Competition to star in 3D movie – Project Borneo 3D

7 02 2011

The search is on for 10 people to star in a new 3D movie and at the same time help save the planet!

Virgo Productions an award-winning, boutique screen industries company has just launched their competition that is open to people aged between 18-35 years old. They are searching the globe to find 10 project managers who will be the eyes, voice and ears of the project.

Project Borneo 3D is a project led by Microsoft and TakingITGlobal, the largest not-for-profit social network in the world. The project is also working with Dr. Willie Smitts and Orangutan Outreach.

Millions of young people will join forces to tackle the biggest challenge facing our planet – stopping deforestation. The ten chosen applicants will travel to Borneo and live in a Dayak long house for five months and take action to save the forest and the orangutans. They will connect online with millions of young people across the globe. And they will be the subjects of a 3D movie.

The movie is being developed by Virgo Products who specialise in feature documentaries that tell inspiring, positive, global stories with cross-platform delivery to engage audiences world-wide through cinema, television, online, mobile and DVD release.
Burning Season is one of their famous films : an eco-thriller – about a young Australian entrepreneur, who believes there’s money to be made from protecting rainforests in Indonesia, saving the orangutan from extinction and making a real impact on climate change.

Interested? To apply submit a 90 second clip with the following information:

• Your name and where you are from
• What deforestation means to you?
• Why you want to save forests and orangutans
• What you’ve done in the past to protect the environment
• Why you want to be in a 3D movie
• Must include the URL –

Your clip needs to be creative, interesting and dynamic. The most voted clip will earn a place in the top 20. The more hits, interest, votes and media coverage you create around your clip, the stronger your chance to be selected!!

Who are Virgo Productions looking for?

• Young people aged between 18 and 35
• Able to speak English
• A passion for saving forests and endangered wildlife
• Some past experience in protecting the environment or helping animals
• A spirit of adventure


To submit your recruitment clip

Upload to YouTube with title (YOUR NAME, Action Agent).
Then go to the DeforestACTION website and you’ll need to login or register.
You can also sign up to TIG using your Facebook/Windows Live/MySpace IDs!!
Once logged in, you can submit your video by clicking the ‘submit to contest’ link on the right had side of the page. Then click on ‘import from YouTube’ in the Global Gallery section and follow the instructions.

Entries close 5pm, 18th of March 2011.

Check out one of Virgo Productions press releases for more details.

Good luck!!


Christmas with Sepilok Orang utans

5 01 2011

A personal account of my family’s visit to Sepilok
December 2010

My father lived and worked in Borneo and often told us stories of the majestic and shy “men of the forest” that he had the good fortune to observe during his time there. Orang utan- the name derived for these wonderful red apes – from the Malay Orang Hutan – men of the forest. My father worked there in 1964, coincidentally the same year that the famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) opened.

The Sanctuary was opened in 4,500 hectares of virgin jungle (40 minutes/25 km north from Sandakan, Sabah, East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo) to help orphaned baby orang utans who lost their mothers due to logging, plantations and illegal hunting. The objective was to return them back to the wild as soon as they were trained to cope. Baby orang utans typically stay with their mothers until they are 7 or 8 years old. If separation occurs before this age, the baby orang utan is completely helpless, and thus is totally dependent on centres such as Sepilok for survival. Without the care, training and guidance that this centre offers orphans, the future for them is bleak and death the most likely outcome.

Background to orang utans past, present and future

SORC is now one of the most popular places in the world to see Asia’s great ape, the Orang utan (Pongo Pygmaeus) in its native habitat. It is rated as the second “must see” in Malaysia after Mt Kinabalu, also in Sabah. At the beginning of the 20th century orang utans in Borneo numbered over 315,000 – today their numbers are fast dwindling. In 2006 numbers had already fallen to 45,000 and I was shocked to learn during our visit to the famous Sepilok centre in December 2010 that numbers may have been cut further – read below for more details. Their cousin Sumatran orang utans (species: Pongo Abelii) – the slightly redder apes in Sumatra – face an even bleaker situation with numbers only amounting to around 4000. For them, extinction in the wild is most likely in the next 5 years. Meanwhile, in Malaysia deforestation rates between 1999 and 2005 rose some 86% according to conservation sources with 149,200 hectares lost annually since 2000. This is indeed a serious issue for conservation and preservation of this special species.

As more and more of the Borneo landscape is being changed from its’ own rich vibrant diverse rainforest to acres and acres of palm oil plantations, the lost habitat is spelling out the long-term demise of these and other animals, plants and homes for the indigenous people who live there.

