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When they’re gone, they’re gone

There are only 14,600 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.

Sumatra, Indonesia. One of the largest islands in the world and home to the Leuser Ecosystem where over 500 different species co-exist, including the orangutan. Dense rainforest, lowland, mountain and alpine ecosystems all form part of this critically important region that’s disappearing at the hands of palm oil plantations, illegal logging and destructive farming practices.

Sumatra has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and is the only place where tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans live side by side. Its rainforests are vital to hundreds of species of mammal and bird, as well as millions of people who depend on it for their food, water and livelihoods. That’s why conservation organizations the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) and the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) have teamed up with Lush to try to turn back the clock on deforestation.

For over half a century, Indonesia was logged illegally. Forests, which once amounted to 162 million hectares, were felled until they were just a fraction of their original size. Today, they continue to be destroyed at one of the fastest rates in the world—a staggering 80,316 hectares of forest were lost in just the five years between 2008 and 2013. This relentless destruction of Sumatra’s rainforests has pushed the Sumatran orangutan to the edge of extinction, and the species is now classified as critically endangered.

Director of SOS, Helen Buckland, explains what this means for orangutans. She says, “At the start of November, the discovery of a new species of orangutan was announced in Sumatra, so now we have the Sumatran orangutan and the Tapanuli orangutan. Both are critically endangered.

“The loss of their habitat is the ultimate threat we need to tackle to ensure the survival of orangutans. Sumatra’s forests have been falling relentlessly for decades, pushing orangutans and many other species to the edge of extinction.”

Despite the devastating impact on wildlife, forests are still being destroyed at an alarming rate, with more and more land being lost to agricultural plantations and illegal logging.

For orangutans and the hundreds of species that call the rainforest home to survive, something needs to be done to preserve and reforest their native habitats. The good news is that progress has already been made. It’s been proven that with the right agricultural techniques and education the forest can grow back—and with it the native wildlife can repopulate and prosper.

Buckland remembers the first time she experienced the impact reforestation can have. “When I first visited what is now our flagship forest restoration site, I was faced with rows and rows of oil palms inside the border of the national park. The soil was dry and cracked, and there was absolute silence, not even bird song. I planted a rainforest tree seedling in that barren soil and hoped that it would survive.

“Just two years later, I went back to the spot where I had planted that tree. I heard gibbons and birds singing and heard from the team about a herd of elephants that had passed through the previous day. That, right there, was conservation in action! Not long after that the team spotted the first wild orangutan to return to the area.

“It takes a long time to grow a rainforest, but it’s incredible how quickly the restoration sites can once again become valuable habitat for orangutans and so many other species. Within 3-4 years, nature takes over, and wildlife starts to return long before that.”

To help support SOS and OIC in their goal to rewild the deforested areas of Sumatra, Lush headquarters around the world have pledged to contribute to the purchase of a plot of deforested land on the border of the rainforest in Cinta Raja, Sumatra. The land is currently barren of native wildlife, but with a bit of love and expertise will be turned back to a thriving rainforest habitat within a few years.

So how can you help?

Introducing Orangutan Soap: a limited-edition patchouli and orange-scented delight that will help fund this vital reforestation project. We’ve created 14,600 Orangutan sudsers with the purchase price (minus tax) going to the Orangutan Information Centre to support the purchase of a palm plantation in Indonesia and restore it back to native forest.

The base of Orangutan Soap is palm-free and made with extra virgin coconut oil from Nias, Sumatra. The soaps will be available online on our websites on February 15.

On top of that, our long time philanthropic fundraiser, Charity Pot Body Lotion, has supported four groups that are also working to prevent environmental destruction, fighting climate change and protecting wildlife in Indonesia..

These groups include: Friends of Borneo, promoting biodiversity through community-based conservation programs in Southeast Asia; Yayasan Hutanriau, dedicated to growing the farmer movement to fight climate change and saving Sumatran wildlife through agroforestry; Darwin Animal Doctors, protecting nature through education, community engagement, and directly saving animals and habitats; and Wildlife Protection Solutions, safeguarding orangutans and rainforests with anti-poaching technology in Sumatra. 100% of the purchase price of Charity Pot (minus taxes) goes toward grassroots groups like these, and many more.