According to a disturbing new report by Fortune Magazine, all of our wild Orangutans could be extinct in just 10 years due to deforestation caused by oil palm companies and ineffective control and legislation by local governments.The orangutans are literally being killed off due to systematic deforestation of their natural habitat in Borneo in order to make way for unsustainable fast cash crops. Crops like Oil Palm that poison the land and rivers around them and leave the land infertile, unusable and dead after just 2 or 3 rounds of harvesting.
It is estimated that in the last 50 years around 80% of Borneo’s jungles have been cut down, and if nothing is done about it soon then we will lose another 70% of what is remaining within the next 5 years.
In Indonesia more than 76 million acres of forests have been cleared for oil palm in the last 25 years. Heartbreakingly, countless rare and endemic species have been lost and will continue to be lost every day.
While governments are trying their best to legislate buffer zones and NGO’s are setting up rehabilitation centres, looking at the numbers it just isn’t enough. Put simply, the habitat destruction is happening too fast and the animals just can’t recover in time.
Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue, Alan Knight told the Independent that there is “no hope” for the Orangutans if the destruction of the forests continues unabated. According to Knight, there is a trend for large oil palm corporations to start illegal fires to clear protected forest land and blame it on natural fires, then since nothing else will grow on it, attain permission to grow oil palm there.
In Borneo the governments ordered 100m buffer zones between oil palm plantations and rivers in order to protect these crucial ecosystems. This was almost completely ignored by most companies as it is too difficult for the governments to enforce. Due to the run off of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and sediment, these plantations have wiped out entire protected river habitats almost overnight.
Of course Orangutans are not the only animals suffering from deforestation, there are thousands of vulnerable and critically endangered flora and fauna all over Borneo, many of which will be extinct before their species is even discovered and officially catalogued.
One such animal was the Sumatran Rhino, just recently was reported to have become “Extinct in The Wild” or “Functionally Extinct” meaning there may possibly be a few more individuals in the wild but the chance of the species recovering is most certainly zero.
It would be a shameful situation when we could not even take care of our own cousins, another member of the great ape’s family, letting them perish along with hundreds of thousands of other species.
Many people say “vote with your dollars” and stop buying oil palm products to halt the demand. However it is not easy to avoid using oil palm products. Oil Palm is used to make thousands products that we use every day, from biodiesel to toothpaste, food and shampoo. Therefore there must be some stand taken to regulate and most importantly to enforce those regulations on the industry effectively by the relevant governments too.
It’s not only the loss of forest, habitat and animals that we suffer, but deforestation also accounts for 17-20% of global carbon emissions. Our rainforests are the lungs of our earth cleaning our air, keeping us alive and feeding us oxygen. If we lose them, we will be following close behind.
Sarawak just announced that it is granting all the Orangutan Habitat in its state “Totally Protected Area” status. This is a commendable initiative by the Sarawakian government and hopefully something that we will soon be seeing happening In Sabah and the rest of Borneo and Indonesia in the near Future.
Read more about what the Sarawak government is doing to protect wildlife in this article.
If you would love to see real life orangusans then you can pay them a visit at one of the rehabilitation centres like Sepilok in Sabah.