It was after the birth of my twin sons in the early 2000’s that I found time to research and find out more about my beloved orang utans. Thanks to the internet, information, research papers and work being conducted by charities was easily accessible. I was horrified to learn that due to the reasons listed above, the numbers of orang utans in the wild was rapidly falling. Back in 2005 experts were estimating that if no action was taken to help the orang utans, they would be extinct in the wild by 2012. It was then that I decided I would, in a very small way, try to make a difference. Clearly it is the governments who need to set policy to assist by setting guidelines on land use, allocating and protecting virgin rainforest etc. It is also businesses that need to act more environmentally responsible and as well society at large to respond accordingly. Nevertheless, the work that many charities are doing to help protect and aid these endearing primates (who share 96.5% to human genes) are certainly helping to make a difference via the various rehabilitation, land purchase and release programmes.
If we want our children and grandchildren to have the pleasure to still observe these delightful redheads in the wild, we need to take action today. I therefore set about to create awareness and education of the young via early learning stories aimed at under 7 years old and more informative stories packed with facts and stats aimed at 8 years old +. I also started to spread the word and I’m working to encourage as many schools as possible to include information with their rainforest education programs to ensure that today’s young people are informed on the plight of the orang utans. Better still, one hopes the young will feel empowered to work with governments, business and charities to safeguard the future, for those that will remain in the wild.

Indonesian and Malaysian Palm Oil Production

Another issue facing Borneo and the orang utans future is palm oil. There is serious concern that not all palm oil production is sustainable, with issues relating to biodiversity, soil degradation, local people, land rights and many other matters. Development of new plantations has resulted in the conversion of large areas of forests with high conservation value and has threatened the rich biodiversity in these ecosystems.

In particular orangutan habitats have been threatened by palm oil production. Scientists say the palm oil industry is the biggest threat to orangutans, with the species driven to extinction within 12 years unless the devastation of their natural habitat is halted.
Some environmental campaigners claim that in 15 years, 98% of the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone unless drastic action is taken to find ways of producing sustainable palm oil. The expansion of oil palm plantations has also given rise to social conflicts between the local communities and project proponents in many instances.

Palm oil plantation, Sabah

As a result, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2003 to tackle these problems head on. GreenPalm, which has been exclusively endorsed by the RSPO, is already making a significant contribution. GreenPalm is a certificate trading programme which is designed to tackle the environmental and social problems created by the production of palm oil.

By buying a product which bears the GreenPalm logo, consumers can make a positive contribution to the production of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel oil (CSPKO).

New RSPO logo

On that note, to celebrate my half century, I felt compelled to visit Borneo, in the hope to see first hand the beautiful orang utans in the wild (before it was too late) and to visit Sepilok to learn more about their important work. As my sons had adopted two of the Sepilok babies: Michelle and Ceria we had an added incentive to visit.

Overview on trip to Sungai Kinabatangan River

Ahead of visiting we Sepilok we decide to take a day to cruise along the Sungai Kinabatangan river – the longest river in Sabah. We were rewarded by being able to see crocodiles, various snakes, many proboscis monkeys, long tailed and pig tailed macaques, wild pigs, and a wide range of birds including hornbill, storks, snake birds and eagles. We marvelled at the colourful butterflies that fluttered around but sadly no orang utans were spotted in the tree tops. Certainly elusive and difficult to observe in the wild, but becoming a rare treat as they systemically lose their habitat each year. A friend had visited in December 2009 and lucked out by spotting one orangutan during her cruise.

The Sepilok experience

Sandra Arthur at Sepilok

The next day we negotiated with a local taxi to take us to both Sepilok and the nearby Labuk Bay Proboscis monkey sanctuary. We headed north out of Sandakan toward the centre, nestled in 40 sq km of the Kabili-Sepilok rainforest reserve. My heart sank seeing the miles and miles of palm oil plantations travelling towards the centre and sanctuary. Thank heavens that Sabah set up this protected reserve back in the 1960’s. As we arrived at the centre I was surprised how immaculate the grounds were – with beautiful gardens edging the modern, well-kept buildings – it felt as if you were arriving at a hotel rather than a nature reserve. Nevertheless, we hurriedly said farewell to our taxi driver and ran, yes ran, to the centre to find the ticket office. Arriving at 9 am just as the centre opened, we hoped to have the ability to approach the feeding platform early, in the hope to experience an early sighting ahead of the crowds. Sadly we were not the only people with the same idea! I had been in contact with the UK orang-utan appeal and had learnt that one of their representatives would be at the centre. We enquired at the reception desk if Liz Winterton, from the Appeal was available, and were surprised to hear her voice shout yes from the other side of the ticketing area!

