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Rhino News :Indonesian Fires, Loggers Threaten
Indonesian Fires, Loggers Threaten Orangutans
|| PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia, September 27,
Thick haze has covered many parts of Kalimantan, Sumatra, and North
Maluku this week, prompting schools to close down and people to stay
at home. The haze is created by fires smouldering across these islands
due to drought, lightning and fires set for land clearance that get
out of control.
Palangkaraya Mayor Salundik Goyong Wednesday ordered all schools to
close until further notice. He said the closure was ordered because
of the health hazard caused by the thick haze that has blanketed the
area for weeks. On Thursday the haze, caused by smoke from burning
forests and peat, had reduced visibility in Palangkaraya to around
10 meters (33 feet).
In August, the Kalimantan government put together a team of 370 forest
rangers, police and soldiers, to try to put out the fires, without
much success. Authorities can only hope for rain, which is not forecast
Orangutan expert Dr. BirutÈ Galdikas says a fire several weeks ago
advanced quickly on the Orangutan Foundation International's new Care
Center facility in the village of Pasir Panjang, a suburb of the city
of Pangkalan Bun. If not for the quick work of the center's staff,
the facility and the orangutans could have been damaged or destroyed.
Many fires have been burning underground for months. Suwido Limin
at the Kalimantan Centre for International Cooperation in Management
of Tropical Peatland began in late July to battle a fire started in
the Natural Laboratory for Management of Peat Swamp Forest where his
team has been recording biodiversity and natural resource functions
of this threatened ecosystem for the last 10 years.
Limin says, "This area is also home to the largest remaining orangutan
population in the world. Its survival is also threatened, and up to
5,000 animals could die if these fires gain a firm hold." So far,
Limin's team including a group of 17 young volunteers from the United
Kingdom who are living and working at the center, have managed to
hold off the fires.
More serious, says Dr. Galdikas, is the problem of illegal logging
near the foundation's Camp Leakey orangutan research facility. "Illegal
loggers are coming in from another river system and spending many
days going through swamps to reach the eastern border of the study
area. They are carving out small canals and building wooden rails
to float and drag logs out later this year when the rains come. We
hear their chainsaws, and are fearful they will begin cutting down
the fruit trees for the orangutans in the study area."
Located in the Tanjung Puting Reserve in Central Kalimantan, Camp
Leakey was established in 1971 by Dr. BirutÈ Galdikas. It was named
after anthropologist Louis Leakey, who was a mentor to Dr. Galdikas
as well as Drs. Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. Originally consisting
of two huts, Camp Leakey is now a cluster of permanent wooden structures
that provides a base for scientists, staff, students, and guards.
"We are mounting police patrols," Dr. Galdikas says, "but the loggers
are not always easy to find. Even when the police encounter the loggers,
they are only told to leave - they are not forced to leave. After
being give a couple of chances, then the police can be more forceful.
This takes time and frankly time is running out. We know these people
have used machetes to kill orangutans, like Davida, and we do not
want anything to happen to the many orangutans we know that live in
the study area like Princess, Peta, Unyuk, Tutut, Tom, and so many