Interview with the winner of the Worldwide Biodiversity Conservation Award

Karmele Llano: “In order to rescue orangutans, you first have to rescue humans”

The Basque veterinarian Karmele Llano is the founder and director of IAR Indonesia, the organization which was won the BBVA Foundation’s Worldwide Biodiversity Conservation Award this year, for taking “an innovative and integrated approach” to protecting biodiversity in Borneo and “various of its iconic species,” among them the orangutan. In this video interview, which can be viewed by pressing the Play button on the image above, Llano explains the fundamental objectives of the project for which she has received this award.

30 October, 2020

After graduating in veterinary medicine from the University of León, Llano (Bilbao, 1978) took the decision in 2003 to move to Indonesia to take part in a volunteer scheme for the rescue and recovery of orangutans.  Three years later, she and her husband Argitoe Ranting – an Indonesian also involved in the protection of these primates – founded a local NGO which in 2007 concluded a collaboration agreement with International Animal Rescue, an international organization engaged in conservation work with threatened species in six countries. Today, the IAR Indonesia Foundation that Llano leads has 250 people working in biodiversity conservation in Borneo.

“Our project uses a holistic approach,” Llano explains. “Initially we confined ourselves to the rescue and reintroduction of orangutans displaced by habitat loss and fragmentation, but we later realized that these efforts would come to nothing if we didn’t lend support to local communities, who were still resorting to illegal logging because they had no other way to make a living. The problem of biodioversity lies not in animals, but in our own species. In order to rescue orangutans, we first need to rescue humans.”