Liz Winterton greets visitors

With tickets in hand we went over to meet Liz who was already on duty with her information stand – promoting adoptions of available babies at Sepilok (together with photos and information), and an information board summarizing some of the projects the Appeal have done with Sepilok during the past year (Vet staffing, transportation, cages for the sick or newly arrived orphans etc). Liz promised to join us later at the feeding platform to help us identify any visitors! We were instructed to place all our bags and belongings in the nearby lockers. Some things are strictly not allowed – ie drinks, and insect spray as these pose very real dangers to the wild animals (an orang-utan has chocked to death after getting a water bottle cap stuck in its throat). We were informed that an inquisitive primate could steal even hats, glasses, and bags. With cameras firmly secured to our bodies we strode towards the rainforest walkway.

We head out into the humid jungle boardwalk and embrace the beautiful sight of ancient trees. The forest is clearly hundreds of years old – the canopy of the tall trees provides much needed shelter from the sun. Much taller than the trees that lined the riverbanks yesterday. Ferns grow in the dappled shade, clinging on to sides of damp tree limbs. Thick moss thrives on the north faces of fruit trees and the smell of the muddy water from the forest floor is evident. We are surprised to also identify the smell of primates not far away in the trees – a wet musky pungent odour. We wonder how we must smell to them.

We were grateful to easily make our way through the hot, sticky rainforest on the elevated wooden boardwalk. There had been a huge thunderstorm the night before and we could see how waterlogged and muddy the ground below was. We are instantly enrobed with the sounds and calls of the forest. My children claim to immediately hear the kissing cry of the orang utans (experts at 7 years old thanks to many hours watching the BBC’s Orang-utans Diaries). Bird whistles, screaming gibbons and tree branch and leaf rustles create an element of interest and potential danger. The humidity is intense – sweat drips down your face and the sensation is that of being in a sauna. Clothed in a long sleeve shirt – to avoid the risk of leeches attaching to you, which was a real threat – increased my temperature and discomfort. The ease and speed at which you can march 250 m to the feeding platform in “wild” rainforest eliminates the real danger of experiencing trekking in knee high mud and watching out for snakes.

Nevertheless, the laissez faire approach quickly evaporates when we come face to face with hungry Macaques on our path. A park ranger quickly appears and warns people not to stare or have eye contact, not to touch it or attempt to feed it. I rush to pull my son away as he stares at the inquisitive primate. Meanwhile, people walking ahead of us, come head to head with an aggressive male macaques. There is banging and vocal exchanges as they quickly run for safety. The rangers warnings were no joke.

Cheeky monkey

We quickly back away and find a safe spot on the feeding platform – reminding the children this is not a zoo but the wild! We are about 25 minutes ahead of the official feeding time.

Nevertheless we decide to remain and safeguard our good location. We observe blue-black and other colour butterflies flying and settling around. A group of very noisy long tailed Macaques and other monkeys arrive and check out the platform for any left over scraps. One would think they have their own watches to alert them to the feeding time that was due. As the feeding hour approaches, more and more people arrive and finally the platform is crowded with hot, sweaty tourists all waiting in anticipation – cameras/camera phones and video a ready. What a mysterious sight for the wild animals to observe. “Who is really watching who?”crossed my mind as we waited in anticipation of a great ape.

Orang utans on deck

Sepilok Feeding Time

At 10 am the rangers arrives with buckets of food and a troupe of hungry monkeys arrive on the scene. The rangers push and persuade this cheeky group to leave – after all the food was for the orang utans – they could have any remaining leftovers. There is always a second feeding at 3 pm for those orang utan who miss the morning session. Clearly the monkeys know the routine and swing away to wait their turn. Suddenly as if on queue we hear loud rustling of leaves in the trees. We hold our breath – yes a blur of red hair can be seen in the distance. Our long wait is rewarded. We are lucky today – despite the early rain and plentiful fruit in the forest, a mother orang-utan and her youngster can be seen swinging to towards the feeding platform. The orang utans use the vine rope that has been secured between trees and the feeding platform to arrive. They move effortlessly, swinging hand-to-hand, like circus acrobats. The cameras click as stellar photo opportunities are presented. I note that everyone is smiling, staring, pointing at the proficient trapeze-artist movements.

The pair arrive on the platform and inspect today’s offerings. We have been informed that the choice of food is always the same to ensure it is boring to the orang utans – today’s delivery appeared to be bananas and sugar cane tubes. The idea is that by having a limited choice they will be encouraged to forage in the forest for different fruits to supplement their diet. Orang utans are known to eat up to 500 different types of fruit, leaves, and insects. Clearly nursing mothers, who may be having difficulty finding sufficient food, can use this service to supplement their efforts.

These shy and bashful but highly intelligent creatures are clearly uncomfortable at the spectacle they find themselves in. You can sense the mother is aware of the crowds but does not want to be watched. She places food in every hand and foot – looking like a greedy child- and she turns her back on the crowd. Liz from the UK Orangutan Appeal joins us at this moment and explains that the mother is Mimi, a 17 year old adult orang utan, together with her 6 year old son, Rony born at Sepilok in 2004. Mimi is a regular guest at the feeding platform, especially when Rony was younger. She had a very large appetite whilst she was suckling her young baby, but continues to use the feeding platform service to supplement her own foraging efforts.

