Indonesian orangutans cling to shrinking habitat
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Life is a jungle everywhere in Indonesia these days.
In the concrete jungle of the capital of Jakarta, riots and
unrest during the past year have sometimes turned the streets
into battle zones between anti-government protesters and
Meanwhile, in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra another
battle is taking place, as environmentalists try to save
endangered orangutans from the ravages of logging and fire.
|CNN's Gary Strieker shows the orangutans in Indonesia
The problems of the orangutans are expected to increase amid
Indonesia's growing economic and political crises.
"If the people are in trouble, the forest and animals inside
it are in trouble as well, so the economic crisis is also
having a very heavy impact on the surviving orangutans," said
Willie Smits of the Ministry of Forestry.
The word orangutan means "man of the forest" in the
Indonesian language. These sociable, endearing primates may
reach 200 pounds (91 kg) in the wild and they are among the
few animals that use tools -- including sticks to dig for
honey or termites, stones to crack nuts and leaves as vessels
for drinking water.
Fires decimate forests
The orangutan population, which had already dropped as much
as 50 percent during the previous decade, suffered a
devastating blow in 1997, when fires raged for months in
their rain forest habitat. The fires, sparked by an unusual
drought and the clearing of jungle for agriculture, scorched
an area twice the size of Switzerland in Sumatra and Borneo.
Thousands of orangutans died in the blaze while starvation
drove others to look for food near villages and farms. The
orangutan numbers were further decimated by farmers who
killed them to protect their crops and then captured their
young for sale as exotic pets on the black market.
Environmentalists are now releasing those orangutans they
managed to rescue from the fires back into remote areas where
they hope they will be safe. They estimate that only 15,000
wild orangutans survive.
But Indonesia's economic and political upheaval is fueling
what conservationists fear could escalate into the final
plundering of the country's forests as the government presses
for more exports, including plywood and paper.
That means the endangered orangutans -- found nowhere else on
earth -- will be pushed even closer to the edge of
Correspondent Gary Strieker contributed to this report.
Southeast Asian fires quicken orangutans' demise
February 25, 1998
Orangutans, saved from fire, return to freedom
February 11, 1998
Fires, drought in Indonesia threaten orangutans
October 21, 1997
Balikpapan Orangutan Society (BOSUSA)
Indonesia Environmental Impact Management Agency
Orang Utan Page
Orangutan Foundation International
BBC World Service - Indonesian Service
Jendela Indonesia - Indonesian Magazines and Newspapers in English
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