The West Toba Forest is a wildlife haven in Sumatra, Indonesia—buzzing with diverse wildlife, plants and insects that are vital to its ecosystem. In 2018, a study to map orangutan habitats in Sumatra highlighted how critical the West Toba Forest truly is. This forest corridor connects the habitat of forest edge communities, orangutans and other wildlife in this biodiverse hotspot—making it vital for the preservation of endangered megafauna, which is important not only for orangutans, but for Sumatran tigers, gibbons, hornbills, sun bears and more.
Because of decades of illegal logging and forest destruction in Indonesia, forests which once amounted to 162 million hectares have been dismantled to just a fraction of their original size—and this destruction isn’t slowing down. Since 2002, an area the size of New York has been lost in the Sumatran rainforest due to illegal logging, clearance for oil palm plantations, road building, construction and infrastructure projects. Devastatingly, this has pushed the Sumatran orangutan to the edge of extinction, and the species is now classified as critically endangered.
Why are orangutans so important?
Orangutans play a vital role in dispersing seeds throughout the forest. Without orangutans, we would lose several tree species, especially those with larger seeds. Rainforests play a vital role in our water-cycle by adding water to our atmosphere. Meaning, if our rainforests suffer, so do our rivers and streams. This would impact the water local communities rely on for drinking, cooking, bathing, irrigation and hydroelectricity. The fresh water source they provide is also critical for every other species who call the area home, including rare Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants and Sumatran rhinoceroses.
The West Toba Forest is a beautifully balanced ecosystem, where all organisms rely on one another to thrive—however, this also means the impact of losing orangutans would drastically harm a multitude of species, including humans.
WTF* is happening to the West Toba Forest*?
The toll this habitat loss has had on many of Indonesia's wildlife species is serious—orangutan numbers are in swift decline, only 250-400 tigers remain and fewer than 100 rhinos are left in the forests. Some scientists say that many of these species could be extinct in the wild within 20-30 years.
Swift action to protect and rewild the Sumatran rainforest is needed to ensure the future of this essential ecosystem—working with and training small-scale farmers in orangutan-friendly farming and supporting forest edge communities to plant thousands of trees, using agroforestry and regenerative techniques to ensure the trees can thrive.
Our partners at SOS (Sumatran Orangutan Society) are on a mission to secure the future of Sumatran orangutans. Tackling the causes of deforestation as well as the symptoms. They take a holistic approach to conservation, balancing between economic and social needs and a flourishing, healthy environment for all species. This means developing effective partnerships—like with the OIC (Orangutan Information Centre) which aims to conserve and protect orangutans and their forest homes in Sumatra—as well as fundraising for frontline organizations and advocating globally for changes to government policy and corporate practice to enhance conservation outcomes. SOS is on the ground not only ensuring the vitality of our forests, but by helping to create a sustainable economy by working with forest edge communities in producing non-timber products, allowing these families to earn an income without damaging the ecosystem or threatening the wildlife.
SOS is dedicated to protecting the Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutans that are left in the wild—before they vanish completely.
How can you help?
- Orangutan Bath Bomb: 100% of the purchase price (minus the taxes) of the limited-edition Orangutan Bath Bomb will go to the Sumatran Orangutan Society—working with forest edge communities in Indonesia to protect and rewild the Sumatran rainforest. We also used regenerative ingredients from the same ecosystem as the orangutans, including responsibly sourced dark patchouli oil and kukui oil. Each bath bomb has a message inside, inviting you to listen to what you’re protecting¬—a soundscape recorded deep in the forest at West Toba. It’s an immersive way to help protect Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutans.
- Spread Awareness: Educating on the dangers orangutans are facing is vital, as the destruction they’re facing is too often kept quiet. Using the hashtag #WestTobaForest and sharing information that educates on how necessary orangutans are for our ecosystem and why all creatures, including humans, need them.
- Support SOS (Sumatran Orangutan Society): You can take action by supporting organizations, like SOS, to help them continue their important work. They cannot protect our delicate ecosystem without public support—we are truly in this together.
There are no quick fixes, but there is also no time to waste. It is critical that we protect the West Toba Forest. Orangutans need it, and so do we.