Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Will Orangutans Become Extinct Before the Conservation Community Gets Its Game on?

There is nothing cuter than a baby orangutan with its tussle of red hair bedecking a mostly bald head and big brown inquisitive eyes sparkling with wisdom, curiosity, and soulfulness.

Visiting orangutans in the wilds of Borneo or Sumatra tops my bucket list and it is clear I am running out of time to translate that dream into reality. A report detailing orangutan interactions with humans in Indonesia was released last week and is making international news.

The report shows that nearly 700 orangutans were slaughtered by local villagers in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo. While the findings of the research are terribly sad, they are not terribly shocking. Similarly, the conservation community's response to the survey is predictable: a call for the opening of more conservation areas and stricter punishment of orangutan killers.

This call to action is standard operating procedure for thousands of conservation workers and millions, if not billions, of conservation dollars. As a conservation expert, I am all too familiar with the battle cry of the protected area.

The concept is simple: we need to set up a network of safe havens for the world's most vulnerable species. In other words, keep animals safe by keeping people out. However, this solution is seriously flawed and doomed to failure for several reasons. In many cases, individuals existing on the brink of survival will resort to desperate measures to feed their families. Under such dire circumstances, the borders of a protected area are rarely a meaningful deterrent.

As Suci Utami Atmoko, a field coordinator in Indonesia notes, hunger was the main reason for killing and eating the orangutans. 'Some residents were desperate and had no other choice but to kill them after spending three days hunting for food,'. As a conservationist, I find it inconceivable that I would, under any circumstances, kill an orangutan. As a mother, I find it not only possible but extremely plausible that I would do whatever it takes to feed my children after watching them suffer from hunger for days on end.

I am not alone in this regard; in the case highlighted here, a full 70% of the villagers questioned knew the orangutans were a protected or endangered species when they killed them.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Will Orangutans Become Extinct Before the Conservation Community Gets Its Game on?

1 comment:

Borneo Orangutan Saver said...

I hope Borneo orangutans will be saved. I saw them in sanctuaries and think that they are amazing and very human-like.