The projects funded by TOP not only include direct orangutan conservation, such orangutan rescue, rehabilitation and release programs, but also forest habitat protection and regeneration, education,research and local community partnerships. Tying funding to direct outcomes for the species has enabled TOP to partner with the majority of orangutan conservation projects operation on the ground today in Borneo and Sumatra. Find out more about the leaders who run our TOP Projects
The Orangutan Project was established in 1998 by founder and world-renowned orangutan expert, Leif Cocks, as a result of his almost 30 year career working with orangutans. Leif is a passionate campaigner for orangutans and has been the leader of The Orangutan Project since its inception.
Leif’s years in the field have earned him respect within the conservation field. He has been a key player in developing conservation plans for orangutans and influencing positive change for orangutan protection and survival. This includes the first ever successful reintroduction of the zoo-born orangutan. This respect has given The Orangutan Project world standing in conservation.
A small population biologist and curator by trade; Leif has several academic qualifications, including a Masters of Science studying orangutans. He is a seasoned public speaker and has published several papers on orangutans in peer-reviewed journals. Leif is also the author of the books Orangutans and their Battle for Survival (2002) and, Amazon best seller, Orangutans My Cousins, My Friends(2016) and Finding our Humanity (2019).
Amongst many roles, Leif is currently: a Technical Advisor for PT Alam Bukit Tigapuluh (a company leasing and protecting rainforest), Head of International Elephant Project, head of International Tiger Project, Vice President of Orang Utan Republik Foundation and on the Advisory Board for Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh.
In respect to his professional, animal, human and financial management skills, Leif has been the longest standing member of the Australasian Species Management Program; a Quarantine-Approved Assessor; Zoo Husbandry Adviser; Zoo Accreditation Officer; UN GRASP in-country point of contact, an International Species Coordinator, International Studbook Keeper and the Chair of a World Aquarium and Zoo Association global conservation program.
Clare is the Director and Chairperson of the Asian Rhino Project, President of the Silvery Gibbon Project and sits on the Conservation Fund Committee of The Orangutan Project and is a member of the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group and Primate Specialists Group, Section on Small Apes. Clare has a particular passion for gibbons and has extensive experience in zoos, in particular the management of captive primates. She has worked with Exotic species for over 14 years. Clare has extensive experience in species management and has developed conservation strategies and assisted with rehabilitation and reintroduction programs for the Javan gibbon. She is committed to developing and assisting with more collaborative and holistic in situ conservation projects in Indonesia and South East Asia. Clare holds B.Sc. in Zoology/Marine Biology and Post Graduate Certificate in Captive Vertebrate Management and was awarded James Cook University Alumni of the Year for Science in 2013 for her contribution to wildlife conservation.
Kylie has been an active member of The Orangutan Project since 1999 and has held a Board position since 2001. She is the Conservation Project Manager for The Orangutan Project, International Elephant Project, and International Tiger Project. Kylie has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology (with Distinction) and First-Class Honours in Primate Behaviour and numerous other qualifications.
Kylie was the Senior Orangutan Keeper at Perth Zoo for over 14 years where she oversaw the diet, enrichment, health, behavioural, and breeding management of these Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutans. She has extensive knowledge and experience in the care and management of orangutans including animal husbandry, captive and wild behaviour, ecology and diet, rehabilitation, and release. Kylie was the keeper in charge of the world’s first two zoo born orangutans to be released into a protected area of Sumatran rainforest. Her book, ‘Reaching for the Canopy’ details her life with the Zoo orangutans and the months she spent in the jungle with the released orangutans as they adapted to jungle life.
As Conservation Project Manager, Kylie liaises closely with our partners and colleagues in the field and helps to develop conservation strategies for different areas, with a key focus on orangutans, tigers, and elephants. She is passionate and committed to our holistic approach to conservation and keeping supporters, donors and sponsors up to date with the work in the field.
Rebecca Wright : Board Member Rebecca has extensive experience in international, especially in Asian investment and corporate knowledge, particularly as it relates to non-profit organisations/charities, fundraising from private sector and government donors.
Rebecca also brings high level connections with international/multilateral organisations, such as the UN, UNEP FI, World Bank, and grass roots investors across Asia. In addition, Rebecca has a high level of understanding of international climate change negotiations.
The Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) was established in 2007 by Dr. Gary Shapiro who began his involvement with orangutans 43 years ago in the field of primate cognition and learning. He was the first person (1973-1975) to teach a symbolic communication system to an orangutan and the first person to have taught sign language to orangutans in the species’ natural environment (1978-1980; 1981 Indonesian Borneo) . During his time in Borneo, Shapiro assisted in the rehabilitation efforts of dozens of ex-captive orangutans and monitored the phenology of local rain forest ecosystem.
Shapiro received his doctorate in Zoology in 1985 from the University of Oklahoma then returned to Indonesian Borneo (1986) to conduct freshwater ecology studies. Shapiro’s interest in the freshwater ecology of Borneo was an extension of the research projects he conducted while being employed by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (1982-1985). He was also employed for nearly 27 years with the state of California as an emergency planner and an emergency responder (1988-2014).
Shapiro was the co-founder and vice president of the Orangutan Foundation International from 1986-2004. He has authored or co-authored numerous papers on orangutan linguistics, cognition, conservation and ethics. In late 2004, Dr. Shapiro and his Indonesian wife, Inggriani, were inspired to create the Orang Utan Republik Education Initiative (OUREI) and in response to the education needs underscoring the crisis facing orangutans today, particularly in Sumatra.
Hardi Baktiantoro was born in East Java, and he was fortunate to live with wildlife whilst growing up in a small farming village. Hardi learnt about the amazing behaviour of animals, however he also saw the misery of poaching and the animal trade because of the local culture to keep wild animals in captivity. This inspired Hardi to take action and he studied a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Journalism. In 2007 he formed an organisation called Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) to specifically tackle the cause of deforestation and the deaths of thousands of orangutans.
COP grew significantly over the years with Hardi’s leadership and financial support from The Orangutan Project. Hardi was highly successful in training and mentoring a passionate group of people who now run various projects for COP and our alliance called the Bornean Orangutan Rescue Alliance (BORA). These include the BORA orangutan rescue centre, investigations into illegal forest crimes, conservation education, and wildlife rescues.
Hardi became the Project Manager for The Orangutan Project in 2021. His wealth of knowledge and experience on the ground allows Hardi to communicate effectively with government and forestry officials to create meaningful change for orangutan conservation. His amazing photography skills also bring to life the work that we support on the ground in Borneo and Sumatra.
Alex joined our team in 2012 as a voluntary advisor and is now the International Elephant Project (IEP) Project Manager. He is a trained field biologist who has studied at several universities in Germany, Panama, and Indonesia.
Since his youth, the German born nature enthusiast has been very interested in wildlife biology and conservation, and soon developed a particular fondness for large mammals. In 2008 Alex got the chance to study elephants in Sumatra, and a little later made the island his main base. In the following decade he led various field research and conservation projects, with much of his professional career focusing on ranger patrol management, wildlife monitoring, and human-wildlife conflict mitigation.
Alex is the author of several scientific publications and a field guide to Sumatran mammals.
Scott M. Gilbert is a Vice President with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) with responsibility for risk monitoring and examinations of U.S. broker-dealers, having joined the organization in 2013. From 2004 through 2013, Scott held various roles at UBS Financial Services Inc. including Executive Director and Head of Compliance for the Wealth Management Advisor Group, with responsibility for compliance matters and policies relating to the broker-dealer’s financial advisors. From 2006 through 2010, he was Senior Associate General Counsel and head of the group responsible for internal investigations and disciplinary recommendations at UBS. In that role, he advised the firm's management in all aspects of issues related to employee compliance with firm policies and industry rules, regulations and laws. From 2000 to 2004, Scott was Vice President and Senior Counsel with Merrill Lynch & Co., where he was responsible for global regulatory matters and internal investigations. Prior to that, he was a trial counsel with the Division of Enforcement of the New York Stock Exchange, responsible for enforcing the rules of that self-regulatory organization, investigating customer complaints and prosecuting disciplinary actions. Scott was at the NYSE from 1995 to 2000. He also was a litigation attorney in private practice from 1990 to 1995, with a focus on complex commercial litigation and securities class actions. Scott is a graduate of Columbia University and New York University School of Law.
Since 2019, Lauren Gilbert has been the Senior Manager for Public Services at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. She spent the prior 19 years working in leadership positions at various public libraries on Long Island. Lauren holds a B.A. in art history from Columbia University and an MLS from the Palmer School of Long Island University with a Certificate in Archives and Manuscripts. She is a lifelong orangutan advocate who visited Borneo in 2017 and Sumatra in 2018 with The Orangutan Project founder Leif Cocks.
