News / Asia

Borneo's Endangered Orangutans Pay Price of Progress

A pair of orangutans receive medical treatment at the Nyaru Menteng Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) center in Palangkaraya, central Kalimantan (File).
A pair of orangutans receive medical treatment at the Nyaru Menteng Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) center in Palangkaraya, central Kalimantan (File).
Kate Lamb

Just a week after the last known Javan rhino was reported dead in Vietnam, a new study shows that orangutan hunting is on the rise in one of that animal's last refuges, the Borneo region of Kalimantan. With swathes of forests being cleared for industry, the endangered primates are entering villages and plantations for food - leading villagers to kill them as pests or to eat them.

The conversion of Kalimantan’s forests into concessions for logging, pulp and paper and mining has long been a threat to the survival of the orangutan. But it is not the only one.

Dr. Erik Meijaard is the chief scientist behind the survey conducted by The Nature Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group. He says that shrinking forests go hand in hand with the mounting slaughter of endangered orangutans by local communities.

Dr. Meijard says bushmeat is part of the local lifestyle, so even if hunters are not looking for orangutans, they will eat them when they catch them.

“A lot of people like orangutan meat. I mean, people describe it as a sweet meat that has a good taste apparently. So I think that once people do have an orangutan they are quite happy to eat it… The average hunter in Borneo will be targeting pigs and deer. They are the biggest animals with the most meat. But sometimes if you don't get anything and you can catch an orangutan you'll take it.”

A member of a rescue team walks towards an unconscious orangutan after it received an anesthetic shot at the Damage rainforest in central Kalimanatan province (File)
A member of a rescue team walks towards an unconscious orangutan after it received an anesthetic shot at the Damage rainforest in central Kalimanatan province (File)

Conducted in more than 600 villages in Kalimantan, the survey showed that orangutans are sometimes deliberately targetted.

Local villagers told the researchers that oil palm companies have paid them to eradicate the endangered animals. The companies see them as pests, explains Dr. Damayanti, a lecturer in Ecology at the Agriculture Institute in Bogor who was involved in the study.

“The are instances when the community can get money if they kill orangutan because companies who see orangutan as a threat really want to decrease the population of orangutan," said Damayanti. "So if people can present some remnants of orangutan body parts, they can get money out of it. ... There is an incentive although of course none of the companies would acknowledge that, but when you go and talk to the local people then yeah.”

Dr Meijaard, says that at least two interviewees admitted to killing some 150 orangutans between them in return for money from an oil palm company.

The survey was focused on gauging community attitudes rather than determining exactly how many orangutans are left. But the researchers concluded that even if all forests are protected from now on, orangutans will be wiped out if the hunting is not adequately addressed.

A keeper feeds Elmo, a four-day-old male baby orangutan from Borneo, in an animal hospital at Taman Safari in Bogor, West Java.
A keeper feeds Elmo, a four-day-old male baby orangutan from Borneo, in an animal hospital at Taman Safari in Bogor, West Java.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has announced a national action plan to protect orangutans, but environmentalists like Dr. Meijaard say more is needed, including targeted campaigns to increase public awareness and moves to reduce corruption in the forestry and mining industries.

"There has to be a way that we as Indonesians will live together with these animals, accept them as being part of our environment and get some message out there that gets people to think about it and it has to go hand in hand with law enforcement. People should become aware that killing orangutans is just not an option anymore," said Meijaard.

Orangutans once thrived across Southeast Asia, but today they are found only in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. In the province of Kalimantan, there are an estimated 50,000 orangutans.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid