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Palm oil workers killing endangered orangutans


26 July 2007 General News

Hardi Baktiantoro, director of the Center for Oran­gutan Protection (COP), said at least 1,500 orangutans perished in 2006, most as a result of deliberate attacks but also due to their habitat disappearing to make way for palm oil plantations.

"Orangutans have become the victims of torture by plantation workers as they wander and eat palm oil seedlings for survival," Baktiantoro told reporters.

As plantation workers had to pay concession companies for the loss of the seedlings, they had no choice but to pursue the primates, he said.

Video footage screened at a press briefing showed dead orangutans with severe head wounds allegedly inflicted by workers as well as severely injured animals that were treated by COP and other local rescue teams.

Baktiantoro said that "even though this kind of cruelty violates Indonesia's law on biodiversity conservation, no one until now has been arrested for this crime."

The COP urged the Indonesian government to immediately cancel concessions to palm oil companies in a bid to protect the orangutans.

"Central Kalimantan is the final frontier of the oran­gutan population in Indonesia. If the forest clearing continues, we will soon lose our national treasure," he warned.

Scientists estimate that 34,000 orangutans remain in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has said that Indonesia plans to be the largest palm oil producer by 2008 amid strong demand from the global food, biofuel and chemicals industries.

Indonesia is currently the second largest producer after Malaysia although it has a much larger area for plantations. The two countries account for 85 percent of world production.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers' Association was not immediately available for comment.
--AFP

http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/july/26/yehey/opinion/20070726opi8.html 


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