Mimi grabs breakfast

She explains that whilst there are over 150 orang utans who have been released at Sepilok, only 6-10 orang utans currently visit the platform at feeding time. Currently 3 sets of mothers and babies have been regular visitors. Due to the rainstorm that had occurred in the early hours, orang utans are like humans, and don’t like to get wet. If they have found a nice dry spot, they will typically not venture far from their shelter. Orang utans have been seen using large leaves as umbrellas or making rain hats out of leaves – the most ingenious of primates! As a result for this morning’s feeding only Mimi and Rony have left their cover for breakfast. She speculates that the others may visit this afternoon, once the ground was a little dryer.

Mimi swings away, with additional food in her feet, and Rony enters the platform to select his breakfast before the hungry waiting monkeys jump back on the platform to clean up the left-overs. The waiting crowd keenly watches Rony’s eating antics. He lingers for a short while and then chases to catch up with his mother. The assembled group wait in the hope for more visitors, but a few gibbons that have now joined the feast, and no more orang utans arrive.

Exploring Sepilok’s walking trails

Slowly the crowd disperses and we continue along the boardwalk. As we had registered to take the walking trail, we step off the wooden path and head towards the muddy hiking path. There are a number of trails ranging from 250m to 4km. Guided night walks can also be arranged if you are that adventurous. We’ve been told to look out for green snakes, the blood sucking leeches as well as flying squirrels and dozens of different bird species. Thankfully for me we don’t encounter any snakes only a very large and swollen caterpillar, pretty hornbill birds and others I could not identify as well as gibbons and those cheeky macaques. The sounds of the jungle continued to embrace us and I have to admit for the first time I was beginning to feel a little frightened. After the “safe” feeling around with feeding platform, with various rangers on guard, we were quite alone in a rainforest! The sticky mud was now becoming an effort to navigate and the ever-present risk of standing on a snake was troubling me.

Sepilok walking trail

As a result, we decided to turn back and head to the centre to attend the Nature Education Video show.

Sepilok’s Information Briefing

We were pleasantly surprised to note that Liz from the Appeal was leading the briefing. After the informative video on the objectives of Sepilok she gave an overview on the work of the UK Orangutan Appeal. She alerted the visitors to the important programs that her charity help with at Sepilok and highlighted ways how people can help : Adopting a baby orang-utan, buying an Appeal Calendar, T-shirt, making a donation or for those buddy photographers at Sepilok – offering licence/copyright of their photos to the charity to use in publicity.

Latest Orang utans Statistics

The biggest shock I received was hearing her update on latest statistics. She advised that only 25,000 orang-utans were now left in the wild – I was unclear if she was only talking about Malaysia or if this also included Indonesia/Borneo. If that was a correct world status it means that another large percentage of orang-utans have been lost since 2005 when numbers were stated as being 45,000.

Our taxi driver, a local guide, told us how hard it was to really know the true number of oran utans. He had worked with a group of researchers and the way they worked to identify orang utans numbers in a given area was by counting “tree nests”. Orang utans can make up to 3 nests a day, so it was a very hit and miss way but the only method to “count” them. As orang utans are so shy and live high up in the rainforest canopy, it is almost impossible to see them and arrange an accurate evaluation on numbers – especially as they live separately over vast kilometres of impassable rainforest.

Orang utan Nursery

People were interested, as was I, as to whether you could visit the special nursery area at Sepilok where the babies such as Michelle and Ceria were receiving training before their release. Sadly this was not possible due to the risk infection being transmitted between humans and the orang-utans. Whilst this was totally understandable, it was quite something to explain to my 7 year olds that after travelling half way around the world they could not see their “adopted orang-utans”.

When the orang utans first arrive at the rehabilitation centre, they are quarantined and often need treatment for malnutrition and trauma. Injuries can include missing limbs, machete and chainsaw cuts, burns from being doused in petrol and set alight, and sometimes bite wounds from other animals. They are also tested for diseases. Each orang utan is provided with the necessary education and skills it will require in the forest if it is to survive.

It struck me afterwards that perhaps installing a webcam on the nursery space could be a solution. Anyone interested to observe the youngest at play could pay a small fee (example 1 dollar) to gain access to the viewing webcam via a password. Or an alternative could be for the park to periodically film the work they are doing and place footage online. I do hope they will consider!

Arthur family at Sepilok

Before our departure for the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary (covered in a separate report) we head over to the attractive café nestled between the trees and parking area. We enjoy a local noodle dish and meet some Australian teachers who were visiting Sepilok and adopting 3 orang utans for their classes! Good job and great news that informed youngsters are working to help!

