Borneo Orangutan Society agreed to work in the Central Kalimantan region (Palangkaraya). Two roadshows were scheduled with a total audience of 2000 viewers. The area was selected on the basis of a high incidence of forest conversion to palm oil and smuggling for pet trade centred around 10 large communities.

GAFI supported the creation and distribution of a bespoke film which aimed to train plantation workers how to manage orangutans who entered their plantation. The film had been requested and funded by BOS and was filmed by Cockroach Productions.

Screenings were created in response to the local requests for help with their orangutan issues. Special screenings for palm oil workers took place on Borneo on a number of plantations. This is an area of particular importance for human- orangutan conflict.

GAFI in Sumatra

Current range of orangutans in Sumatra

In 2005 The Sumatran Orangutan Society-Orangutan Information Centre (SOS-OIC) implemented an environmental awareness campaign road show using the conservation documentary “Losing Tomorrow” as part of its education division programme in North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Three roadshows were achieved in Sumatra in South Tapanuli and Langkat. GAFI gave a presentation at Environmental Conference and Summit in Sumatra, revealing how GAFI can assist educational and outreach projects with NGO’s in the field.

Thanks to funding from the USFWS GAFI was able to work once again with SOS to run another affective roadshow.

  • GAFI together with the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) and numerous other local NGO’s (Natural Resource Conservation Office of North Sumatra, Komunikasi Kader Konservasi Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (Communication Forum on Indonesian Environmental Conservation), Conservation International Indonesia (CII)) facilitated a very successful roadshow in Sumtra in 2007.
  • The roadshow was implemented by the SOS-OIC education and awareness team, with the principal activities including film screenings and interactive focus group discussions about threats to orangutan populations resulting from forest conversion to monoculture agricultural plantations.
  • An exhibition on orangutans and forest conversion issues was also run alongside the other activities, to help disseminate key messages to the local people.
  • GAFI-SOS roadshow was well-received by the communities visited, and 269 people participated in the screening events. Results from the roadshow indicated that this kind of outreach activity could help people understand more about current environmental issues, and is expected to increase the community’s awareness of the importance of conservation. Participants found the films and discussions to be a useful format for the presentation of environmental messages.
  • The great majority of participants suggested that the team should continue the film screening activities to reach other sections of society (e.g. schools, private and governmental offices, institutions and communities). They expressed a wish for the government to take immediate serious action to eradicate illegal logging, enforce laws and regulations, and to construct conservation posts and forest monitoring facilities to enable communities to get involved in conservation efforts.

Click here to download our previous report
Click here for the latest SOS-GAFI report

Success in Sumatra

In 2005, GAFI took Patrick Rouxel’s film ‘Losing Tomorrow’ on road shows throughout SE Asia to create awareness of deforestation, palm oil plantations and support local solutions. One local community was so strongly affected by the content of a GAFI film on deforestation and the economic effect on the local communities, that they requested GAFI’s assistance to create their own film (entitled ‘Dear Mr. President’) to present their conservation concerns directly to their President. President Susilo of Indonesia received the film which contributed towards encouraging a Conservation Strategy for Forestry and Orangutans which the President presented at the Climate Change Conference in Bali.

GAFI Partners in Asia

  • Sumatran Orangutan Society. GAFI donated a pedal powered cinema to SOS to support its outreach and education programmes.
  • Yiari International Animal Rescue Centre. Indonesia . GAFI donated a pedal powered cinema to enable it to educate a number of different target audiences.
  • SOCP
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service

In addition local partners include

  • Natural Resource Conservation Office of North Sumatra.
  • Komunikasi Kader Konservasi Lingkungan Hidup.
  • Conservation International Indonesia (CII))

Who Else Is Helping?


IUCN – Bornean Orangutan
IUCN – Sumatran Orangutan
Primate Info Net
Orangutan Foundation International
WCMC Species Sheet