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Solutions sought for decline in orangutan population JAKARTA - The government says a comprehensive assessment process is underway on the plight of the orangutan due to mass deforestation, but it will avoid scaring off foreign investors. Minister of Forestry Malam Sambat Kaban said over the weekend that his office was in talks with other authorities and the government of Malaysia on the decreasing number of orangutans -- Asia's only great ape -- which are only found in Kalimantan, parts of Malaysia and Brunei, and in Sumatra.

"We are aware of the issue, therefore, we are making comprehensive assessments to deal with this," he said. Leading environmental and wildlife agencies have said the growing deforestation due to legal and illegal logging and the expansion of plantation areas has altered the future prospects of orangutans, an accusation rejected by plantation companies. Malaysian palm oil industries, for instance, claim that palm oil is a strategic and well-planned agricultural industry which supports the preservation of wildlife including orangutans.

Kaban acknowledged the delicate situation, saying that on the one hand the government was committed to protecting the country's wildlife habitat, but on the other, it was essential not to take measures that would deter foreign investors, including in the plantation sector, in a bid to boost economic growth and create more jobs. "Therefore, a comprehensive assessment is needed to seek solutions to this problem," Kaban said, adding that deforestation was not the only threat to the population of orangutans as poaching activities had also been on the rise.

Environmentalists called last week on the government to take united action to save the orangutan as they warned that the red-haired ape could be extinct within 12 years. Friends of the Earth warned in a report last month that wildlife centers in Indonesia were overrun with orphaned baby orangutans that had been rescued from forests cleared to make way for new palm oil plantations. Data from the Ministry of Forestry reveals that the estimated number of orangutan in Kalimantan has dropped from 200,000 in 1990 to 50,000 in 2000.

In Sumatra, the population of orangutans is believed to be no less than 7,300. Indonesia has been facing problems to deal with deforestation for decades. The government --from the New Order regime to the current administration -- had treated forest resources as its cash cow. Following the reform movement, deforestation has accelerated as the regional autonomy policy -- which gives greater administrative power to local administrations in managing their economic and social affairs -- allows room for governors and regents to take aggressive measures to boost the local income.

Indonesia has lost more than 75 percent of its forests over the past few decades, leaving only 60 million hectares today. Over the past five years, some 43 million hectares of Indonesia's forests, or the equivalent of more than half of Kalimantan has been damaged.



Posted in Environment @ 17 October 2005 10:51 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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