Borneo: Palm Oil Pushes Orangutans to Starvation


B. McPherson

The explosion of palm oil plantations in the tropics has pushed people and nature out of the way as corporations seek to cash in. Indonesia has been hard hit with destruction of its wetland jungles. In the process species found nowhere else have been pushed to the teetering edge of extinction. Included in the sacking of the jungles are our close relatives, the orangutans.

International Animal Rescue(IAR) was recently involved in saving a female orangutan and her baby along with a pregnant ape who were slowly starving to death. They were clinging to the one remaining tree left when land clearing was done to start another palm oil plantation. An unusual twist in this story is the people responsible for clearing the land contacted the rescue organization. The more usual course of action has been to simply kill the marooned wildlife.

The badly starved animals have been removed to a rescue centre where they are being cared for.

Coincidentally, a group of about 200 individuals were discovered on Borneo near the Batang Ai National Park. The park holds approximately 900 orangutans and this is good news for those working to save the species. There are two distinct species, the Borneo and Sumatran. Both are endangered.

In modern times human activities have greatly impacted their populations. Habitat destruction, poaching and the pet trade have all taken their toll. As the world’s appetite for palm oil increases, habitat destruction has become ever more frenzied with millions of hectares of wet jungle ripped out to plant the nut bearing palm trees.

Greenpeace has been front and centre trying to educate the public about the impact that everyday purchases have on the jungles of Indonesia. Palm oil can be found in a myriad of processed foods. The biggest market growth is in the production of biofuels. The production of biofuels is a cruel joke on those who think running vehicles on biodiesel is a ‘green’ way to go.


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