For many of us, home is where comfort, love and shelter lies. For the orang-utans, the trees are their home and the sole essence of their livelihood. It serves not only as a place to bed-down every night, but also as a key source of food. Given the ever-accelerating destruction of the forest which represents their natural habitat, it is crucial for mankind to act now and lend a hand towards restoring the orang-utan home and save them from extinction.
This is the sole aim of BOH's Tea for Trees. Initiated by BOH Plantations Sdn Bhd (BOH) in partnership with WWF-Malaysia, 'Tea for Trees – Restoring the Home of Orang-utans,' is BOH's corporate responsibility effort to spread the message of orang-utan conservation and to encourage the public to play a small but active role in the conservation efforts of this endangered species.
Speaking at the launch of Tea for Trees, Ms Caroline Russell, CEO of BOH Plantations Sdn Bhd said, "BOH has and always will be a fervent supporter of wildlife and environmental conservation. Tea for Trees is one of the initiatives under our New Hope for Orang-utan programme that was conceptualised to restore the home of orang-utans by connecting forest fragments and raise the level of understanding on the plight of the orang-utan amongst the public."
Held for the second consecutive year at The Curve from 3 to 4 October, Tea for Trees drew strong support from shoppers, students and environment enthusiasts. This year Tea for Trees hinged on encouraging the public to restore an identified plot of degraded land in Kinabatangan. Supporters gladly contributed towards the cause by purchasing a BOH adoption pack in exchange for a tree for replanting in a degraded forest spot. The 'adopters' were given the opportunity to symbolically plant their trees by placing a tree-pin on the map of the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life to signify a planted tree.
Ms Russell said, "When we first launched Tea for Trees last year, a total of 700 trees were adopted and the proceeds were channeled to BOH-WWF's joint Habitat Restoration Project (HABITAT) in Kampung Bilit, Sabah. This year, we are taking Tea for Trees one notch up by aiming to restore an identified plot of degraded land in Kinabatangan, while creating more buzz about the issues surrounding the orang-utan through ground-level educational activities with the public."
Statistics indicate that by the early 1990s, the orang-utan habitat dropped by at least 80%. Currently, there are approximately 12,300 Bornean orang-utans alive. If the threats to the orang-utans are not addressed, experts predict that localised extinctions of this great ape may occur especially where forests are totally converted to other land uses.
Dato' Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma, Executive Director/ CEO of WWF-Malaysia said, "WWF-Malaysia would like to thank BOH Plantations Sdn Bhd for their generous support of our orang-utan conservation and reforestation work since 2005. Such efforts are important and urgent as orang-utans are a crucial part of Malaysia's natural and cultural heritage, and they play a vital role in keeping forest ecosystems healthy.
"Orang-utans are also a valuable asset to the eco-tourism industry. We cannot afford to lose wildlife like orang-utans or their forest home. Without these key attractions, Kinabatangan's ecotourism revenue would decline, as would the livelihoods of local communities. Moreover, by involving local communities in conservation work such as forest restoration, we are also improving their quality of life," added Dato' Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma.
Another feature at Tea for Trees '09 was the announcement of winners of the 'New Hope for Orang-utanSchool Programme,' a school youth awareness campaign initiated by BOH, WWF-Malaysia and TV9 and endorsed by the Ministry of Education.
Launched in July 2009, the programme sought to empower youths with a 'voice' for orang-utan conservation. Students were tasked with spreading the message of orang-utan conservation among their community or peers through various on-ground activities. A unique element of this contest required students to utilise blogs as a medium to creatively express the activities of their awareness campaign.
Ms Russell said, "We were astounded by the sheer quality of work done by these students aged between 14 and 17. The creativity and imagination of the blog entries, the exuberance and passion that the teams have shown by implementing amazing grassroots campaigns are a testament that each of us can play our part in saving these endangered species."
Dato' Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma said, "It was our pleasure to work with BOH and TV9 on the New Hope for Orang-utan School Programme, and WWF-Malaysia thanks the Ministry of Education for endorsing this programme aimed at empowering youths with a "voice" for orang-utan conservation. WWF-Malaysia congratulates the winners and thanks all the participants who poured so much effort and creativity in helping to raise awareness on the importance of orang-utan conservation."
Out of the 65 blogs submitted, 10 blogs were shortlisted for public voting. The seven consolation prize winners received a certificate and a cash prize of RM 100 from BOH. The third place team walked away with RM 1,700 cash prize and a plaque, while the second place team earned RM 3,000 cash prize and a plaque. The winning team earned the coveted prize of RM 5,600 cash prize, a plaque and a trip to Kinabatangan, Sabah to have a first-hand experience of orang-utan conversation efforts in that region.
For those interested to learn about Tea for Trees or be a supporter of the cause, may log on to www.orangutan.com.my or join the New Hope for Orang-utan Facebook fan page.
Let's collectively lend a hand to give our iconic orang-utans renewed HOPE!