Sunday, August 11, 2019

Orangutans of Borneo

A young female Orangutan, Sandakan, Borneo.

Orangutan means 'person of the forest' in the local (Malaya/Indonesian) language(s). When you observe them for a while, you know why they must be called that. The above picture is taken in the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre of Sandakan in Borneo.

Borneo is the third largest island on the planet. It also has one of oldest tropical rain-forest on the planet.

Palm oil fruit.

Orangutan's are critically endangered. Mainly due to the loss of habitat. Local farmers are cutting down the rain-forest to harvest the cash crop of oil palm. Local people also burn the forest to make the clearings easy. Which sometimes causes massive wildfires not only destroying habitat, but also killing various species of animals.

Similar to plastics, palm oil was discovered at the right(?) time for the voracious global consumption needs. It is a cheap and versatile product that is used in multitude of things. Its consumption is increasing rapidly.1 Palm oil is also used as a bio-fuel. The US policy of using renewal fuels ultimately resulted in using cheap palm oil in huge quantities2. A reminder that the first step in conservation should be 'reduce'. The consumption of palm oil is expected to keep increasing around the globe in the coming decades. For the poor countries like Malaysia and Indonesia it is an effective product to bring the masses out of abject poverty.

Aerial views of Borneo.

Humans have probably lived here for 40,000 to 50,000 years, but the scale of destruction on the island is unprecedented. If you fly over the island the signs of deforestation are quite obvious.

New species are still being discovered in Borneo. And quite likely, some species are being wiped out by humans even before they are discovered.

Wandering in Borneo's rain-forests is a unique experience. Global awareness and active conservation efforts are perhaps the only ways to save this sanctuary.

1. How the world got hooked on Palm Oil.
2. Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe.
3. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019