Conservation through Commitment

Interview with Adam Phillipson, the Great Apes Program Officer at the Arcus Foundation, who visited our partner ASRI in May.

Tell us about Arcus. What is your role with the Foundation?

The Arcus Foundation is a leading global foundation dedicated to the idea that people can live in harmony with one another and the natural world. We believe that respect for diversity among peoples and in nature is essential to a positive future for our planet and all its inhabitants. We work with experts and advocates for change to ensure that LGBT people and our fellow apes thrive in a world where social and environmental justice are a reality. The overall goal of the Arcus Great Ape Program is to achieve conservation and respect for great apes and gibbons. The program focuses most of its work on apes living in the wild in range states, strategically directing resources to “landscapes” where it has been determined that effective funding can help mitigate threats to the apes and their habitats. In addition, the program supports efforts to ensure the survival and optimal level of care for apes in captivity, including the appropriate methods for release back into the wild where that is feasible. The program’s strategy is comprised of three primary goals: (1) reconciling conservation and development; (2) building an effective movement to address current and emerging threats; and (3) respecting the rights and values of apes so that their exploitation is diminished and they are provided appropriate care.

Visiting Pak Syarif Supian and Bu Karyawati, who have a chicken rearing and organic garden as part of the Chainsaw Buyback entrepreneurship program (with Agus, ASRI's Economist, and Ibu Setiawati, the Goats for Widows coordinator).

Arcus funds a lot of orangutan (and gibbon) conservation work in Borneo and Sumatra. In a nutshell, what do you think is one of the biggest challenges to orangutan conservation?

We differentiate between site-based threats such as habitat loss and hunting, and broader concerns such as large-scale economic development (infrastructure, logging, industrial agriculture, extractive industries, etc), the lack of political will and resources for conservation, and inadequate conservation programming. All of these are an issue for orangutan conservation in Indonesia, although it would be wise to add climate change to the list, too.


What inspires you to fund HIH and ASRI?

Arcus has been funding HIH and ASRI for a number of years now. We have been drawn to your innovative approach to conservation, and specifically the novel way you have found to engage local communities, the most important people in the fight to protect resources for the future.


You recently visited ASRI - can you tell us your impressions of the trip?

I was really impressed with the scope of the work I saw. It was clear that the provision of quality health care incentives are achieving hugely positive impacts, and that building strong relationships in local communities is making the provision of environmental education easier to transmit. And I thought the new hospital and gardens were fantastic!

Discussions and lunch with Forest Guardians - Pak Jamsi of Tanjung Banjar subvillage, Pak Jono of Begasing subvillage

Anything else you'd like to add about your trip or the goals of orangutan conservation and a more harmonious world.

Simply that we look forward to seeing HIH and ASRI grow, your model replicated elsewhere, and hope that your health-based approach to conservation continues to succeed.


Arcus has been an incredibly generous supporter of Health In Harmony and ASRI for the last 7 years - supporting a variety of programs - from hospital construction to organic farming and reforestation - because they recognize the intrinsic link between the health of people and the health of great apes. Thank you, Arcus!


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