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 President 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 lectures at universities, 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) - A journey to understand and save the person of the forest.
Leif is currently: a Technical Advisor for PT Alama Bukit Tigapuluh (a company leasing and protecting rainforest), President of International Elephant Project, President of International Tiger Project, Vice President of Orang Utan Republik Foundation and on the Advisor 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.
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.
Therese O'Brien BA(Anth), M(Mgt), M(Anth), ANU has been a volunteer, including as National Manager, with The Orangutan Project since 2007 and a Board Member since 2017. Reflecting her interest and academic studies in community development within environmental hotspots, Therese established the giving group, Wildlife Guardian Fund, to support the education, training and employment of people living with endangered wildlife. Therese is also a career public servant as a policy advisor, including ten years at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, working in environmental, industry and Indigenous policy.