UK Orangutan Appeal

The UK Orangutan Appeal is the only charity that is sanctioned by SORC to fund special projects on their behalf. They do not receive money directly from the charity but rather the Appeal pays and manages specific projects such as supplying the services of vet, building an enclosure at the centre. If you are interested to learn more or perhaps make a donation link to

If this account has wetted your appetite to contribute to a volunteer programme to work for 8 weeks in Malaysia at one of the orang utan centres, details and applications can be made via Travellers Worldwide

Here is what one volunteered shared: “This has been a life changing experience. One that has allowed me to see some fantastic things – the release of the 23 year old male who had been at Sepilok for 8 years, taking 8 month old orang utans to play at the lake, teaching them to climb ropes, watching the rehabilitated orang utans swing through trees in the forest. It has been too amazing to put into words.”

• An exciting, never-to-be-forgotten adventure into South East Asia and Malaysian culture.
• The enormous satisfaction of helping Orang-utans knowing that you made a difference to them.
• New skills, more confidence, a greater understanding of a different culture, invaluable personal and professional development.
• An entry on your CV or résumé that will put you head and shoulders above most others in the job market
• And best of all … an unforgettable experience!

Visit Summary

The visit to Sepilok was certainly an amazing experience. Thank you Sepilok for safeguarding this rainforest paradise and allowing us to have a glimpse into the private world of its inhabitants. Having the opportunity to be in a relatively “safe” environment that is actually “the wild” is unique. We have all grown up watching nature shows on the TV and at one time or another, perhaps dreamed of being one of those TV explorers. Sepilok gave one the chance to observe, smell and feel the atmosphere of a rainforest. Better still, we had the good fortune and blessing to see wild animals at work and play. Seeking out food, playing with their young and moving between the trees – something that typically would be impossible to experience in a hidden part the jungle, unless you were very lucky.

Orang utans are gentle, intelligent primates that speak to you through their very expressive eyes. It was easy to understand how uncomfortable the mother orang-utan felt on the feeding platform. Perhaps fearing for her young and wondering why were we there in her forest… Indeed, humans have not played straight with the forest inhabitants. They need another chance to live in peace, in their wonderful rainforest home. Everyone can play their part. We can start by supporting the use of sustainable palm oil. By encouraging your friends and indeed yourself to demand sustainable palm oil in your purchases (via lobbying manufacturers etc) we can all contribute to eliminating the loss of our precious rainforests. This will make a positive step to helping the plight of the orang utans.

Let’s hope that the further use of virgin rainforest will slow down and that sufficient land will remain for the orang utans and other animals so that orang utans can continue to thrive – simply just let them be.

Identifying suitable release sites for the orang utans is increasingly difficult with the current rate of native habitat destruction. It is a common threat that is also faced by the people living a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle – whose homes are being lost and displaced by palm oil plantations.

Sadly I fear the final outcome for this unique primate is living in much reduced numbers in the various forest reserves that will finally and hopefully be allocated to them. For the moment, I urge everyone to support the people who are helping to make a difference via the various charity work that is taking place in Borneo and Sumatra.

Sepilok – offering the orang utans orphans another chance to live in the wild.

Sandra (Chidgey) Arthur and family, Richard, Alexandre & Edouard.
Brief visitors to Sepilok December 2010.

* Copyright 2011 Photography: Sandra Arthur : Richard Arthur. All rights reserved.

Learn more about UK Orangutan Appeal via their Facebook link:-

Inspired to do some ecotourism or better still join a volunteer work effort in Borneo? Find out details on some of the programs available in 2011.

Sandra S C Arthur writes children’s books, some of which are based on environmental themes.  Here latest titles all support Orangutan charities.
Junior teen novel – with environmental facts and stats.
Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo series:
Book sales support orangutan charities.
Available in English and French language
Available in hard/soft back book AND as an ebook with audio/music.
An ideal adventure book for children under 9 years. It follows the curious story of “Radio Ron”, as he takes a journey down a rainforest river, with Borneo Dayak tribes-people. This a hilariously amusing picture book that will appeal to children, young and old. At the same time, learn interesting facts about the unique and endangered animals of Borneo (orangutans) and review parent and educator notes, at the back, for a lively reading and educational experience with your children. This book also includes games, puzzles and suggested classroom activities.
Feedback received:
“It looks and sounds truly amazing”. Isobel, France. “Great book, great story, wonderful illustrations.” Glen, Peñíscola, Spain. “I found Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo a useful book/ebook to stimulate and help me inject fun into my English classes.” Stephanie (Teacher) France. “Radio Ron – another best seller!” John, France. “Crocodile Attack! Looks and sounds amazing. The audio eBook really brings the story to life :)” Jane, UK “My students love reading this book and especially enjoy “hunting for Omar the Orangutan!” The eBook was great for homework to allow the kids to hear and listen to the story once again.” Elaine (Teacher) UK.

