Photo courtesy of NonProfit Organizations
Indonesia’s dense but nevertheless critically threatened population of orangutans face a new threat in the form of massive waves of forest fires which are clearing large tracts of peat swamp forest in the Indonesian island Sumatra.
Satellite images show that there has been a huge surge in forest fires across the Tripa peat swamp recently. This is a result of the creation of palm oil plantations. It is said that even areas that have not been permitted for clearing have been burned down.
Tripa is the home to a very dense population if orangutans. Roughly 200 of this critically endangered species still inhabit the area; the population was originally roughly 3,000. This rapidly plummeting number of orangutans is blamed on the creation of new palm oil plantations. It is estimated that only a dwindling 7,000 orangutans remain in Sumatra.
Ian Singleton, the head of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), claimed that these measures are ‘extinguishing’ the Tripa orangutans. Commenting on the recent fires, he said, ‘The situation is indeed extremely dire [...] every time I have visited Tripa in the last 12 months I have found several orangutans hanging on for their very survival, right at the forest edge.’
‘When you see the scale and speed of the current wave of destruction and the condition of the remaining forests, there can be no doubt whatsoever that many have already died in Tripa due to the fires themselves, or due to starvation as a result of the loss of their habitat and food resources.’
Conservationists have filed a lawsuit against one of the five palm oil firms which operate in Tripa as it is believed that parts of the forest are cleared without prior permission or larger amounts than necessary are being cleared. The UN’s Redd+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme has seen Norway spend $US1bn in Indonesia in an attempt to reduce the current deforestation rates. It is believed that palm oil plantations are neither economically nor environmentally logical therefore more conservation efforts would be a reasonable move forward in Indonesia.
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By Dana Beltaji