Tuesday, January 20, 2009

300 Football Fields every hour.

by Marky Mae Brown

Today's the inauguration of Barack Obama. I WAS elated... until I read this.  

I've known of the plight of the orangutan for quite some time, but this startling and tragic realization of just how screwed they are really horrifies me:
But palm oil plantations devastate the forest and create a monoculture on the land, in which orangutans cannot survive. Over the years, Galdikas has fought off loggers, poachers and miners, but nothing has posed as great a threat to her "babies" as palm oil.

There are only an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 90 percent of them in Indonesia, said Serge Wich, a scientist at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa. Most live in small, scattered populations that cannot take the onslaught on the forests much longer.

Trees are being cut at a rate of 300 football fields every hour. And massive land-clearing fires have turned the country into one of the top emitters of carbon.

read the rest of the article here
It's really difficult to understand how people can plow through the rain forest at such a disturbing rate when they know that they are destroying something that will never, ever, ever be able to recover. They're stealing not only from the orangutans, but from themselves. 

We laughed at orangutans in those purulent Clint Eastwood Any Which Way films, but we won't be laughing when they're gone.
The orangutans are two species of great apes.

Known for their intelligence, they live in trees and they are the largest living arboreal animal. They have longer arms than other great apes, and their hair is reddish-brown, instead of the brown or black hair typical of other great apes. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, they are currently found only in rainforests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, though fossils have been found in Java, the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Vietnam and China.

They are the only surviving species in the genus Pongo and the subfamily Ponginae (which also includes the extinct genera Gigantopithecus and Sivapithecus). Their name derives from the Malay and Indonesian phrase orang hutan, meaning "forest person".

The orangutan is an official state animal of Sabah in Malaysia.

Help Orangutans, please. You can adopt an orangutan here or help reforest an acre of their home.

Orangutan Foundation International

This is a very reliable, trustworthy organization. Here's some about its founder, Birute Mary Galdikas:
At 25, Galdikas arrived in Borneo to begin her field studies of orangutans in a jungle environment extremely inhospitable to most Westerners. Galdikas proceeded to make many invaluable contributions to the scientific understanding of Indonesia's biodiversity and the rain forest as a whole, while also bringing the orangutan to the attention of the rest of the world.

When she arrived in Borneo, Galdikas settled into a primitive bark and thatch hut, at a site she dubbed "Camp Leakey", near the edge of the Java Sea. Once there, she encountered numerous poachers, legions of leeches, and swarms of carnivorous insects. Yet she persevered through many travails, remaining there for over 30 years while becoming an outspoken advocate for orangutans and the preservation of their rain forest habitat, which is rapidly being devastated by loggers, palm oil plantations, gold miners, and unnatural conflagrations.

Galdikas' conservation efforts have extended well beyond advocacy, largely focusing on rehabilitation of the many orphaned orangutans turned over to her for care. Many of these orphans were once illegal pets, before becoming too smart and difficult for their owners to handle. Galdikas's rehabilitation efforts through O.F.I., Orangutan Foundation International, also include the preservation of rain forest. 

The value of Dr. Galdikas's work has been acknowledged in television shows hosted by the late Steve Irwin as well as Jeff Corwin on Animal Planet. In addition, the importance of Dr. Galdikas's concern and work towards preserving Indonesian rain forest has been reinforced by the biofuel article of January 25, 2007, in the New York Times and the November 2008 article in National Geographic magazine, "Borneo's Moment of Truth."
The term "endangered species" has always bothered me. The fact that such a label even exists shows our destructive impact on the earth. We must work WITH nature - not opposed to it - if we are to maintain livable conditions on this planet. And we must ensure that these conditions are for all beings - not just the ones we deem worthy. It's not our place to put one species over another. 

Further reading: "The Vanishing Man of the Forest."

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