Students from a Melton school have returned from ‘the most amazing experience of a life time’ helping to replant a rainforest nearly 7,000 miles away.
A party from Long Field Academy spent 11 days in Sumatra, a large island in Indonesia, as part of a project to save the endangered Sumatran orangutan from extinction.
The 12 youngsters, who were accompanied by teachers and representatives of Melton adventure company Venture Force, also trekked across challenging terrain to see what conservation work was being down on the island, which is in the Indian Ocean north-west of Australia.
Long Field teacher Emma Braisby, who went on the expedition, said: “The pupils have come back with a different outlook of conservation with a wealth of knowledge and understanding, having contributed to the awareness of the orangutans’ plight and replanted part of the rainforest.
“It was an amazing experience - the most amazing experience of a lifetime.”
The students chose Sumatra because they wanted to raise the profile of the plight of the Sumatran orangutan, which is now on the verge of extinction due to the deforestation of the rainforest caused by planting of the lucrative crop, palm oil.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature categories the native orangutan there as ‘critically endangered’. They were at one time present throughout the island but are now restricted to the north.
There are just nine existing populations of Sumatran orangutans and only seven of them have prospects of long-term viability, each having an estimated 250 or more individuals.
Emma said: “Our students planted over 100 native trees in an area of redeveloping rainforest, collected seedlings from primary rain forest and gathered and planted seeds for germination.
“This will help to replant one of the areas of the Gunung Leuser National Park, which has been illegally logged, and hopefully the area will then be a safe area for the Sumatran wildlife to return to.”
She said the expedition was a huge eye-opener for the youngsters and a wonderful learning exercise.
“The students were also led by local guides to see orangutans in the wild, trekking for hours through very hard terrain to be able to see initiatives in different parts of the island, which are all helping with the protection and conservation of this beautiful species,” added Emma.