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2023 Continuation Funding
2019 Continuation Funding
2016 Whitley GOLD Award
2014 Continuation Funding
2013 Continuation Funding
2011 Whitley Award donated by the Friends of WFN
Hotlin Ompusunggu Borneo, Indonesia Terrestrial
Dentistry and Reforestation, Borneo

Winner of the 2016 Whitley Gold Award donated by the Friends & Scottish Friends of WFN

Each year a member of our alumni network is selected to receive the Whitley Gold Award, a profile and PR prize worth £50,000 in project funding, awarded in recognition of their outstanding contribution to conservation.

Dentistry and reforestation: scaling up models to protect orangutans and improve health, Borneo
USE EDW_5833

Hotlin is not a typical conservation leader. A Doctor of Dental Surgery, Hotlin co-founded the NGO Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) in 2007 with a mission to protect Gunung Palung National Park in southwestern Borneo whilst improving the health of communities surrounding it. Spanning 1,100km2, Gunung Palung’s rainforest represents some of the most intact lowland forests left in Indonesia. It is home to endangered species including hornbills, gibbons, clouded leopards and 10% of the global population of orangutans – an ape gravely threatened by habitat loss.

ASRI mobile clinic

Poverty and poor health are important drivers of deforestation, with communities often turning to logging to pay for basic yet vital things such as healthcare. Hotlin is working to change this. Through healthcare incentives, ASRI is applying innovative solutions to reduce the need for people to exploit the forest whilst improving access to healthcare for villagers. Families who stop logging receive extra discounts of up to 70% on medical care. No-one is turned away; those who cannot afford treatment can pay using non-cash means by participating in reforestation activities or alternative livelihoods programmes including organic farming.
USE Organic farming training

A Whitley Award winner in 2011 and a recipient of further funding in 2013 and 2014. With the support of WFN Hotlin’s project has:

  • Significantly decreased illegal logging in 18 villages
  • Reduced the number of households involved with illegal logging from 1,350 to 450.
  • Set up teams of local Forest Guardians in all 34 sub-villages bordering the Park and 40 sub-villages that are part of the Park’s greater periphery. These Guardians monitor illegal logging and teach others about the importance of healthy forest ecosystems.
  • Trained 591 people in organic farming as an alternative to illegal logging.
  • Treated over 24,000 patients in ASRI’s medical and mobile clinics.
  • Improved local health: since 2007 infant deaths have fallen by two thirds and child immunisation rates have increased by 25% with statistically significant reductions in rates of common illnesses.
  • Reached more than 1,000 people through outreach programmes to raise awareness of the importance of tropical forest.
  • Planted over 100,000 native seedlings to restore the Park.
  • Evidenced the return of orangutans to ASRI’s reforestation site.
  • Developed a joint work plan with the National Park Bureau (BTN) which facilitates collaboration between researchers, park rangers, Forest Guardians and the police to protect the Park.

With her Whitley Gold Award, Hotlin and her team will:

  • Implement activities outlined in the joint work plan between ASRI and BTN to increase law enforcement, combat forest fires and improve relations between communities and the park authorities.
  • Map and gazette the Park boundary and make people aware of multi-use zones to reduce land-use conflicts.
  • Establish Indonesia’s first ‘Conservation Hospital’ to serve as a first class medical facility and environmental education centre.
  • Support healthcare subsidies for communities protecting forests and biodiversity.
    Reach 200 children from six schools through ASRI’s education programme and field trips to the Park.
  • Conduct community-based monitoring of orangutans and other wildlife.
  • Strengthen ASRI’s long-term sustainability by pursuing fundraising opportunities in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.
  • Evaluate ASRI’s impact through quantitative and qualitative assessment and adapt conservation approaches in response to socio-economic change involving 1,200 households.
  • Explore the expansion of this model to other sites in Indonesia including Sumatra, Sulawesi and Papua.

If you give people alternatives and sustainable ways of living they can live alongside the forest.



Expanding conservation models from Borneo to Sumatra to protect two Critically Endangered orangutan species
£35,000 over 1 year

The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos and sun bears reside. Leuser National Park and the Batang Toru Forest are important habitats for Critically Endangered orangutans in Sumatra, yet these forests are being rapidly lost to illegal logging, government-backed development and human encroachment. The Batang Toru Forest is the only known habitat of the newly discovered Tapanuli orangutan of which just 800 remain.

Building on her previous work supported by WFN in Borneo, Continuation Funding will enable Hotlin to expand her successful model into Sumatra to provide access to healthcare for 10,000 remote villagers near Leuser National Park in exchange for implementing conservation activities. This is done through providing dental care to communities at either a discounted rate or accepting conservation payments in lieu, such as tree seedlings. Saplings will be used to reforest degraded areas of Leuser in partnership with fellow WFN alumni, Panut Hadisiwoyo, and local communities. In the Batang Toru Forest area, Hotlin will conduct “radical listening” to identify the  root causes of deforestation and discuss potential solutions suggested by local people, working together to implement future interventions in an area where community consultation is desperately needed if these great apes are to persist.


2023 Continuation Funding

Restoration work: Growing orangutan habitats through community dental care
£100,000 over 2 years

Dentist Hotlin Ompusunggu champions a unique, community-designed approach to conservation which provides healthcare incentives for communities living around threatened forest ecosystems and wildlife in North Sumatra. With her Whitley Award and subsequent Continuation Funding, Hotlin established Yayasan Healthy Planet Indonesia (HePI), which has seen the creation of an affordable dental clinic to promote conservation in the irreplaceable Leuser Ecosystem home to rhino, tiger, elephants and orangutans.

Using further Continuation Funding, Hotlin will bring HePI’s work into the Batang Toru Ecosystem – the only known habitat of the recently discovered Tapanuli Orangutan – which is already threatened by illegal logging and monoculture agriculture. She will expand HePI’s work with a series of locally designed, community-led solutions to combat deforestation and habitat degradation, including the opening of a new dentistry clinic that will also serve as a base for training in alternative livelihoods and provide conservation education about the links between human and forest health. The clinic is key to Hotlin’s strategy of gaining community trust, boosting the availability of healthcare and establishing a commitment to more sustainable agricultural techniques.

Developing an innovative payment system at the new clinic will allow Hotlin and her team to ensure accessibility for local and indigenous communities, with quality dental care paid for by non-cash means, such as tree seedlings. Community members can utilise fruit tree species sourced from their home gardens without causing impact to natural forest regeneration processes. Seedlings received as patient payments will be allocated to local farmers as part of an agroforestry scheme to generate income from non-timber forest products and deter farmers from switching to monoculture agriculture, or logging.

Additionally, Continuation Funding will support a youth empowerment programme in the area, where a young person from each hamlet will be trained as a ‘guardian of the forest’ monitoring biodiversity using camera traps and collecting anecdotal data on land clearing and field observations. It is hoped that this will set a precedent for HePI’s partner conservation organizations to follow in adopting more community-centered approaches while safeguarding the future of one of the planet’s most recently discovered mammals.