Orangutans and the Great Ape Conservation Fund

Earlier this month, I wrote about Sandra, an orangutan at the Buenos Aires Zoo and a landmark ruling on animal rights. I am following up with more information about the natural history of orangutans and additional positive stories of the environment from which they directly benefit.

Orangutans can live 60 years or more. Their diet includes eggs, insects, leaves, wood, bark, stems, seeds, grains, nuts, fruit and flowers. All wild orangutans live in tropical rainforests, spending almost all of their time in the trees, where they build nests in which to sleep. Bornean orangutans live on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. Sumatran orangutans live on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, restricted entirely to its northern tip due to deforestation.

Orangutan range map courtesy of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Orangutan range map courtesy of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

The Sumatran orangutan is almost exclusively arboreal. Females virtually never travel on the ground and adult males do so only rarely. By contrast, Bornean orangutans (especially adult males) will often descend to the ground. Both species depend on high-quality primary forests but Bornean orangutans appear better able to tolerate habitat disturbance.

Orangutans are seriously threatened by logging (both legal and illegal), wholesale conversion of forest to agricultural land and oil palm plantations, and habitat fragmentation created by the formation of logging roads. Orangutans are also illegally hunted and captured for the international pet trade but, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, this appears to be more a symptom of habitat conversion, as orangutans are killed as pests when they raid fruit crops at the forest edge.

Be of good heart. Orangutans have many champions. Here is one example.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Great Ape Conservation Act and since then Wildlife Without Borders, through the Great Ape Conservation Fund has helped in protecting the orangutan population on the island of Sumatra. This is done by increasing law enforcement to combat poaching and mitigating human-orangutan conflict.  Wildlife Without Borders is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of International Conservation that works with partners worldwide to conserve fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats, and maintain the integrity of ecological processes beyond our borders, for present and future generations.

In 2011, with a Congressional appropriation of $2.2 million and additional funding through the USAID/CARPE program, the Great Ape Conservation Fund awarded 51 grants totaling $3,869,265, which was matched by an additional $4,538,640 from partner organizations. The funds are used to support conservation efforts for several ape species throughout Africa and Asia and also to provide support to families of park rangers who gave their lives protecting apes. Funding also supports prevention and prosecution of poaching and other wildlife crimes.

In 2013, the USFWS awarded 30 new projects and two amendments to existing projects from the Great Ape Conservation Fund totaling totaled $2,081,120, which was matched by $3,161,108 in additional leveraged funds. Field projects in 17 range countries in Africa and Asia were awarded grants. Following is a description of some of the grants used specifically towards conservation of orangutans and orangutan habitat.

  • Reintroduction and monitoring orangutans in Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan.
  • Long-term home range patterns and the effect of habitat disturbance on Sumatran orangutans.
  • Reintroduction project for rehabilitant orangutans in West Kalimantan.
  • Protection of endangered ape populations in Sabangau, Central Kalimantan: An integrated conservation-research program in collaboration with local communities.
  • Bornean orangutan and forest habitat conservation through customary forests.
  • Increased environmental awareness and human-orangutan conflict mitigation.
  • Conservation of orangutans and critical habitats in Sabah.
  • Conservation of orangutans in the Ulu Sungai Menyang landscape (outside existing protected areas) in Sarawak.

Many other organizations are helping to protect habitat, which is the single most effective way to prevent extinction of orangutans, as this National Geographic video explains:

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/embedded/orangutan_kalimantan/src/

How can you be a champion for orangutans too?

It’s easy! Avoid use of products with palm oil or use only products with palm oil that was obtained from RSPO certified sustainable sources. You can find out how simple it is to do this by reading my other piece about orangutans, How Saving Orangutans Can Lower Your Cholesterol.

 

 

FSC products–another action against global warming

FSCLumber

By Neva Knott

All photographs courtesy of the Forest Stewardship Council and used with permission.

Forest Stewardship Council certification guarantees that—from forest to end product—the wood used is grown and harvested sustainably. In a sustainably managed forest, trees ready for harvest are cut and those too young are left standing. This alternative to clear-cutting is important to the planet’s overall ecosystem in that trees cover 30 per cent of global land area, and are the lungs of the earth. Leaf systems clean the air, tree canopies regulate temperature, and root systems moderate water flow. Sustainably managed forests are an important strategy against global warming in that they store carbon emissions.

The certification process guarantees that FSC wood is not illegally harvested, or harvested in violation of indigenous or civil rights, nor is it harvested in forests where conservation values are threatened, or from genetically modified trees. FSC certified logs do not come from rare old-growth and have not been treated with hazardous chemicals.

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While the story so often told is one of a choice between the environment or the economy, the Forest Stewardship Council provides a welcome alternative. In economic terms, sustainable harvesting creates a steady source of revenue for loggers and woodlot owners. In a clear-cut harvest system, once the trees are down, there are no jobs, no money to be made, and no forest left for local use. In addition, FSC makes sure the rightful woodlot owners are making the profit. As is too often the case in many developing countries, large corporations take over forests from indigenous groups or other unknowing peoples, pay a low wage to workers, and take all the profits with them, leaving a clear-cut landscape and a clear-cut economy. Illegal logging is also a problem on a global scale.

Sustainable forestry is one of the best defenses against climate change—global warming. One of the primary functions of trees is to pull carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that causes global warming—from the air. Trees then store the carbon so that it does not escape to the atmosphere. An FSC certified forest ensures fewer emissions of greenhouse gases, in addition to protection of water sources and forest-dependent economic systems.

The Forest Stewardship Council certifies public forests, commercial forests, and private, family-owned forests. As of January 2014, 36,156,297 acres of forests in the US are FSC certified. Not only are wood products certified, but paper products as well carry the FSC label. Just look for the FSC symbol:

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Humans are a forest-dependent species and will continue to harvest trees as raw material for many uses. When you as a consumer buy FSC certified products you participate in ensuring there will be forests left standing to function as part of the larger ecosystem, that habitat will remain intact. You will be promoting local economies, and will be making a stand against corruption and pollution. You will be actively working against global warming.