Orangutans' Fingers Mutilated by Oil Palm Plantation Workers: More on the Ape-Palm Oil Connection

orangutan hanging on branch photo

photo: Getty Images

We've written about the connections between deforestation, the possible extinction of the orangutan, and the expansion of plantation-based palm oil production a number of times. So often in fact that I apologize if some readers think it's too much. However, if humans allow the orangutan to go extinct, all because we can't get our collective act together and find a better way to cultivate oil palms and halt deforestation in Indonesia, it will be undeniably a low day for our species.

Currently, Plenty Magazine has a piece with a good description of what's going on in Indonesia and how the Orangutan is being increasingly put at risk. Some choice quotes: Rising Palm Oil Demand & Prices Means More Deforestation

Palm oil has long been a staple in Indonesia. There (and in products the world over) it's used in everything from soap to ice cream. Over the last year and a half, crude palm oil has become even more valuable in the global rush for environmentally sustainable biofuels: In fact, due to rising demand, the price for the oil has increased by 88 percent. Poor countries like Indonesia, the world's leading palm oil producer, are clearing thousands of acres of pristine rainforest to plant the crop.

Documenting the Demise of Orangutans
Hardi Bantiantoro from the Centre for Orangutan Protection, on what he's seen:
"I find dead orangutans, they have starved to death. There is no food, no water," he said.  He tells me that on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan (formerly Borneo), more than ten orangutans are starving to death each day because of palm-oil driven deforestation. "The situation for orangutans today is very, very critical. The experts say the orangutans will be extinct in 2015. The orangutans will be extinct in next three years unless the government takes extreme action to save them. But instead they are planning convert 455,000 hectares of forest [in Kalimantan] into new plantations, mostly palm oil," he said.

The workers on those plantations see orangutans as nuisances that trample and eat their crops. "The plantation workers have to protect the oil-palms. That is their job. To them the orangutan who is hunting for food is only a pest," said Baktiantoro, clicking through slides on his laptop of orangutans whose fingers and hands have been mutilated by plantation workers, and others chained to workers' dormitories.

In case these anecdotal observations aren't compelling enough, I refer you to a piece of research which asserts that unless action is taken to stop deforestation in Indonesia, the Orangutan will be the first great ape to go extinct.

Read " Orangutans and palm-based biodiesel don't mix" yourself to drive home the point and pass it along.

The Centre for Orangutan Protection has more on this issue.

Orangutans, Palm Oil
Palm Oil: A Rainforest in Your Shopping
UN Says Palm Oil Industry is Wiping Out the Orangutan
Orangutan Could be First Great Ape to Become Extinct

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