Welcome to POKOK: an anthropology-conservation collaboration that ran from 2017 to 2022. The project used anthropological methods and insights to explore the root causes and contexts of human-orangutan conflict in rural Borneo, as well as to devise ways of encouraging human-orangutan coexistence and improving conservationists’ relations with local communities.

Up to quite recently, orangutan conservation strategies were largely driven by zoological/ecological research and focused on maintaining protected areas of rainforest for orangutans. In the past decade, however, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the need to better grasp social, political and cultural complexities in conservation areas and – most importantly – to engage ethically and respectfully with the people who live in and around orangutan habitat. Our project aimed to fill this gap by building up a nuanced, in-depth understanding of human-orangutan relations in Borneo and the much wider social, political, economic and religious contexts in which they exist. It is only by taking these contextual factors seriously that we can formulate appropriate, effective strategies for promoting better human-orangutan coexistence.

This project was generously funded by the Arcus Foundation and Brunel University London and supported by the Borneo Futures network. The blog that we kept during the project can still be read here, and some of the publications based on our research (most of them in collaboration with the Global Lives of the Orangutan project) can be found below.


Chua, L., V. Schreer and P.H. Thung. 2022. Using Ethnographic Research for Social Engagement: A Toolkit for Orangutan (and Other) Conservationists. London and Cambridge: POKOK and The Global Lives of the Orangutan. Available in English and Bahasa Indonesia.

Chua, L., H. Fair, V. Scheer, A. Stępień and P.H. Thung. 2021. ‘“Only the orangutans get a life jacket”: uncommoning responsibility in a global conservation nexus’. American Ethnologist 48 (4): 370-385.

Chua, L., M.E. Harrison, H. Fair, S. Milne, A. Palmer, J. Rubis, P. Thung, S. Wich, B. Büscher, S.M. Cheyne, R.K. Puri, V. Schreer, A. Stępień, E. Meijaard. 2020. ‘Conservation and the social sciences: beyond critique and co-optation. A case study from orangutan conservation’. People and Nature 42(1):42-60.

People not Poaching. 2022 Engaging communities to tackle illegal wildlife trade –  lessons from Southeast Asia, South America and sub-Saharan Africa. London: IIED and IUCN SULi.  

Chua, L. and P.H. Thung. 2021. ‘How Anthropological Research Can Contribute to Understanding and Addressing the Killing of Orangutans in Rural Borneo’ – case study for Chapter 2: ‘Understanding and Responding to Cultural Drivers of the Ape Trade’. In State of the Apes 4: Killing, Capture, Trade and Conservation, ed. H. Rainer, A. White and A. Lanjouw. Cambridge: Arcus Foundation and Cambridge University Press, 48-67. DOI: 10.1017/9781108768351.

Chua, L. 2021. ‘British News and Social Media Portrayals of Orangutans and Threats to Their Habitat’ – case study for Chapter 4: ‘Drivers of the Illegal Trade in Live Apes’. In State of the Apes 4: Killing, Capture, Trade and Conservation, ed. H. Rainer, A. White and A. Lanjouw. Cambridge: Arcus Foundation and Cambridge University Press, 96-129. DOI: 10.1017/9781108768351.