Sunday, January 17, 2010

Orang utan lovers cry foul

KOTA KINABALU: Orang utan conservationists are upset with World Growth, a US non-governmental organisation, for “dismissing” the threat posed to the ape population by oil palm plantations.

“Genetic studies in Sabah show that the orang utan population has declined by 50 to 90% over the past few decades,” said Sabah-based wildlife biologist Dr Marc Ancrenaz.

“This severe decline is due to several causes such as hunting and pet trade, but the foremost reason is forest loss when the forest is cut down and converted for agriculture,” said Dr Ancrenaz, who heads the French non-governmental organisation, Hutan, which works with Sabah Wildlife Department for orang utan conservation.

The World Growth website contained a report titled Collateral Damage: How the Bogus Campaign Against Palm Oil Harms the Poor, which outlined several claims about oil palm plantations which the NGO described as misleading.

Dr Ancrenaz said there was no doubt that forest conversions created losses to the biodiversity and there was a need for all parties – the pro-conservationists and anti-conservationists – to work together.

The orang utan group and the palm oil group, he said, were both so “passionate” that it made it difficult to have an impartial view of the actual situation on the ground.

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