Saturday, 14 June 2008

Orangutans could face extinction over next 10 years

So, here we have the Ministry of Forestry acting as the sales office for selling off licences to log forests they should be protecting under the Kinshasha Declaration, trying to convince us of their concern for the orangutan population. I don't buy it.

Then, there is the 'little' matter of orangutans being a protected species, often inhabiting the very same forests. Let us be quite clear about this, if Toni and his boss REALLY wanted to save 3000 orangutans a year they could be doing a a lot better than they have been up to now.

I wonder how this news makes UNEP/GRASP feel?
I wonder if they will issue any kind of statement reminding Indonesia of its moral obligations under the Kinshasha Declaration? I wonder if GRASP will pluck up the courage to say something even mildly critical - maybe even devote more of their time and resources to orangutans?

I have heard some orangutan scientists have been reluctant to speak out for fear of losing their research permits. To which I reply; a) we know the cause of 3000 orangutan deaths every year (it's been happening throughout their period of research) and there's nothing more we need to know that will save any in the future b) carry on with your research and according to this press report you will be out of a job in 10 years.

Well done to Ian Singleton for speaking out. I wonder if any other scientists will express their concern publicly? How about a collective statement of alarm etc from those scientists who make a living out of studying orangutans?

Maybe a similar statement from the zoo world might help - it could do no harm. If this sounds radical, let's hear some other ideas. All we know for certain is: a) whatever has been done in the past has not worked b) 3000 + orangutans are dying/killed every year. Just how much worse does it have to get before we hear GRASP, orangutan scientists, etc. speak out?

It will be up to you and your conscience to decide if you are doing enough to stop it happening during your lifetime. I'm old enough to remember when there were tens of thousands of Indian tigers living out their lives in protected forests etc. Yesterday I read there are about 1500 left. Could orangutans be facing the same fate?

Could you be doing more to help orangutans - they can't help themselves can they? More to the point: will you?


The following extract refers to environmental problems in general. I just hope you find it as thought provoking and relevant to orangutans as I have."This is such a shocking and unpalatable fact that most people deny it, or they just don't want to think about it. They believe as individuals, they can do little about it, so push it to the back of their minds. But I can't do that.When something has to be done, we need to do it. It doesn't matter how big the challenge is or how hard the solution; if I know something is wrong, and I am in a position to help, I will do my best to make it right." Duncan Bannatyne, successful British businessman.

Friday, June 13, 2008 12:36 PM

Orangutans could face extinction over next 10 years

Apriadi Gunawan , The Jakarta Post , Medan Fri, 06/13/2008

The number of orangutans could fall by nearly 50 percent over the next decade due to habitat destruction and human-animal conflicts, according to estimates by the directorate general for forest protection and nature conservation.

The current orangutan population is believed to be 61,234, according to data from the directorate general. Most are found in the forests of Borneo (54,567), with the remainder in Sumatra (6,667).

In Borneo, orangutans are found in East Kalimantan (4,825), Central Kalimantan (31,300), West Kalimantan including the neighboring Malaysian state of Sarawak (7,425) and the Malaysian state of Sabah (11,017).

In Sumatra, orangutans are found in Seulawah (43), West Central Aceh (103), East Central Aceh (337), West Leuser (2,508), Sidiangkat (134), East Leyser (1,042), Tripa Swamp (280), Trumon-Singkil (1,500), East Rawa Singkil (160), West Batang Toru (400) and East Sarulla (150).

The orangutan population in Borneo is facing the greatest risk of decline over the next 10 years, said director of biological diversity conservation at the Forestry Ministry, Toni Suhartono.

He said the rapid pace of forest destruction had attributed to habitat loss each year of between 1.5 and 2 percent in Borneo and between 1 and 1.5 percent in Sumatra.

Toni said habitat loss due to forest destruction was the main cause of the reduction in the numbers of orangutans, compounded by less significant factors such as human-animal conflicts.

The government is very concerned about the reduction in the orangutan population, said Toni.

The government has prepared an action plan to preserve habitat in order to keep the orangutan population and habitat in a stable, or even improved, condition.

Toni said the government would focus on a number of efforts in a bid to save orangutans from the threat of extinction.

The programs, due to be completed by 2017, include conservation education, research on sustainable orangutan conservation, improving cooperation with environmental groups, setting up a forum to monitor enforcement of regulations, arranging a logging schedule in orangutan habitat, issuing a law against mining in habitat areas, law enforcement and patrols against poachers.

"The government aims to have all the conservation programs realized by 2017 so as to ensure a sustainable orangutan population and the protection of its habitat," Toni said during a recent workshop organized at the North Sumatra Natural Resources Center in Medan.

About 100 participants from various agencies, higher learning institutes, NGOs and businesses attended the two-day closed-door seminar.
Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program director, Ian Singleton, who took part in the workshop, expressed doubt the action plans would be achieved by 2017 without effective law enforcement.

According to Singleton, it is essential the Indonesian government include law enforcement in the action plan.

Also necessary, he said, were public awareness campaigns on orangutan conservation and its habitat because many people were still unaware that keeping orangutans as pets was illegal.

"Based on my observations, many orangutans are being kept as pets by certain people, including individuals from the police and military, ironically," Singleton said, adding that of the 120 orangutan confiscations made by authorities, up to 70 percent had involved individuals from the security forces.