Project OK was launched in 2009 as a long-term science for conservation project with the orangutans of Kutai National Park, E Kalimantan, Indonesia. It is directed by Dr. Anne Russon, a Canadian researcher with 23 years' experience studying orangutan behavior in Bornean forests, and managed in the field by Purwo Kuncoro working with a team of six local field assistants and a Kutai National Park counterpart. It was designed as a 5-year knowledge-building core with two goals, improving knowledge of Kutai's orangutans and enhancing the effectiveness of efforts to protect them in and around the park. The project's focus on orangutan ranging offers a good overview of their habitat needs, social lives, energy management, flexibilities, and limits—and knowledge of such things is essential to best protect these orangutans.
Kutai National Park was believed virtually destroyed and its orangutans virtually eradicated by massive forest fires and human development. Estimates in 2009 claimed as few as 30-60 orangutans were surviving in the park. Yet surveys in the last two years estimate the park's orangutan population to be as large as 1000-2000. These orangutans are the easternmost subspecies of the endangered Bornean orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus morio. Morio are the toughest of all orangutans, living in the worst orangutan habitat, but they are poorly understood, especially in East Kalimantan. Effectively protecting them requires better understanding them and designing programs to suit their needs, their preferences, and where they can and cannot be flexible.
To date, the project has found over 30 orangutans in the study area, including six adult females with dependent youngsters and a large number of males. All are healthy, well fed, and reproducing normally. Regular work involves following these orangutans nest to nest and recording their travel and feeding activities, monitoring environmental conditions (plant food availability, weather) that influence their health, habitat use, and travel, and monitoring human incursions into the park.