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Borneo Conservation

Healthy villagers, goats and cattle. Saving habitat and orangutans in Borneo.

Seneca Park Zoo leads a prestigious few nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) embracing the concept that human, wildlife and habitat health intersect in a One Health Initiative. A primary focus on meeting people's needs and understanding their land use choices, especially in resource poor countries, highlights opportunities to identify career alternatives to for example illegal logging as well as create health and wealth. 

Seneca Park Zoo supports Health In Harmony, a nonprofit organization whose mantra is "Saving Forest with a Stethoscope." Health in Harmony manages a human health clinic (ASRI Klinik) in Sukadana, Indonesian Borneo adjacent to the 223,000-acre Gunung Palung National Park (home to 2,500, or 10%, of the world’s last remaining wild Bornean orangutans.) The ASRI  Klinik offers affordable, high-quality health care using non-cash payments (such as composted manure or reforestation pledges) delivered to 30 villages demonstrating forest-friendly practices such as absence of illegal logging.

Seneca Park Zoo's American Association of Zoo Keepers Chapter (AAZK) has sent our Zoo's veterinarians, a University of Rochester M.D. resident and the University of Rochester International Medicine fellow  to enhance existing programs, all designed to ultimately save orangutans and their forests. During the summer of 2013, University of Rochester's Nick Aloisio M.D. mentored Indonesian physicians on best practices in Western medicine while at the same time learning traditional approaches to treating tropical disease.  Dr. Valerie Lou, the Univeristy of Rochester International Medicine fellow, journeyed to Borneo to mentor villager health care in ASRI Klinik in conjunction with impactful orangutan forest conservation programs. In the five years of ASRI's operation, key health indicators have improved, in some cases, dramatically, with greater access to affordable, high-quality health care as well as patient education, ultimately saving orangutan forests.

In the December of 2013, Andrew Winterborn, DVM, a Zoo and University of Rochester veterinarian from 2005-2008, and Jeff Wyatt DVM, Seneca Park Zoo Director of Animal Health & Conservation, directed a mentoring program for ASRI conservation staff on assessing and enhancing herd health of goats and cattle.

The Goats for Widows program offers the widows and villages revenue streams and livelihood alternatives to logging the rainforest. Healthy goats and cattle are essential to program success. Being the first ASRI community-based animal health program, the Zoo's veterinary team will over the next two years mentor ASRI conservation staff and farmers on best practices to diagnose, manage and prevent diseases and disorders as well as establish a program harmonizing healthy people, habitat, wildlife and now livestock.  

Photos by Andrew Winterborn and ASRI staff

Read more about our conservation efforts in Borneo in the Fall 2015 issue of ZooNooz here.