“On paper, orangutans are one of the most “protected” species in the world, yet this is not the case even in so called “protected” areas,” said Hardi Baktiantoro, Director of COP, The Center of Orangutan Protection. “Everyone wants to talk about statistics and research, and believe that we are achieving success, but the situation is worse now than ever and no one wants to address the real issues. The orangutans are losing,” he added.
Indonesia is the third largest forested nation in the world, and subsequently is the world’s third largest carbon producer. Each year, Indonesia loses 1 million hectares of forest land to illegal logging and land clearing. Ninety percent of the world’s wild orangutans live in Indonesia, split between the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The remaining 10% are found in Malaysia. These two species of orangutan are on the “red list” of endangered animals according to The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (www.iucn.org). The orangutans on Sumatra are “critically endangered. Since 1970, it is estimated that more than 100,000 orangutans have been killed because of the decimation of the Indonesian forest for palm oil plantations and through legal and illegal logging.
Companies hired to clear forest land for plantations, etc often employ hunters to “take care of” any orangutans still living after intentionally set forest fires and the falling of trees. Adult orangutans are killed, often in brutal ways, while infants are sold into the illegal pet trade.
Occasionally, the young orangutans are simply abandoned by the hunters and loggers. Left to survive on their own, with no mother, no skills and very little of their once lush forest home. Left like this, few young orangutans survive very long. If they are lucky, they will be found by rescue workers from NGOs such as COP or Orangutan Outreach (www.redapes.org). These rescuers face the horrific task of recovering these babies who have been traumatized by the murder of their mothers, abandoned or sold into severe conditions such as crippling cages where they are chained, abused and malnourished for the remainder of their short lives. Orangutans can easily live into their 50s in the wild.
Without immediate intervention, the orangutan, who shares 97% of its DNA with humans, will be the first great ape to become extinct in the wild – possibly within the next five years according to a 2007 United Nations report. There are only 7,000 left in Sumatra, and approximately 45,000 in Borneo.
There is little time left for something to be done to save these gentle forest dwellers. Forest areas the size of 10 football fields disappear every minute in Indonesia, and an estimated 2,000 orangutans vanish from the world each year.
There is an immediate need to hold the Indonesian governments and global corporations responsible for this mass killing of these beautiful, intelligent creatures. We will all carry the responsibility for the loss of the orangutan from the world. As they are our closest living relative, what does that say of us?