On November 4, 2011, the world reverberated with shock news about the death of 691 orangutans, slaughtered by starving villagers in the rain forests of Kalimatan, Borneulo. A resulting study involved about 7,000 natives in 698 villages.
Desperately needing food, the hungry villagers of Borneo have lost their usual source of food as starving animals have moved onto nearby farmland to look for food. With a world population of 7 billion people, horrific sights like this will become common place scenarios.
Mount Kinabalu in Borneo and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with over 4500 species of plant, 326 species of birds, and 100 mammalian species identified. Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the gigantic Rafflesia plants and the orangutan.
Wikipedia / Borneo island
According to the Daily Mail in the UK, "Miss Suci Utami Atmoko, a field co-ordinator with The Nature Conservancy, said hunger was the main reason for killing and eating the orang-utans.' Some residents were desperate and had no other choice but to kill them after spending three days hunting for food.' "
However, there are other reasons why the Borneo villagers kill these great apes other than food: using the meat for traditional medicines; fear of the apes attacking their villages; and to sell the surviving orangutan babies to pet markets.
The survey by the Nature Conservancy was done from April of 2008 to September of 2009. Additional groups involved in it was the World Wildlife Fund, the People's Resource and Conservation Foundation Indonesia, and the Borneo Orang-utan Survival Foundation. The results showed that approximately 70% of the villagers were aware the orangutan s were not only protected but were an endangered species.
Orangutans, along with chimpanzees, gorillas, and other apes, have even shown laughter-like vocalizations in response to physical contact, such as wrestling, play chasing, or tickling.
Wikipedia / orangutan
The slow destruction of the country's orangutans developed because of a decision by the Indonesian government to open Borneo land for human development. The government is aware that they need to open conservation areas for the orangutan to prevent their extinction, according to the conservancy's program manager, Neil Makinuddin. It is feared that a loss of 1% of female orangutans would cause them to become extinct.
'Uncontrolled killing will soon diminish their population,' said Mr Erik Erik Meijaard, forest director of People and Nature Consulting International. It is estimated there are about 50,000 orang-utans in Kalimantan, although the number is rapidly decreasing due to loss of habitat, according to the World Wildlife Fund. (Daily Mail)
Orangutans do not limit their tool use to foraging, displaying or nest-building activities. Wild orangutans (P. pygmaeus wurmbii) in Tuanan, Borneo, were reported to use tools in acoustic communication.
Wikipedia / young orangutan
UPDATE: As if nature is making a feeble attempt to balance the world amidst mankind's many errors, in April of 2009, a new orangutan population was found in Indonesia, estimated to be around 2,000 members. Physorg reports that "...an orangutan of a newly found population is seen in Sangkulirang forest on Borneo island, Indonesia. Conservationists have discovered a new population of orangutans in a remote, mountainous corner of Indonesia, perhaps as many as 2,000, giving a rare boost to one of the world's most critically endangered great apes."
"Counted in the jagged, limestone cliffs of the Borneo island were 219 orangutan nests," said Erik Meijaard, a senior ecologist at the U.S. based Nature Conservancy.
As if to ward off a a prophetic future, an angry male had thrown branches at the photographers who were attempting to take photos of the male, a mother and a child. With 90% of the world's 60,000 remaining great apes in Indonesia and 10% in nearby Malaysia.