Sunday, April 20, 2014

Doomed for Extinction

The peat swamp forests in Kalimantan, among the last refuge for the orangutan, is being widely cut and replaced with oil palm, despite a 25-year struggle by conservation organizations.

While protected in Sabah and Sarawak, the future of the orang utan in neighbouring Kalimantan looks grim.

Kalimantan is home to the largest number of Borneo orangutans (Pongo Pygmaeus) living in the wild.

It is said that currently Indonesia does not have the political commitment nor capability to protect the declining orangutan population within their borders.

In spite of an Action Plan, supported by the Indonesia president, to maintain and protect their wildlife numbers by 2017, the natural habitat of the orangutan in Sumatra and Kalimantan is fast disappearing.

A recent study, published by international journal, PLOS ONE, estimates that between 44,170 and 66,570 orangutans have been killed, over the past two decades, in Kalimantan.

Most of the killings were due to crop conflicts but there are also cases of killing for food.

The peat swamp forests in Kalimantan, among the last refuges for the orangutan, has over the past year, been cut down and replaced with oil palm, despite a 25-year struggle by local and international conservation organizations.

These developments will most certainly end with the extermination of the orangutan.

Similar incidents are also taking place throughout Sumatra, home to the Sumatran (Pongo Abelii) orangutan, often with total disregard to the fact that the areas are officially protected for conservation.

In a separate study, PLOS ONE said that between 2000 and 2010, Kalimantan’s conservation protected areas lost their forests at the same pace as timber concessions.

The future for the orangutan and Indonesia’s diverse wildlife looks bleak.

Adoption an option

Indonesia has been accused of doing too little to ensure the survival of legally protected wild-life species, including the orangutan.

With legally sanctioned destruction of their natural habitat and the illegal slaughter of the orangutan, the Indonesian government’s objective to stabilise wild orangutan numbers by the year 2017, may not be achieved.

Perhaps the Indonesian government should admit that it is not capable of saving its wild orangutan population.

Maybe they should look for countries that would like to adopt, either for free or for a fee.

China’s pandas for example are leased to overseas zoos for US$550,000 (RM1.65 bil) per year. Perhaps Indonesia could also charge other countries for taking care of the orangutans.

Brunei, have no wild orangutan, their forest loss is minimal, perhaps they could take a few thousand off Indonesia’s hands.

Malaysia which used to have orangutan is another option.

Sabah makes about US$1.5 billion (RM4.5 bil) through ecotourism, which includes orangutan viewing. Perhaps they could use ‘unwanted’ orangutan from Kalimantan?

Sarawak already has a precedent.

In July last year South Korea’s Guro City successfully adopted a Sarawak orangutan from the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (SWC).

The 653-hectare Semenggoh nature reserve is currently home to a total of 27 orangutans and upkeep of each costs around RM18,000 per year. It is estimated that only 2,000 to 2,500 wild orangutans are currently left in Sarawak.

SWC’s move to initiate an adoption programme in 2009 in its effort to protect the orang utan is slowly paying off.

The Guro City Council of Seoul Metropolitan Government, for instance, adopted a orang utan and donates RM10,000 to SWC in support of the adoption programme.

This could perhaps work for Indonesia too in the short term; and until a sustainable long term solution is put in place for which political will is vital. Winston Way FMT


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