Orangutan Conservancy’s OVAG Workshop

Collectively, the veterinarians and healthcare staff at rehabilitation centers in Borneo and Sumatra care for the largest captive population of orangutans in the world. Yet they face nearly impossible odds, and often find themselves short of medicine, equipment, money, space, support staff and time.

But those same dedicated men and women do not lack for skill or commitment. And this is why the Orangutan Conservancy created the OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop – an annual seminar that gathers together the veterinary teams that work on front lines of the orangutan conservation crisis. It is a rare and much-needed opportunity for them to join together to hone skills, share the latest orangutan data, discuss issues and ideas, and to meet colleagues that could some day mean the difference between life and death for endangered apes.

The focus of the OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshops remain the practical sessions, presentations, round tables, and break-out groups that make the experience so valuable. At the workshops, OVAG veterinarians who often work alone under extreme duress discover a place to pose questions and tackle hypothetical scenarios that might otherwise get overlooked. They also establish long-lasting friendships and alliances that strengthen the orangutan conservation community as a whole.

The workshop history

The OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop series was inaugurated in 2009, and the first meeting was held in Central Kalimantan, Borneo.
The OC/OVAG 2010 Veterinary Workshop was staged in Medan, Sumatra.
The OC 2011 Veterinary Workshop was held in Jogjakarta.
The 2012 event was held in Kuala Lumpur.
In June 2013 our growing workshop yet took place in Bogor, Indonesia – Have a look at the photos from the 2013 event. 2013 saw the largest group of orangutan veterinarians yet that shared their field experiences and expertise with each other. After the workshop these front-line heroes returned to their field sites across Indonesia and Malaysia to continue their work of orangutan health care.
2014 was our most ambitious workshop yet and in our new, permanent home in Yogyakarta Indonesia in partnership with Gadjah Mada University.
2015 saw the largest workshop yet, with over 60 attendees. See some highlights here.
The 2016 Workshop was held in Malaysia.
The 2017 workshop was held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The 2018 workshop was held in the province of Aceh, Indonesia
The 2019 Workshop was held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The primary threats to orangutans are illegal logging and habitat destruction, human encroachment, the conversion of rainforests to oil palm plantations, and the pet trade. As a result of such intense pressures, an extremely large number of orphaned orangutans exist in rehabilitation centers across Borneo and Sumatra. These orangutans arrive bearing a host of physical and emotional wounds, and require intense veterinary care to recover.

The orangutans that are judged fit to return to the wild are reintroduced through a long, complex process, but the overwhelming majority continue to reside in the rehabilitation centers.

And the dedicated vets and healthcare workers that care for these orangutans are the front line heroes that we bring to our workshop each year.

The Workshops have recently been co-sponsored by the Chester Zoo/ NEZS, United Kingdom ABAXIS, Germany, the International Primate Society and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  This ongoing support combined with individual donations made our supporters is the reason we are able to continue the OC/OVAG workshops. 

At the OC 2009 Veterinary Workshop, the delegates took the bold step of forming the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG), which quickly became a forum for issues such as contraception, reintroduction, diseases, euthanasia, laboratory politics and other hot-button topics. In this way, the OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshops have helped build a community of veterinary healthcare experts that stands strongest when it stands together.

Photo Gallery

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This year’s Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG) Workshop is focusing on ape welfare, which is especially poignant as we are still dealing with the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first live session of this year’s conference focused on three very important aspects in conservation organizations; communication, human-primate interaction, and mental health for veterinarians and conservationists.
Last year, The Orangutan Conservancy provided funding for Sintang Orangutan Center (SOC) to purchase an X-ray machine for their clinic and rehabilitation center in West Kalimantan.
Back in 2020, The Orangutan Conservancy funded Borneo Nature Foundation's (BNF) 1,000-meter boardwalk. This boardwalk is 20cm wide, made of Banaus wood, and allows for access for seedling mobilization, planting, and monitoring by the BNF team.

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