Orangutans in Danger
A couple of years ago, Ben Dessen was reading an article which told the story of the orangutan. Having a passion for animals and wildlife, Ben knew that the future for orangutans was pretty bleak and was interested to know more.
He read the book 'Thinkers of the Jungle' by Dr Willie Smits, who has dedicated his entire life to protecting orangutans and the forests they depend on which was how he came to raise thousands of dollars for Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) and travel to the jungles of Borneo with the 'DeforesAction Project' to see first hand the dangers orangutans face.
Ben travelled with the other 15 of the DeforesAction group in a convoy of 11 speed boats and travelled nine hours up the Malawi River, the longest river in Borneo, to the districts of Ambalau and Serawai. At each village along the way, the local Dayak tribes welcomed them into their lives and communities with a warmth and generosity that is often forgotten in modern society and they listened to their moving stories for hours on end. The strength and courage of these people in the face of such adversity was nothing short of extraordinary.
In one sense the Dayak people have nothing, least of all a certain future, yet they were peaceful, happy and totally at one with nature. Ben says his past ‘worries’ seemed so trivial in comparison.
The stories the Dayak people told were about the palm oil companies who would come and bribe the village leader or plant spies in the community to cause conflict between the people. They would trick the village leaders into selling their land for a fraction of its true value.
The timber companies would then illegally clear the land making millions from the timber. The displaced people were left without the forest they totally depended upon for survival.
Basically the old jungles of Borneo, host to an amazing array of animals and plants, are rapidly being destroyed by companies wanting to cut down these ancient forests and grow palm trees instead. The palm oil the trees produce is used for food production and biofuels, it's cheap to produce but comes at a VERY great cost to our natural environment.
When the jungles are cut down, the orangutans lose their shelter, food source and family. Either they die during the logging, through being exposed or poachers capture them to sell illegally as pets where they are often kept in terrible conditions.
There are only 40,000 orangutans left in the wild
They only live in Borneo and Northern Sumatra
The orangutan is one of the closest relatives to Man; we share 97% of our DNA
They live up to 40 years old
They're the only ape of Asia - all other apes live in Africa.
Baby orangutans remain dependant on their mothers longer than any other animal in the world.
Orangutans use tools, making umbrellas and sponges out of leaves
There's two types of orangutan - Pongo Abelli from Sumatra, and the Pongo Pygmaeus from Borneo.
Orangutan females only give birth once every eight years.
What can you do?
Join an organisation wich helps protect orangutangs, such as: the Orangutan Conservancy; www.orangutan.com
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Read more about Ben's trip to Borneo; http://bendessen.tumblr.com