Op-Ed: Outrage as palm oil companies exterminate hundreds of orang-utans

Posted Mar 31, 2012 by Elizabeth Batt
Devastating fires deliberately set by palm oil companies in Indonesia may have killed hundreds of Sumatran orang-utans. And the land grab means the creatures may have only weeks or a few months, before disappearing forever.
Conservation groups have said Sumatran orangutans in Tripa forest  Indonesia  could disappear comple...
Conservation groups have said Sumatran orangutans in Tripa forest, Indonesia, could disappear completely in a few weeks or months.
The fires are the latest move in a sickening and gut-wrenching war waged on orang-utans by palm oil companies over land in northern Indonesia, says the UK's Daily Mail.
Hundreds of the arboreal great apes, recognized by their reddish-brown hair and uniquely expressive faces, may have perished in the fires allegedly started by palm oil companies in the Tripa forest on the coast of Aceh province. It is one of the largest remaining populations of wild orangutans in the world.
More devastating, are the reported claims of palm oil employees forcing fleeing orang-utans back into the burning forest, to their deaths. An action, said Ian Singleton of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, that has cost the apes dearly. He told The Mail:
"It is no longer several years away, but just a few months or even weeks before this iconic creature disappears."
A few months or weeks.
Where is the global outrage?
Where is the government of Indonesia?
The latter is best answered by the state of Indonesia's rain forests. Once boasting 160 million hectares in the 1950s, just 48 million hectares remain. A devastating loss for native orang-utans, currently found only in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
Yet palm oil is the principle ingredient found in approximately half of all packaged goods sold on grocery store shelves. It is used in cookies, breakfast cereals, cosmetics, soaps and detergents. Our desire for such products is one of the sole reasons Indonesia's forests are disappearing. And greedy palm oil companies will satisfy this desire, no matter the cost.
Earlier in the year, the Daily Mail published images of a mother orang-utan trying to protect her baby as Indonesian palm oil workers moved in for the kill. Palm oil companies had placed a bounty of roughly $100 on her head:
"As bounty hunters with bush knives entrapped them in a circle and moved in for the kill, the only thing this mother orang-utan could think to do was to wrap a giant protective arm around her daughter."
Fortunately, this pregnant female and her baby was saved by a timely intervention from UK conservation group, Four Paws. This time. And while palm oil companies continue to deny such horrendous acts, the discovery of orang-utan graves and bones, reveal the sad truth.
Patrick Rouxel's compelling film, Green, also highlights the devastating effects of deforestation, as it follows a female orang-utan's final tragic days. Watch the trailer below and visit Green the for the full documentary. The only cost to you, is time.
Currently over ninety-two fires burn are burning out of control in the Tripa swamp rainforest of Indonesia, says Rainforest They have killed up to 100 orang-utans in recent months, and "could extirpate the entire local population, killing off some 200 orang-utans within weeks," they added. Sign the petition urging President Yudhoyono to act now.
There are times we should all be ashamed to be human. This is one of them.
Update: April 01
Sean Whyte of The Ape Crusaders is reporting The Chairman of the REDD+ Taskforce (Kuntoro Mangkusubroto) has sent a team of lawyers who have been on the ground in Tripa collecting evidence.
Whyte adds, the group is planning a 48-hour Twitter Jam:
"Follow us on twitter '@endoftheicon' and tweet to the influential people who can help us in this case. The law is on our side, momentum is on our side, now we just need to make certain the court is on our side, and the criminals get punished for destroying Tripa! use #savetripa on your tweets to get it on trending topic."
For further information on the current lawsuit that has pitted Aceh's "Green Governor" and palm oil developers against efforts to save endangered orangutans in a Sumatran peat forest, visit or