Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Borneo's Endangered Orangutans Pay Price of Progress

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.”

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.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo's Endangered Orangutans Pay Price of Progress

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