Social Media strides ever forward

17 06 2010

Since I wrote my article: How not to do Social Media – Orangutans 1-0 Nestle, back in March 2010, I’ve been itching to bring you an update. To serve as a quick recap, Nestlé Fan page (on Facebook) had been swamped by critics voicing concern over palm oil use, deforestation, orang utan’s lost habitat etc. Nestlé’s response was a lesson in poor social media relations.

During the past 8 weeks, Greenpeace have led a very aggressive and successful campaign – kick starting publicity with the now famous non Kit Kat advert – achieving nearly 1.5 m views, encouraging their fans to send out over 200,000 emails/phone calls (I have to lay my cards on the table and declare I was one of them) and countless FaceBook comments to keep the pressure on Nestlé executives. This all occurring on the eve of Easter, the company experienced reduced sales and share price drop. They continued pressure by featuring orang-utans at Nestlé HQ, and hijacking the AGM by dropping banners and leaflets in Switzerland.

Whilst Greenpeace were hoping for a positive reaction – Nestlé had originally back peddled by issuing a pledge to achieve sustainable palm oil by 2015 – a date by which orangutans could be extinct…

However, Greenpeace and the public at large, were surprised to received Nestlé’s comprehensive ‘zero deforestation’ policy so quickly.

They advised that they were making progress on certified palm oil and palm oil certificates even more rapidly, with 18% of our purchases covered in 2010, and expected to reach 50% by the end of 2011.

Furthermore, in a letter to Greenpeace from the Nestlé chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, he highlighted how his company will not tolerate supplies from non-sustainable sources or suppliers will face the risk of being de-listed. He also confirmed his company’s active involvement in the Roundtable in Sustainable Palm Oil, but more importantly action at the field level.

The Forest Trust (TFT) – an independent organisation – will be closely monitoring Nestlé’s progress to make sure they stick to their pledge.

This is certainly a victory for environmentalist (“Nestlé fans’ and those concerned about the orangutans) and demonstrates how social media can play an active and important role to engage and communicate between big brands and business.

Nestlé is not the only company involved in the sourcing of unsustainable palm oil and many major supermarkets and other food manufacturers are reviewing their policies before they get targeted.

Meanwhile, the destruction of the Indonesian/Malaysian rainforests continues and Greenpeace are not sitting back to bathe in their glory for too long. They have now decided to turn their attention to the financial sector and have commence a new campaign aimed at HSBC. You may ask what their role is in deforestation? The bank provides funding to Sinar Mas, a company who has a long track record to supply palm oil from unsustainable sources.

Whilst the bank’s corporate statements claim to have had “a long standing commitment to protecting the environment” they turn a blind eye to what Sinar Mas and others are doing to our world. Greenpeace wishes to let the HSBC bosses know what a devastating effect their investments are having.

Nestlé were shamed into stepping up their environmentalist support, but it would have been far better if they had taken a leadership role from the beginning. By being slow to react to the social media critics, they faced damaged and their new position is, whilst honourable, is less impressive.

Social media offers all businesses a powerful tool for use in today’s harsh climate, but ensure you have your objectives, policies and goals in place. Be ready to adapt and seize the moment to respond positively. The rules of doing business and engagement have changed. We are no longer led by the thoughts of pr/marketing folk or magazine/tv/radio editors. Social media has changed all of that. Thousands of people will reach out and comment if they don’t like what a company is doing. However, get it right and you have thousands of advocates ready to sing your praises.

HRH the Prince of Wales launches new environmental project

16 06 2010

Last week in Oslo, Heads of State and Government, ministers and other representatives from some fifty countries concluded an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. Around $4.5 billion has been pledged for the period 2010–2012 to support measures to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. The UK’s Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales gave a keynote speech at this event, where the work of the Prince’s Rainforest Project (PRP) was recogised by the heads of Government and ministers at the meeting.

The Prince’s work has indeed made a significant contribution to the successful outcome of the REDD+ finance programme and attendees at this meeting thanked him for bringing the forest agenda to the attention of world leaders.

Building on the success of PRP a brand new initiative from The Prince’s Charities Foundation Start ( is a new project designed to promote and celebrate sustainable living. For more details, go to the link where you might wish to sign up to their website.

The aim of Start is to help people in the UK take clear, positive and practical steps towards a better future. Start will do this by highlighting the very best examples of sustainable practice in the UK, and showing how we can all make positive changes right now.

The “starting” point is the website, which is growing every month and includes sections on eating, travel, recycling, saving energy, and much more. These explain the big issues simply and without jargon, and show what can be achieved.

