Date of birth:
Place of birth:
BSc Zoology University of Nottingham 1996 PhD University of Cambridge
Organisation you work for:
The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project / The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
Borneo Nature Foundation/The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
How did you get into the work you do presently?
Always fascinated by wildlife and travelling as a kid, studied Zoology at Nottingham, where one of my lecturers had a summer project in Borneo, mainly botanical work. I had always wanted to go to Borneo, so joined up in '95, and whilst there got bored by trees and decided to survey orangutans with my (now) wife. When we analysed the survey results it turned out that we had discovered the largest population of orangutans in the world – in the Sabangau Forest. As a result several organisations gave us money to go back and do more research, leading to us setting up The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project in 1999, partnering with the Indonesian conservation organization CIMTROP and taking over the running of the old Nottingham University basecamp.
After several years of small expeditions, grant-begging and temp jobs in the UK, we advertised for volunteers in 2001, which gave us the capital needed to expand, went full-time in 2003, helped to protect much of the forest as a National Park in late-2004.
Describe the main aspects of your work:
Busy, varied and unpredictable. A combination of meetings with colleagues, partners and government officials; writing reports, workplans, proposals and a lot of e-mails, and sorting out the OuTrop accounts once a month. I usually get a couple of days a week to visit Sabangau base camp in order to check on progress there and get my feet wet, plus taking my daughter to and from school! The best parts are when I need to go the deepest reaches of Borneo for surveys, 2-3 weeks away from it all, no phone, no e-mail, just jungle.
What do you like best about your job?
Currently, the knowledge that we are making progress and no longer fighting the tide in Sabangau or at Nyaru Menteng. Conservation prospects for the orangutan are not rosy everywhere, but there are now places where the outlook is positive.