It was an Orangutan named Jenny that gave the idea of evolution to Charles Darwin as the Orangutans are 97% genetically similar to humans. Now, this Orangutans are facing extinction from the face of the earth barely 200 years after Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.
The population of Orangutans have drastically decreased over the last 20 years due to the loss of their forest homes. Habitat loss is one of the main reasons why Orangutans are facing extinction. The rainforests that housed the Orangutans are cleared for producing Palm Oils and other agricultural uses. The remaining forests have been damaged by forest fires and other natural calamities rendering them inhospitable for Orangutans.
Illegal logging and unsustainable timber harvesting are other reasons why the natural habitat of Orangutans are depleting at a rapid rate. But the main reason why the Orangutans are facing such population deficit is because of the booming Palm Oil industry in Indonesia. Palm Oil is sold as a ‘green’ biofuel and is found within 50% of packaged products.
The lands that house the Orangutans are generally forested and provide the Orangutans with ample amount of fruits for nutrition. But this land is also targeted by Palm Oil Companies. They clear out the trees and set fire to the remaining wood debris. This Orangutans either die in the fire or they flee to a neighbouring area where they are killed, either due to starvation or by humans for destroying crops.
Though Indonesian government has set up protected areas where Orangutans can find safe heaven, these areas are not safe from Palm Oil companies. They are pretty hard to monitor and often encroached by humans. Along with habitat loss, young Orangutans are targeted for their market value in illegal pet markets. The illegal pet trade is the reason for about 10% depletion of the Orangutan population as when the child Orangutans are captured, their mothers are killed off. Orangutans are also hunted for food and killed by planters when they move into populated areas in search of food.
If we do not promote sustainable Palm Oil production in Indonesia, it is the end of the road for Orangutans. The WWF is working to secure the protected areas to ensure proper protection of the Orangutan habitat, but every conservative effort will fall short if we do not change our own views about the environment.