By: Parrys Raines, Category: Science, Date: 14 Oct 2009
My trip to Borneo to learn, research and film orang-utans.
I have a special interest in Orang-utans and last year I travelled to Borneo to learn and film them for a documentary I am making about them. I have wanted to go to Borneo for a long time after I had read books about the orang-utans. I also wanted to see for myself the palm oil plantations that are replacing the natural forests. This is devastating for Borneo’s wide range of wild life but in particular the orang-utans. It was a shock to see the plantations from the air; you see the real picture of what the orang-utans are up against.
I had seven days in Borneo; four of the days were spent learning about the Orang-utans in Borneo’s sanctuary’s and rehabilitation centres. I also spent two days travelling on the rivers in the jungle looking for Proboscis Monkey’s which are also only found in Borneo. It was exciting to find groups of them by the riverside. I also saw other types of monkeys and even fireflies.
I was able to get a lot of footage of Orang-Utans for my documentary. It was so special and so different to see these magnificent creatures up close playing in the trees in their natural environment.
The main concern for orang-utans is that their food stocks and natural habitat are affected due to activities such as deforestation, illegal logging, climate change induced fires and weather pattern changes. A longer dry season will mean that less fruit will be available as these trees take a long time to mature and produce fruit. It is also predicted that rainfall patterns will increase causing plants to fruit less and at different times putting more pressure on the orang-utans. The severity of forest fires will increase in the dry season due to climate change and therefore less natural habitat is available.
Hungry orang-utans looking for food will move from the forest into villages and palm oil plantations. Unfortunately eating the palm oil seedlings may result in the orang-utan being killed. Also when there is not enough food female orang-utans are unable to reproduce, this reduces the already shrinking population further.
Pam oil is in high demand because this cheap vegetable oil is stable at high temperatures needed for food manufacturing. It is found in products such as margarine, baked goods, detergents and lipsticks.
It takes close to five years to produce a crop so farmers use the trees they cut down to sell till they make money from their palm oil crops.
Orang-utans are only found in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra. There are organisations working hard with the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to help the orang-utan species, but I wonder if we have enough time?