Thursday, 3 December 2009

Letter: Copenhagen and rainforests

Letter: Copenhagen and rainforests

Wed, 12/02/2009 | Opinion The Jakarta Post

Greenpeace activists who chained themselves to bulldozers in Riau province last week resorted to this protest as a final, desperate measure before the Copenhagen Climate Summit to ask the Indonesian government to take the problem of deforestation in Indonesia seriously.

Summit leaders need to make this issue the top priority on their Plant a Tree to Save the Planet agenda, and, more importantly, act swiftly to prevent further rainforest devastation. There will be grave repercussions for us all if deforestation is not halted, but I doubt anyone will feel the effects of apathy more than orangutans. It would be the end for them.

In Sumatra there are less than 6,000 red apes left, Borneo has more but for how much longer? Numbers are in free-fall. As these islands ever-increasingly resemble post-apocalyptic landscapes denuded of all trees and life, orangutans are left literally homeless and starving and are dying in thousands as a direct result.

However, it is not just a matter of saving their environment; attitudes need to drastically change, too. The recent exposure of palm oil workers who tortured two baby orangutans after killing and eating their mothers in front of them, is a shockingly cruel example of how orangutans are regarded as "pests" or worse when only 3 percent DNA separates them from humans.

If orangutans were respected and legally protected (and not just in theory as is presently the case) then eradicating their habitat and torturing them would be a serious criminal offence. Stringent law enforcement to protect this species must be part of any forest preservation law to benefit wildlife. I hope world leaders realize saving forests is about humanity extending compassion to all other life forms who, like us, deserve to live in peace in their native habitats, free from the threat of destructive human invasion.

I am not the first person to plead with the Indonesian government to save its rainforests and orangutans. I hope I will be the last but not for the wrong reasons - that pretty soon there will be no orangutans left to plead for. If Copenhagen turns into just another inactive talking shop, then it could well be "do or die" for the orangutan.

Jeanie Elford