Look at What This Eclectic Funder is Doing to Protect Orangutans in Asia

One of the wealthiest and most powerful funders in California has a relatively small (but still pretty big) interest in wildlife protection. They just stepped up their support for threatened primates in Asia. The funder made a $200,000 grant to build an orangutan rehabilitation center in Borneo, following a trip the board and staff made to the site in 2012.

The Annenberg Foundation is huge in California, but it’s also a tough one to pin down, mainly because of the diverse interests of its active board chair Wallis Annenberg. Residents of Los Angeles will notice the name all over various buildings and plaques in the area, and ever since the formerly Philadelphia-based foundation relocated to California, it's become a leading player in the city’s philanthropy. While the foundation is by no means limited to L.A., it’s the current preference. The foundation has programs in the arts, education, community, health and human services, and animals and the environment, the majority of which support projects in California.

However, Annenberg has some wilder ambitions, and many of them live in the foundation's environment and animals program. Since 2010, the program has granted about $7 million to animal protection in the United States, but also carves out a chunk for international programs, around $2.5 million in the same period.

Given Executive Director Leonard Aube’s interest in marine life, it’s not surprising that many of those grants go toward oceans programs. But again, they're tough to pin down, as they’ve also made significant grants for saving polar bears, pandas in Asia, and gorillas in Africa. 

Most recently, the funder made a $200,000 grant to Orangutan Foundation International to support “the construction of Wally’s World, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation environment for orphaned orangutans” in the Asian island of Borneo. It’s the first significant grant to the cause, with the only previous funds spent for a board and staff retreat in 2012 to investigate the need. They were apparently convinced.

Endangered Bornean orangutan populations have declined more than 50 percent in the past 60 years due to extraction industry, deforestation and wildlife trade. The Orangutan Foundation International is devoted to protecting the apes in Borneo and northern Sumatra, with rescue and rehabilitation a main part of their work. It is unclear whether Wally's World is a reference to Wallis Annenberg, but I suspect it is. Which is kind of goofy. 

To learn more about the foundation’s giving for wildlife, explore the funder’s past grants here. Also read more IP coverage of Annenberg below:

Leonard Aube, Executive Director

Check out Explore.org for Annenberg's Conservation Funding