With the weekend looming on the horizon, we cannot let another day go by without informing you that this is Orangutan Awareness Week (November 10 to Sunday, November 16), brought to you by the Orangutan Foundation at WildlifeDirect. We just found out about it through one of our blog brethren, the NatGeo Great Apes blog, which has been highlighting orangutan events around the world all week, like this video postcard of solidarity from the Art for Gorillas team at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
The idea behind the week is to spotlight the tenuous situation of orangutans in Borneo, the only place besides Sumatra where orangs live in the wild, and where their rain forest habitat is being systematically destroyed week after week by logging, mining, and to make room for vast oil palm plantations. Palm oil is used in things like shampoo, cookies and biodiesel. National Geographic’s November issue contains a feature article by Mel White on the situation in Borneo, one of the most biologically rich regions on Earth, and one of the most threatened. When loggers cut down the rain forest the orangutans can still flourish, but when the logged forest is later burned to the ground in order to plant oil palms, the orangs have no place to go, and often end up as orphans. Smuggling is also a problem. Six-year-old Mugi in the photo above by Mattias Klum was one of a group of orangutans that were smuggled out of Borneo and ended up in cages and for sale in Thailand, and is presently one of 500 orphans at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue Center in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
Photographer Klum has been visiting Borneo for 30 years and has watched it change from an island that was covered in dense forest to one that is now only half forested, with a consequent decline in the orangutan population. Klum shows the poignant result in this short video excerpt from Wild Chronicles, which is supported by NatGeo Missions Programs.
A glimmer of hope in this discouraging story is the WWF‘s Heart of Borneo conservation planWWF‘s Heart of Borneo conservation plan, which has persuaded the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei to help preserve 85,000 square miles of connected forested areas on Borneo. And under a UN program known as REDD (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), countries that reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through improved forest protection, and sustainable-production plans would be eligible to receive benefits: Essentially, countries could earn money for preserving their forests instead of cutting them down. This info comes from the National Geographic Society’s Geopedia database (which is like Wikipedia, only accurate).
The Great Apes blog and the Orangutan Foundation is urging wildlife lovers to Wear Orange for Orangutans on Friday, November 14, to show support for this threatened species.
Photo by Mattias Klum, National Geographic
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