Friday, 11 July 2008

Protecting orangutan

Jakarta Post, July 14

Protecting orangutan

This is a response to an article title "Govt urged to enforce Bali plan to protect orangutan" (The Jakarta Post, July 7).

It is often asked, "How many orangutans are left?" The numbers themselves do not matter. What matters is that the rate of decline is increasing, and unless something is done, the wild orangutan will go extinct.

Once remaining populations become so small and fragmented, there will be no way to recover the species, as these small populations will be genetically unviable in the long run.

What also matters is the welfare angle of this decline; 5,000 are dying unnaturally -- either from starvation, as a result of habitat destruction or from human-wildlife conflict. Working with orangutans for 14 years now, I see them as individuals capable of emotions and pain. The loss of just one of these is heartbreaking; 5,000 is genocide.

We have a moral obligation to save these sentient, intelligent cousins of ours from this brutality. I do not subscribe to the view that we need to keep orangutan numbers up so our children have a chance to see them in the wild. Orangutans do not exist for our benefit. They themselves have a right to life, regardless of whether we get the added benefit of gazing upon them in their world one day.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) is the largest primate rescue project in the world. We look after close to 1,000 rescued orangutans presently, and have rescued and released more than 1,000 others so far. We are the only organization actively rescuing wild orangutans from certain death in oil palm plantations.

Recently, we released a further 25 wild orangutans rescued from oil palm plantations into a remote protected forest in the north of Central Kalimantan.

This release site could potentially support more than 1,000 orangutans, making it a viable population. BOS also manages the Mawas Reserve, a forest of 360,000 hectares, home to some 3,500 wild orangutans.

If BOS can continue to protect populations like those in our release site and in Mawas, we can prevent the extinction of the orangutan in the wild. Find out more at