Remarks by Ambassador Blake at World Orangutan Day Event, Jakarta

Selamat sore!  Thank you all for taking the time to gather @america today and show your support for World Orangutan Day.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank our partners for this event – the World Wildlife Fund and Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.  Without the passion, dedication, and hard work of your organizations, the future of the majestic orangutan would be very much in doubt.

I had the honor to visit BOSF’s operation near Balikpapan to see the important work they are doing.

A special welcome to our speakers today:
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) representative Jamartin Sihite,
Boston University Professor Cheryl Knott who is based in Kalimantan,
Chairul Saleh of WWF and Maha Adi, the Executive Director of the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists who will be our moderator.

The orangutan is one of Indonesia’s and the world’s most iconic species.  Yet the future of the orangutan is under threat.  Deforestation, hunting, and human settlement expansion all have caused their natural habitat to shrink drastically.

The orangutan has an inseparable link with the forest; we can’t talk about saving orangutans without talking about saving the forest.

My government recognizes this link and we’ve been working hard in Aceh and Kalimantan for years to slow the devastating impacts of clearcutting on forests and protect remaining habitat for the orangutan and other species.

In 2010 AID started our $41million Indonesia Forest and Climate Support program to protect forests and work with local and indigenous communities who live on the edges of these forests to develop more sustainable livelihoods for them.

We are now starting a new $47M follow-on program called LESTARI to continue this important work.

In addition, the USG forgave over $70million in two debt for nature swaps we co-manage with the Government of Indonesia and international NGOs, including WWF, to conserve orangutan-rich forest habitats in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

I’m proud to announce that the USG has invested approximately $28 million to date on the conservation of more than 3.3 million hectares – an area the size of the country of Belgium – of the tropical rainforest orangutans need to survive.  A portion of our resources directly supports the conservation efforts of WWF and BOSF.

Our purpose in gathering together here today is to raise awareness of this issue and talk about ways that we can work together to help preserve the forest and thereby the orangutans that call the forest home.

Over the past month many of you, and thousands of people throughout Indonesia, have participated in a meme contest, coming up with witty captions for three captivating photos of orangutans provided by our friends at WWF.

Some of the captions you’ve come up with for these photos are humorous, some are sarcastic, and others include a call to action.

Nine finalists have been selected.  Many of them are here today.  I applaud your creativity and your commitment to helping raise awareness on the plight of the orangutan and need to preserve the forest.

For the audience, there’s also a photo booth where you can get your picture taken w/ the cutout of an orangutan.  Don’t forget to tag your photo using the hashtag #4orangutan.

The buzz generated online by this effort has created momentum.  Now we need to keep that going to educate more and more people about what’s going on and what we all can do to help.

The winner of the meme contest, which I will announce shortly, will travel to Kalimantan to see for themselves these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, and learn more about the challenges that lie ahead.

I hope that when the winner comes back they can share with us and others what they’ve seen first-hand and learned, to keep this momentum going as we work together to help preserve the forest and save the orangutans.

Thank you.

As Prepared.