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Sumatran orangutans get a helping hand

Posted in ENVIRO oleh holistikasaya pada November 18, 2009
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Sumatran orangutans get a helping hand

Time may be running out for Sumatra’s forest people, the auburn-haired orangutans that once lived across much of Sumatra. The great apes are now only found in northern Sumatra and Aceh, their numbers falling each year with every hectare of lowlands destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations or small scale farming. Trisha Sertori from The Jakarta Post reported it (Thu, 11/12/2009).

A three-hour drive from Duri in the central northern part of Sumatra to Pekanbaru highlights just how much native forest has been lost.

There is barely one stand of primary forest left over a 100-kilometer journey; the haze of that
forest burning to make way for palm plantation farming stings the eyes and chokes travelers and residents alike.

According to research, the Sumatran orangutan was once found as far south west as Padang. Today, these great apes, found only in Sumatra, are on the critically endangered list and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The Red List suggests a population decline of Sumatran orangutans of more than 80 percent in the past 75 years.

There are believed to be just 6,000 left in the northern reaches of Sumatra and this number is fast declining with more habitat loss to illegal and legal logging, palm plantations and currently on the table, plans to clear 33,600 hectares of rainforest in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem for pulp paper production, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS).

A research report on the world’s most endangered primates by Ian Singleton, Susie Ellis and Mark Leighton, states that more than 1,000 orangutans disappeared annually in the Leuser Ecosystem (National Park) during the late 1990s. 10 years on, there are fears the Sumatran orangutan may have less than a decade before it succumbs to total extinction.

This week, SOS, based in Bali, is joining hands with other orangutan conservation organizations around the world for “Orangutan Caring Week” to highlight the plight of these old men of the jungle and the rapacious destruction of their habitat, according to Dewi Kastari
of SOS.

“Around the world, organizations caring for orangutans are working together this week to raise awareness of the plight of orangutans. SOS is visiting schools in Bali to teach students the value of our Indonesian jungles and how critical their protection is for the survival of orangutans,” said Dewi.

SOS is also hosting a photographic exhibition of orangutans and their disappearing habitat at local Ubud restaurant Tutmak.

“SOS is also proud to present the first ever screening in Indonesia of the Australian-produced film The Burning Season by film maker Cathy Henkel,” added Dewi.

The English version of the film that discuses the loss of Indonesia’s primary forests, will be presented tonight (Thursday Nov. 12) at the Wantilan Pura Desa in Hanoman Street, Ubud, while the Indonesian language version of the film will be screened on Friday night.

The film traces the journey of entrepreneur Dorjee Sun who believes he can make money out of saving forests through selling carbon credits, and Jambi palm plantation farmer Achmadi, who slowly comes to understand that the palm oil he is planting comes at a greater cost than he had ever realized.

According to Greenpeace, Indonesia holds the dubious distinction of the fastest rate of primary forest clearing in the world.

In 2007, Greenpeace wrote that “Of the 44 countries, which collectively account for 90 percent of the world’s forests, the country pursuing the world’s highest annual rate of deforestation is Indonesia, with 1.8 million hectares [4,447,896 acres] per year between 2000 and 2005 — a rate of 2 percent a year, or 51 kilometers square every day.”

Raising the general public’s awareness of this great loss, and its potential to cause the extinction of the Sumatran orangutan, along with other flora and fauna of Sumatra’s lost jungles, is the goal of SOS, a goal constantly under threat of being realized too late.

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