|They call them the thinkers of the jungle. Their name, Orangutan, literally means people of the forest. Despite the savagery done to these animals, many are not harvested for food. “Too human,” the people say. When living among people, they pick up human habits, like using a broom and dustpan. They are affectionate. They have close physical contact with their mothers for 5 years.
Their place in the animal world is unparalleled. They have seven times the strength of a human. An animal can move 530 pounds quite effortlessly. They have visual acuity far superior to humans. Travelling through trees takes complex statistical planning. In an area of 740 acres, they know which trees have ripe fruit and which do not. A great number of jungle plants are toxic but they know which ones to eat and which to leave alone.
If they’re so smart why are they almost extinct? They have few natural predators (many of those are going extinct). The exception is man and the stupidity of man. As predators, I think you will find that the two are related.
We have destroyed the Orangutan habitat through logging of forest woods. We have seen excessive clearing of the forest for reasons that are not real clear. We have seen plantations formed out of the jungle for palm oil that has taken the world by storm. Lastly, when man comes up against orangutans, the orangs lose.
There are two main Islands of Orangutans, Sumatra and Borneo. Rain forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. By 2006 half of the rain forests will be destroyed. Rain forests are being destroyed at a rate of ten% per year.
Orangs need a certain number of plants to survive. If you decrease the number of plants available to them, they have to go farther to get sustenance. This takes a lot more effort. Orangutans are getting a reputation of being relatively solitary. This is not really true. The truth is they have to go farther to have enough to eat. It is estimated of thirteen populations over 250 individuals, only 7 will be able to be sustained. There is a big if here. The forests must be maintained.
“Well,” you say, “Why don’t we do that?” It’s not a simple process. We don’t have a lot of clout in Indonesia. Seventy percent of the lumber harvested is harvested illegally. Obviously, the government has to know what is going on. Seventy percent of the exports are from companies without permits. How do you hide large bulldozers knocking down trees or an army of men with chain saws? In some of the countries there are five thousand dollar fines and 15-year jail sentences for slash and burn in the jungle. 176 incidents have been investigated; only 5 have been charged. I know what that sounds like to me. Money is changing hands.
Are there other ways to combat this? Not a single consumer country has instituted laws to confiscate illegally harvested timber. Within 5 countries, there are voluntary agreements, but these are largely not enforced.
Why should we be interested? The practice decimates the land. The soil of the rainforest is markedly thin and poor in quality. All the nutrients are up in the trees. If you chop down the trees, nothing else really grows there. Who gets rich? It is not the guys with chains saws or herding logs down the river. There are few that profit and many work for a pittance under very dangerous conditions.
People get sick in the fires used to burn off the waste. Water supplies dry up and remaining water becomes polluted with chemicals used to preserve the non-jungle conditions. There is no OSHA to oversea safety.
It is estimated that by 2006 half of Borneo’s forests will be cleared. Leadership in these countries has offered free land for clearing the jungle. They can turn around and sell the land for fifty dollars an acre. Often there are no buyers
It’s not only illegal logging that causes deforestation. Look in your cabinets and see how many of your items have palm oil in them. Palm oil has replaced soybean oil as the leading vegetable oil.
In Europe, especially Germany, they burn palm oil for electricity. It is estimated that 1.3 billion kilowatt hours are generated this way. German power companies, under the Renewable Energy Act, need to use wind, solar and biomass alternatives to generate power. In fact, they have to pay a 6% premium to use these alternative power sources. Of course, it is ultimately the consumer who pays the bills.
887,300 billion tons of palm oil was harvested in 2005. The cultivating of the product is termed ecocidal in about 80% of the cases. Places for cultivating the product are generally not suited for its growth. Domestically produced rapeseed oil is cheaper, especially if you don’t count the cost of ecologic damage and safety violations to natives.
How do you deforest the planet to use an ecologically based fuel? The legislation was passed by a coalition of Social Democrats and Green Party delegates. I am sure they meant well. It looked good on paper. Consumers readily paid the six percent surcharge. Literally the financial institutions of Europe have financed the deforestation of the Rainforest.
When Orangutans come into contact with humans, the results are not pretty. Orangs disrupt the plantation process. Some have been blinded for their sin of stealing papaya and bananas.
Animals can be harvested for zoos. A baby orangutan is worth 50,000dollars to a zoo. Locally, it can garner the princely sum of 15 to 20 dollars.
I could go through a whole litany of horrors that have occurred when orangutans and man collide. It would be worse than most horror films. Don’t they k now better? Don’t they know that they caused this by chopping down the forest?
The typical worker just knows that he was hired to clear. They paid me.
“What are they going to do with the land?” Most do not know.
If we in the educated west are largely oblivious to the problems of deforestation and its effects on wild life and the global climate, why should a poor peasant in Sumatra be better informed?
It all starts with education. Those expensive woods we buy do have alternatives. What do we need to make a dowel out of? Do we even care where the wood comes from?
Palm oil is a major cause of deforestation. Most do not know.
What about the local incursion of man on the rain forest? There are people right now training villagers and rescuing orangutans.
Will it be enough? We don’t know. The situation is desperate. We can do nothing until we are informed. Our response cannot be mountains of paperwork or piles of documentaries. It is action. Local zoos are beginning to support wild life conservation.
What will you do?