There are two species of Orangutan, the Bornean and Sumatran Orangutan. They spend most of their time in trees and are very solitary animals but can have extremely close bond between each other when they do. Orangutans are the most intelligent primates. Studied for their learning abilities and sophisticated tools, they are a very advanced species. There is even possibility of distinctive culture between their populations.
Right now one of the biggest ecological disasters and acts of primate genocide in history is taking place. Over 90% of the orangutan habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years. Recently though, there have been massive wildfires in Indonesia. Indonesia is experiencing incredible drought which with along side of the affects of El Nino has caused the worst forest fires they have ever seen. Not only this but people in the palm oil industry and many agriculture industries burn their fields to increase crop production. These companies are polluting rivers and causing land erosion, and when the plantation workers set fire to the remaining trees, shrubs and debris to make way for the oil palms, it produces immense amount of smoke pollution that is toxic to planet earth. This is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gasses in the world.
This affects the orangutans because in the past 20 years 90% of their habitat has been destroyed. This already makes them vulnerable to death. The fires make them almost completely exposed forcing them closer to sources of water like rivers and lakes. This makes them defenseless to poaching.
Nothing is being done for them all because of money. Palm oil is an industry worth about 20 billion dollars. Pulp and paper production is also worth 20 billion so all together it is a 40 billion dollar industry. These are earnings the country can’t afford to lose. Agriculture is their largest economy but all the damage that is going on could cause 50 billion dollars in damages. It is already costing them 35 billion dollars, which is four percent of their national gross income. This wipes out their economic growth for 2015.
There’s really nothing to do at the moment just by being college students accept not buy palm oil. Things like lipstick, pizza dough, instant noodles (a very common college food, ramen), shampoo, detergent, chocolate, cookies and soap. All of these are products that most people use everyday. If possible try to look at the ingredients of these products and choose to buy those without palm oil.
Written by Mareka Tsongas, ESLLC 2015-2016
Brian Clark Howard Photo Editor Nicole Werbeck, National Geographic. “Photos: Indonesia’s Rampant Fires Threaten Rare Orangutans.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Meeijard, Eric. “Erik Meijaard: Indonesia’s Fire Crisis – The Biggest Environmental Crime of the 21st Century | Jakarta Globe.” Jakarta Globe. Jakarta Globe. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
“SAY NO TO PALM OIL! – Please Keep This Going Around The World – Xphobe.” Xphobe. 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.