People “love” orangutans. Unfortunately this love is often shown by gawking at them in zoos, and even chaining them up for years in a house, feeding them human food and generally killing the great apes by treating them like novelty pets. Nothing should be treated like a novelty pet. Not even a Tamagotchi. Remember those?

pic: CIFOR (Flickr CC)

Of course the main problem is that the habitat of the orangs is being destroyed by land developers, principally for the purpose of palm oil, paper and wood. Dr Ian Singleton, director at The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, believes that the crux of the matter lies not with ignorant villagers who abuse and capture orangutans, but with those companies, based far away in urban centers, that are making money off land development. No big surprise there then.

From ABC Environment:

The IUCN’s Red List of endangered animals estimates that orangutan numbers have plummeted by 80 per cent in the last 75 years, with around 7,000 of the apes left in the northern fringes of Sumatra and 50,000 left in Borneo. Forest clearing for palm oil and timber is the main threat to these arboreal fruit eaters, with WWF Indonesia claiming that 50 per cent of Sumatra’s tree canopy has been razed since 1985.

One effort to help Indonesia’s orangutans is a project by the group Earth 4 Orangutans, which plans to construct 4 islands near the city of Medan in order to house sick and injured orangs who have been captured and kept in captivity.

The organization hopes that other endangered or vulnerable species will also be able to live on the protected islands, for example fruit bats and slow loris.

According to this silly blog on CNNGo the traditional Indonesian folk cure for asthma involves cutting out the heart of a fruit bat (while it’s still alive and beating), then cooking and eating it. One wonders why the bat still needs to be alive when you extract its heart if you are just going to cook it anyway? Just to be extra cruel?

As for the orangutans, surely it’s possible for all of humanity to respect them as we respect each other. I mean, unfairly imprisoning, laughing at, torturing, killing… we wouldn’t do that to each other, would we? OK, never mind. Bye, orangutans!

*In other (barely related) news, an elementary teacher in the US recently got in a bit of hot water for comparing one of her students to an orangutan. On Facebook no less. And some of her colleagues egged her on. As the ABC Environment article puts it, I think I’d rather have “orangutans as teachers” than a bunch of Facebook bullies.

Deforestation, Indonesia, pic: World Resources Institute (Flickr CC)