Huge congratulations go to Dr Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. Ian was listed at number 44 in the list of ‘Britain’s top 50 conservation heroes’.
This inaugural ‘Wildlife Power List’ announced by BBC Wildlife Magazine on 11th May recognises people who, according to their panel of experts, have had a substantial positive impact or have the potential for increasing impact on wildlife conservation.
Ian worked as an Orangutan keeper at Durrell for eight years and it was during this time that he encountered Dr John Mackinnon and Professor Richard Griffiths from DICE. Through his time at Durrell he was inspired by the work and writings of Gerald Durrell and sought to build a portfolio of experience which would enable him to work in Orangutan conservation and endeavour to make a difference.
Ian’s interactions with John and Richard led him to join DICE to study for his PhD. Under the supervision of Richard Griffiths Ian completed his thesis, ‘Ranging behaviour and seasonal movements of Sumatran orangutans (pongo pymaeus abelii) in swamp forests’ in 2001.
Following completion of his PhD Ian started the Sumatran Oranguatan Conservation Programme with a vision of setting up a rehabilitation and reintroduction programme for orangutans. However SOCP has grown well beyond this remit. In addition to reintroductions, SOCP is the main organisation in Sumatra undertaking field research and monitoring of wild orangutans, environmental education, capacity building for ecotourism, campaigning and lobbying government and businesses in the natural resource sector.
When asked about his inclusion in the BBC Wildlife Magazine Power list Ian said that he was really pleased, however no accolade comes close to the feeing he gets when several years after reintroduction he sees one of his rescued orangutans in the trees, contributing to the wild population.
The SOCP is now a very large programme and Ian has had to devolve some responsibilities to enable himself to spend more time on policy advocacy and directing. These aspects of his work are growing in importance as Sumatran organutans face some of their biggest ever threats including the Aceh government spacial plan, which is set to carve up the last continuous block of rainforest. Ian feels that despite all they have done in the past 15 years the next two years will decide the fate of the species.
In addition to his work with SOCP, Ian would like to write a book about his experiences of conservation in Indonesia. Having had a career inspired by the writing of Gerald Durrell, Ian feels his experiences warrant a book of their own and hope that they might inspire even just one person to make a difference.