Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Olympics or orang-utans: which would you preserve?

The other evening while at an al fresco supper, I got into an ill-tempered conversation with a woman about the cost of the current Olympic Games compared with the cost of saving the orang-utan. Such differing subjects may seem an unlikely topic for discussion over the after dinner mints. One is the most dazzling sporting spectacle for many decades. The other is a squat, shambling ape occupying increasingly threatened pockets of the jungles of Sumatra, Java and Borneo.

But after reading a report in the newspaper last week about the parlous state of these remarkable creatures, it seemed to me the monetary importance we attach to the two provides a depressing reflection as to our collective priorities. While the world seems to be able to find unlimited funds for the Olympic juggernaut, with its villages, stadia and high-speed rail links, the great wonder of the natural world, the orang-utan, is facing extinction due to the destruction of its natural habitat. Even the survey by the Great Ape Foundation of Iowa reporting this sad fact almost got lost in the sporting frenzy.

But the most disturbing thing I read in the report wasn’t the fact that there are just an estimated 60,000 of these remarkable apes left, it was the paltry cost of ensuring their future survival. A mere $1,000 each, apparently, would buy them space and security.

Continue reading at: The Olympics or orang-utans: which would you preserve?

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