Throughout 2010, Start will grow into an increasingly vibrant and diverse programme, which will engage people and communities right across the country. Two exciting events for September have just been announced.

First, ‘A Garden Party to make a difference’ which will see HRH The Prince of Wales joining forces with musicians, comedians, environmental experts and some of Britain’s best known companies to create a unique festival in the heart of London.

Alongside there will be the IBM summit which will convene business and industry thought leaders to discuss the next steps that should be taken to enable economic, environmental and societal sustainability.

Start’s ultimate goal is to form a growing and like-minded collective of individuals and communities that will help to shape a more sustainable future for the UK and the world at large.

Feeling inspired? Go on, give them your support.

How not to do Social Media – Orangutans 1-0 Nestle.

23 03 2010

The focus of this blog is to report on how technology is hopefully assisting to improve our lives in work and as we play – or is it? News this week has highlighted how our wonderful information highway, the internet, and the huge growth in social media needs careful management by corporations. Every corporation has been jumping on the bandwagon to open their own “FaceBook fan page” without, in same cases, not setting up clear policies of roles, rules, response guidelines, escalation policy etc. It appears that the role of setting up social media in many corporations is handed out to junior level staff, as after all, they are the Gen Y who “understand social media”…

Latest victim of the “how not to do social media” is Nestle. In case you missed it FaceBook’s Nestle Fan page has been swamped by critics voicing concern over palm oil use, deforestation, orang utan’s lost habitat etc. Nestles response was a lesson in poor social media relations. The social attack was most likely kick-started by via a Greenpeace campaign that highlighted Nestle’s use of palm oil in its chocolate products. Nevertheless, some fans on the Nestle site responded by editing the Nestle logo for their own identity. Rather than turning this into a positive, and perhaps responding by quickly staging a competition for the most creative edited logo, they responded aggressively, defensively and rudely. The Nestle response then fuelled pages of disgruntled “fan” comments.

Clearly Nestle have shot themselves in the foot. On all points they should never have embarked on a social media program without fully training staff on how to monitor, respond etc. Corporations are jumping into this arena without clearly thought out strategies on management nor recognizing that they must accept good and bad comments…

Clearly the quick fire response gave the corporation no time to consider how best to manage. A few hours of research could have informed this person on some alternative responses. Turning a negative into a positive would have been by far the best approach.

Every Nestle executive should be aware about the growing world concern over the consumption of Palm Oil. Acres of rainforest are being lost each day, as companies, cut, slash and burn to make way for more palm oil production. This is causing a huge environmental issue in Borneo/Indonesia where it is not only changing their climate but resulting in the lose of this unique habitat for orang utans and other rare species (and people who live in these forests). Orangutans and other animals/plants are thus facing extinction – in Sumatra it could be as soon as 2012-2015. A positive approach – such as other food manufacturers are choosing – is as follows.

To stop buying palm oil and using alternatives – YES, it makes the product more expensive – consumers need to understand that. But if the majority of consumers are asking a food manufacturer to change their ingredients, it is a point of consideration which could be turned into a big positive for Nestle.

Another approach, as is being led in the UK, is buying palm oil only from sustainable palm oil
corporations (example: Sainsbury’s). Palm Oil farms exist, so why not encourage those corporations to continue to grow on the SAME land and not go for the cheaper, easier option of forever using virgin land… In Australia a huge majority of school kids and parents lobbied their favourite food manufacturers to change their purchasing of palm oil. The companies listened (Nestle take note) and responded positively – a win win situation for all.

This will surely become one of the main “how not to do social media” case studies for years to come – the orangutans plight may yet still win through.

p.s Nestle have since made a public statement confirming that they are “taking all feasible steps to impact our suppliers to assure that we don’t buy palm oil which contributes to deforestation.” They furthermore add they will be buying from certified sustainable palm oil producers – good news??? Yes and no. They commit to do this by 2015 – it may be too late for the Sumatra orangutans who face extinction around that time.

National blog day for the environment

15 10 2009

My Global Event Reports could not miss today. Today is national blog day for the environment, so I’m adding my tuppence worth to the thousands of other blogs on this crucial subject and debate.

In harmony with the climate change campaign, there is a pressing need to stop the deforestation that is occurring around the world.
• Our rainforests are the world’s lungs.
• Less trees means more pollution and climate change.
• Millions of species will be lost forever
• Seventy-five percent of plants found in the rainforests contribute to medical solutions.
• Of the many endangered species one is the Orang Utan. Unless we do something today, UN scientists have stated they could be extinct by 2012.
• The orang utan population is declining because the jungle environment is burnt and logged and their food sources lost.
• Ideas to tackle the problem of rainforest destruction are being discussed by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
• It may take 10-15 years to make a real difference. By then it will be too late – that’s why we need to take action today!