Nikko’s passion for animals and their welfare started at a very young age. As a little girl she always wanted a monkey, but her parents quickly filled that void with horses and dogs. As a youngster she was an accomplished horse show jumper and now rides in the dressage discipline. While raising her family she has worked at a successful family business that has given her the opportunity to develop solid business skills. Her passion for primates never left her and as soon as she had the opportunity she embarked in her life-long dream trip to visit the Orangutans in Borneo, Indonesia for two weeks. Once there she had the opportunity to see how magnificent these creatures are. This first trip reignited her passion for the Orangutans, but also made her realize all of the environmental threats that they are facing. She came back determined to do something about this. Within a year she had returned to Sumatra twice to see how even more threatened these Orangutans are. Realizing that the biggest challenge that these marvellous creatures face is the loss of habitat due to the deforestation, development of large palm oil plantations, mining and illegal logging, Nikko welcomes the opportunity to meet these challenges through the work of WCI Canada Foundation.
Matthew is a Wildlife and Landscape Photographer based in Toronto, Canada. Having traveled to over 50 countries, he thoroughly enjoys exploring the world and documenting his experiences through his pictures – enabling him to share stories and knowledge acquired with others. In addition to being a Director for our WCI Canada Foundation, Mr. Douglas is also an active member with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. While his fulltime job as an aerospace engineer has him traveling for much of the year, Matthew dedicates most of his spare time to wildlife photography, conservation and education. Constantly eager to find new adventures and ways to challenge himself, Matthew pushes his photography and personal life experiences to new levels. M C Douglas Photography's photos and articles have been featured in publications such as ‘Wildlife Photographic Magazine’ and ‘Extraordinary Vision Magazine’.
Michèle has been a nature lover and advocate her whole life. As a child, she was well known by the local vets for bringing injured stray animals to them for treatment using her pocket money. Later she volunteered in dog rescue organisations and trained as a wildlife rescuer. After school, Michèle studied Environmental Science and has for the past 20 years has worked in numerous environmental roles internationally and is currently an Environmental Manager in marine construction. Following a trip to Borneo, her environmental awareness was raised further, not only of the species needing to be saved but the greater environmental impact saving these species can have on the world as a whole, such as mitigating climate change. She instantly wanted to get involved and to help promote awareness of the many complex issues and was lucky enough to become assistant national manager for the orangutan project, recruiting and managing volunteering activities. After moving back to Europe, where she is originally from, in 2018, Michèle and her husband Alex, were asked to set-up The Orangutan Project in Europe where she now acts as EU Representative.
Alex has been working all over the world for more than 20 years as project manager in the marine industry and is currently working as operations manager for the development of offshore wind farms. Alex is also a board member of a local energy collective (TEC), developing a fully renewable and independent energy supply for the town he lives in, currently one of the most advanced renewable projects in the Netherlands . Alex is very motivated to work on a more sustainable and nature friendly future. Based on his vast international experience, he strongly believes and supports the holistic approach of TOP to create a sustainable habitat where humans, Orangutans and other wildlife can thrive.
Amy has a science degree from the University of Waikato, New Zealand Certificate in Captive Wild Animal Management. Through her work she’s developed an understanding of the human-wildlife conflict in forest edge communities and saw how they needed support to raise their standard of living, reduce their environmental impact and reduce their reliance on illegal/harmful activities like poaching. In addition to her full-time work at Auckland Zoo and as a Forest for People Director, Amy founded the Sumatran Ranger Project to help address these issues while providing protection for wildlife outside the government protected Gunung Leuser National Park, where significant human-wildlife conflict occurs. Amy wanted to help provide long term, meaningful employment to passionate people who lacked the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to use in a paid capacity.
Noeline is a recent member of Forests for People. She graduated from Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English Literature with papers on Social Policy and Maori Studies. Her professional background was based in the not-for-profit sector, mostly in the public health area, in management and executive roles. She is a trustee for New Horizons for Women Trust and a member of Zonta, an international professional women’s group.
Noeline is committed to the preservation and restoration of the rainforest habitat. Her interest extends to the indigenous people, supporting their rights and actions to retain sovereignty over their own lands.