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Palm Oil Companies Threaten Rare Orangutans

April 13, 2012 13:05 by Bran

Back in January, Reuters published an article about the quickly disappearing Sumatran elephant in Indonesia.  Now fires burning in Indonesia are threatening another rare animal:  The Sumatran orangutans.

According to CBS News, "Fires raging in an Indonesian swamp forest may have killed a third of the rare Sumatran orangutans living there and all of them may be lost this year."  The fires have ravaged more than two-thirds of the Tripa swamp forest in which orangutans, tigers, and sun bears live.

But how did the fires start?  Time reports that area palm oil companies have been setting the fires themselves in an attempt to clear land, despite the fact that the Tripa forest is officially protected.  The fires are negatively affecting the orangutan population in a big way: "Land clearing fires, several set inside the perimeters, have sent orangutans fleeing. Some risk being captured or killed by residents, Singleton said. Others will simply die, either directly in the fires or of gradual starvation and malnutrition as their food resources disappear," reports Time.

Ian Singleton, Conservation Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, told Time that even before the fires orangutans were just barely holding on. "It is no longer several years away, but just a few months or even weeks before this iconic creature disappears," Singleton said.