Displaced by Palm Oil: Indonesia`s last Orangutans
Indonesia supplies half the world’s palm oil, used in hundreds of foods and cosmetic products produced as well as biofuel. Palm oil plantations are replacing four-fifths of the rain forest in Indonesia and they are still expanding. In April 2014 I documented the disappearing Sumatran rain forest and life affected by this rapid deforestation in Indonesia.
Orangutans are one of many victims of massive deforestation. They live in the wild in only two places, Sumatra and Borneo. Both species are now endangered, the Sumatran orangutan with only 6,600 left in the wild, fewer than 54,000 left in Borneo. Especially the unchecked burning of rain forests to clear land for palm oil plantations is driving orangutans to the brink of extinction in Indonesia.
A crucial component of my trip was spending time with rescued orangutans at a quarantine center of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. In the center I got to know Angelo, a 14 years old orangutan, and Siboy, one year. Angelo was found with air gun metal pellets embedded in his body. He was shot by workers when he ventured to a palm oil plantation looking for food. Siboy was found for sale on a market in Aceh before he was rescued. Baby orangutans are coveted as pets, although their sale is illegal and obtaining one usually entails killing its mother. Staff of the SOCP center takes care for rescued orangutans, rehabilitates them and prepares them for reintroduction back to a life in the wild.