Illegal logging in Indonesia threatens very survival of orangutan, UN report warns

6 February 2007

The orangutan, one of the world’s few great apes, is making its last stand in the jungles of Indonesia as illegal logging accelerates at a far faster rate than previously thought, and emergency action is needed now to ensure their survival, including international initiatives to curb demand for the lumber, a new United Nations report warned today.

The orangutan, one of the world’s few great apes, is making its last stand in the jungles of Indonesia as illegal logging accelerates at a far faster rate than previously thought, and emergency action is needed now to ensure their survival, including international initiatives to curb demand for the lumber, a new United Nations report warned today.

“Without direct intervention in the parks, orangutans and other forest-dependent wildlife will become progressively scarcer, until their populations are no longer viable in the long-term,” according to the Rapid Response report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The study – Last stand of the orangutan: State of emergency – says natural rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo are being cleared so rapidly that up to 98 per cent may be destroyed by 2022 without urgent action, outstripping projections of an earlier UNEP report by 10 years due to an acceleration in the past five years of illegal logging, estimated to account for more than 73 per cent of all logging in Indonesia.

As demand grows, the industry and international market are running out of cheap illegal timber and are now entering the national parks, the orangutan’s last refuge, where the only remaining timber available in commercial amounts is found. “At current rates of intrusions, it is likely that some parks may become severely degraded in as little as three to five years, that is by 2012,” the new study warns.

Overall loss of orangutan habitat is happening at a rate up to 30 per cent higher than previously thought. The report notes that Indonesia is active in fighting illegal logging and has worked with a series of international programmes and initiatives to reduce the logging.

But most long-term initiatives, like reducing corruption and certification of timber, require the substantial support of the international community including recipients of illegally logged timber, as well as “massive changes” in management regimes and long-term institutional change.

“Some or all of these responses may potentially have paramount effects in the long-term, but they will generally take too much time to develop to an effective level and will fall short of the immediate crisis in securing the future survival of the orangutan and the protection of national parks,” the report warns. “Immediate on-the-ground action is required to back up the global-scale efforts towards sustainable wood production.”

It calls for substantially strengthening Indonesia’s own efforts with the rapid deployment of reconnaissance units, removal of illegal plantations, mining and agricultural development inside the parks and enhanced international law enforcement programmes against illegal logging.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner noted that the logging is not done “by individual impoverished people, but by well-organized elusive commercial networks,” and he called on the international community to aid the Indonesian authorities with equipment, training and funding to patrol their national parks from illegal loggers.

“National Parks form a cornerstone in the 2010 target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss and are also so valuable for eco-tourism and in generating new livelihoods. Their protection is vital to these international goals and to the entire concept of protected areas,” he said.

The scale of illegal logging, including in national parks, is likely to increase not only in Indonesia, but also in other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the leader of the Response team, Christian Nellemann, noted. “The situation is now acute,” he said.

The report was prepared by GRASP, the Great Ape Survival Partnership lead by UNEP and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in collaboration with a wide range of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Bornean and Sumatran orangutans are classed as Endangered and Critically Endangered.

Recent estimates suggest there are between 45,000 and 69,000 Bornean and no more than 7,300 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.

 

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