Friday, 17 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: Orangutan on the Brink

One of the many pleasures of childhood is going through every kind of picture-book. I had many of them. Some of the books contained talking animals. And I loved those books! I guess my childhood affection for the cutely-drawn animals is responsible for making me concerned about wildlife today.

One of the animal I liked was the orangutan. For they were always given intelligent, witty dialogues. They were a sort of "respectable" species for me. Around the time my grandfather told me briefly Darwin's Theory of Evolution. He explained it in a way a four-year-old could understand. I was even more glad to know that humans and orangutans were related in some way. (It was only when I studied biology, did I know that both of them are hominoids and, more specifically, part of the same family Hominidae.) When I was about 6 (or maybe 7), I read detective stories where an orangutan was subdued and trained to rob banks or something like that. Though these stories fascinated me no end, the line between fact and [children's] fiction became clear as I grew up.

But somewhere in my mind, the apparently ugly-looking, super-intelligent animal still had a place. Probably that's why I (two years away from my school-leaving exam) was so shocked to read this:

The Sumatran species is critically endangered and the Bornean species of orangutans is endangered according to the IUCN Red List of mammals, and both are listed on Appendix I of CITES. The total number of Bornean orangutans is estimated to be less than 14% of what it was in the recent past (from around 10,000 years ago until the middle of the twentieth century)[.]

I need not say what's responsible for this as this is basically the point of the whole programme:

Orangutan numbers have declined sharply on the only two islands where they still live in the wild and they could become the first great ape species to go extinct if urgent action isn't taken, a new study says.

The declines in Indonesia and Malaysia since 2004 are mostly because of illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations, Serge Wich, a scientist at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, said on Saturday.

The survey found the orangutan population on Indonesia's Sumatra island dropped almost 14 percent since 2004, Wich said. It also concluded that the populations on Borneo island, which is shared by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, have fallen by 10 percent. Researchers only surveyed areas of Borneo that are in Indonesia and Malaysia.

See the full article here.

The orangutans don't deserve such short posts. I will definitely come up with more posts on the orangutans. As they say, it's just the beginning.

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