OrangFruitMy particular interest is to help the island of Borneo, as within their rainforest they house some of the most rare and unique animals in the world. Their world is changing fast. Logging and timber trade as well as farming such as palm oil plantations are destroying their home while illegal hunting and animal trade is killing them. Many rainforest animals will be extinct in the next decade.

Orangutans have lost 90% of their habitat in the last 20 years. They’re an endangered species, declining at a rate of around 4,000 a year. There is a total remaining population of less than 45,000, in the wild. In Sumatra, the situation is even worse, with numbers amounting to only 7,000.

As mentioned above, illegal logging and the deliberate starting of forest fires in order to convert virgin forest to timber and palm oil plantations are the main factors responsible.

Orang utans breed more slowly than any other primate, producing a baby on average once every 7-8 years. This makes the population extra-vulnerable to loss and accelerates the decline in numbers.

Orang utans are an important species for conservation. They play an key role in the forest’s regeneration through the fruits and seeds they eat. Their disappearance, via extinction, may represent the loss of thousands of species of plants and animals within that ecosystem.

There are many charities campaigning to stop clearing the rainforest for palm oil plantations. They are also working to stop the illegal hunting and selling of baby orang utans but it is all taking time, and it may be too late for the orang utans and the other animals and people living in these forests.

This is where technology can play a vital role. Via the internet information and education can quickly be disseminated. Many charities are leading their own education in schools and also the much needed fund raising to save these animals.

I believe learning about the rainforest is now part of the existing UK and some international curriculum requirements. However, I hope any school worldwide will have an interest to consider a rainforest/orang utan project.

On a broader scale, there is a lot of teacher support material available on the various orang utan charity websites as well as the Prince’s Rainforest Trust focus at rainforest preservation. One rewarding campaign is that of raising funds to adopt an orang utan. Children at schools can help raise funds, learn about the issues facing orang utans, and then receive regular newsletters from the various charities that provide updates. The project can assist children in English (writing protest letters, developing stories, debating issues etc), Geography and ecological studies.

I hope teachers and parents will use the opportunity to extend their children’s knowledge and appreciation of the orang utans and world’s rainforests and how their future affects the future of our planet.

The world’s remaining forests are essential to the well being of the planet. The key to a healthy planet is biodiversity – saving orang utans helps to conserve the countless other amphibian, bird, mammal, reptile, insect, plant and other species that live in the rainforest.

“Future generations are depending on us. ” Prince of Wales

New kids book with environmental message to save Borneo’s animals

9 10 2009

New illustrated children’s story about an RAF “radio man” working in the jungle of Borneo that features

– Environmental facts and figures for the island of Borneo

-Information on endangered orang utans and “how to help” links

-Offer of a free pdf document for placement on your website.

This document is aimed at children and educators.Orang Utan

With all the current debate on environment / climate changes in the media,  I’ve been spending time researching the huge number of challenges we face.  I was talking to my 6 year old twin sons about the plight of the animals facing extinction risk in Borneo, and they responded by saying, “Mummy, we have to do something”. If children this young believe this is important, then I hope you will consider how you can make a difference. As I am sure you will agree, everyone can make a contribution to help the issues our world is facing today. It doesn’t matter how small that effort might be, what’s important is that we take action today.

My action over the past two years has been to write a light-hearted kid’s story, that is based in Borneo. I hope that when kids read this short novel it will ignite their interest to learn more about this unique island. Not only are regions like Borneo impacting global climate change but their people, animals and plants are battling with a multitude of issues, not least extinction.

My request is simple. Can you please arrange to place this document on your website, perhaps under a “kids section”. Or feature it on your blog. Or pass on to your kid’s teachers. The document has been written and is aimed at children aged 7 years and above and their parents/teachers. I’m currently sharing this information with a number of interested parties and the wider we can secure distribution the more chance of awareness and action. I’m also working with local schools to encourage them to use this document to spearhead “adopt an organ utan” programs in their schools. In addition, I have written a couple of short stories “Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo” aimed at the under 7 years age group. These stories will be added on YouTube with music and audio to assist young children to read. Again, this series can also be made available to you for placement on your website.  The document is being translated into other languages (in progress: Italian, French, Danish) – would be delighted to receive offers of free translation into other languages.RAF Helicopter

The issues facing the island of Borneo are real. Unless we can lobby governments to change deforestation policy, outlaw hunting/selling of animals and prosecute their buyers, persuade businesses to reduce the palm oil farms and stop the logging/burning that occurs the future of all the rare beautiful animals and plants on the island of Borneo will be bleak.

If you care about these problems, please consider to help spread the word and use my free material to assist in this important promotional work.

I thank you, and the orang utans and their island will thank you!