Winner of virginia mckenna award 2019


Dr Jamartin Sihite, CEO of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, has been awarded the seventh Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation.

The £15,000 award provides support and recognition for outstanding individual conservationists and carers who place a high priority on animal welfare, while undertaking environmental education around the world, conservation policy, or the protection of species under threat.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation is an Indonesian non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of the Bornean orangutan and its habitat. Managing three orangutan reintroduction forests in Borneo, BOS’s portfolio also includes a 309,000-hectare peat swamp forest in Central Kalimantan providing habitat to over 2,500 wild orangutans, a network of orangutan pre-release islands, a long-term orangutan sanctuary located at Salat Island, and two rescue and rehabilitation centres.

Not only has Dr Sihite dedicated his life to conservation, as the CEO of BOS, he manages a team of 440 staff and, since 2012, has reintroduced over 400 rescued orangutans back to their natural habitat. He has personally overseen almost every relocation and, within each reintroduction forest, undertaken community support, habitat protection activities and post-release monitoring. 

Thanks to Dr Sihite’s ongoing passion and commitment, BOS’s survival rates are among the highest for Borneo, and the foundation is well on its way to establishing three new populations in Borneo. Despite this, more than 500 orangutans remain in its care and the foundation’s immediate goal is to release those orangutans which possess all the necessary skills to survive, back to the wild. Using the funds received from the Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation, Dr Sihite and his team will now be able to release at least 24 of these ex-captive rehabilitated orangutans into their established reintroduction sites.

Virginia McKenna OBE, Born Free’s Co-Founder said: “As usual, the choice of a winner was extremely difficult!  In my heart I feel everyone is a ‘winner’ – in so many ways often struggling to protect and save vulnerable wild animals which live in remote and challenging areas of the world.”

“For more than 12 years Dr Jamartin Sihite has worked tirelessly for protection of the orangutans in Borneo and their fragile forest homes.  Over 800 animals have been rescued and cared for, and now half of these have been introduced back to the wild – thanks to the unflinching dedicated efforts of Dr Sihite, supported by his team. I really hope that this award will enable Dr Sihite to continue his vital work to give the beautiful orangutans a second chance to live as nature intended.”

On winning the award, Dr Sihite commented: “I am extremely honoured to be the recipient of the Virginia McKenna Compassionate Conservation Award, and this distinguished prize is a testament to the dedication of the BOS Foundation team. The survival of the iconic orangutan hangs in the balance. This award will boost our efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, reintroduce and protect the orangutans under our care, and engage with all levels of society in our efforts to ensure their long-term conservation. We believe that every single orangutan we rescue is precious and deserves a life of freedom. In giving these rescued orangutans another chance to live wild in safe natural habitat, we have hope that we can and will safeguard the species long into the future.”

Prof Claudio Sillero, Chair of the Award Committee, said: “Against a background of unprecedented habitat loss and declining wildlife populations BOS’ compassionate approach offers hope to hundreds of rescued orang-utans, securing forest sites for their rehabilitation. Dr Sihite’s passion and dedication is contributing to a better future for wildlife in Borneo and Kalimantan.” 

A runner’s up grant of £5,000 was also awarded to Jason Moody for his indigenous-led, welfare-focused approaches to reduce grizzly bear-human conflict in Nuxalk, Canada.

A call for the Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation 2020 will be announced in the New Year. For additional information please email