TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The world celebrated International Orangutan Day on August 19 to recognize the great ape and to help encourage the public to take action in preserving the endangered species.
This years theme of the day was "Come play a role in saving and conserving orangutans!".
Indeed, there was nothing to celebrate on that day because according to information on www.worldorangutanevents.org , the population of the Sumatran orangutan is considered to have declined by more than 50 percent during the period of 1992-2000.
The population of Bornean orangutans found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, fell nearly 43 percent in the past decade, from 35,000 in 1996 to 20,000 in 2006.
Since these studies were done, deforestation rates have continued to climb which means the actual populations could be well below these.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), however, in its press release recently said an estimated 55,000 Bornean orangutans remain in the wild, split into three distinct subspecies.
But orangutans solitary nature and slow reproductive rates leave them particularly vulnerable to forest loss.
Models incorporating projected changes to climate and to land cover indicate that 68-81 percent of the current orangutan habitat might be lost by 2080, according to a new report entitled "The Future of the Bornean Orangutan: Impacts of Change in Land Cover and Climate".
The report, which was published by the UNEP and Liverpool John Moores University, in collaboration with the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), states that the massive conversion of Borneos forests for agricultural development - primarily oil palm - will leave the endangered orangutans fragmented and facing extinction in a number of areas.
In addition, the environmental impact of climate change exacerbated by the deforestation of Borneo could result in severe floods, temperature rises, reduced agricultural productivity and other negative effects.
Borneos deforestation rate has been among the worlds highest for over two decades, and 56 percent of the protected tropical lowland forests - an area roughly the size of Belgium - was lost between 1985 and 2001.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner urged adoption of programmes that measure the natural capital of a region and offer payment for ecosystem services to mitigate these threats.
"Now, it is time to utilize these approaches and divert from an unsustainable pathway to development," he wrote in the reports foreword.
"It is clear that a future without sustainable development will be a future with a different climate and, eventually, without orangutans, one of our closest relatives," he stated.
The reports recommendations to curb the impact of agricultural conversion include immediate identification and protection of priority orangutan populations and habitats.
To protect and preserve orangutans, French primate scientist Francine Neago suggested that Indonesia needs to establish some new rehabilitation centers for orangutans, as the existing ones are already crowded.
"The existing rehabilitation centers are already full. Currently, due to deforestation in Sumatra, several orangutans have to be accommodated in small cages owned by the government for their survival," Francine Neago noted in an email message, in July 2015.
The Aceh provincial government has provided a five-hectare plot of land for the construction of an orangutan rehabilitation center, according to Neago.
She plans to save some 50 orangutans currently living in small cages by rehabilitating and training them before they are released in Mount Leuser National Park and Tigapulu mountainous area.
For that purpose, she needs financial assistance, volunteers, vets, and supporting facilities such as computers. For those interested in helping her, her contact address is e-mail: email@example.com or website: www.noahandhisark.com.
Francine Neago has been living in Indonesia for 42 years to study and protect the great ape.
She has been known for teaching a female orangutan named "Bulan" to speak English on computers "voice box".
In the meantime, as part of International Orangutan Day celebration, 20 orangutans were released into their natural habitat in Bukit Batikap protected forest, Murung Raya District, Central Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, on August 19.
"Those orangutans have been rehabilitated before being released into their natural habitat," Head of Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation Jamartin Sihite said.
The endangered animals were not from Central Kalimantan. Instead, they were seized from irresponsible parties in Jakarta and several other provinces, he revealed.
Since 2012, this is the 11th time that the BOS Foundation has conducted such an operation, he said, adding that 156 orangutans have been released into their natural habitat over the past three years.
Meanwhile, Director General of the Environment Affairs and Forestry Ministrys Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Tachrir Fathoni lauded the BOS Foundation for its ongoing orangutan rehabilitation initiative.
"This effort must be followed up by all parties, so that the population of the orangutan species, which only exists in Indonesia, particularly in Central Kalimantan, can increase, and they will no longer face the threat of extinction," he emphasized.
Observing International Orangutan Day, the US embassy in Jakarta issued a press release informing that the US government has invested some US$28 million on the conservation of tropical forests to maintain the environment that orangutans need to survive.
"Im proud to announce that the United States government has invested approximately US$28 million to date on the conservation of more than 3.3 million hectares - an area the size of the country of Belgium - of the tropical rainforest which orangutans need to survive," US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake said in the statement.
He said a portion of these resources directly supports the conservation efforts of WWF and the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF).
He noted that the orangutan is one of Indonesias and the worlds most iconic species. Yet, the future of the orangutan is under threat as deforestation, hunting, and human settlement have caused their natural habitat to shrink drastically.
The orangutan has an inseparable link with the forest. "We cant talk about saving orangutans without talking about saving the forest," Blake said.
Sean Martin in his article published on IBTimes UK, On 19 August, wrote that orangutans share 96.4 percent of human beings genetic make-up, making them one of the closest things to human in the animal kingdom.
"Despite the similarities that they share with us, we have ruined their habitat like we have with most animals," Martin wrote.
Around 100 years ago, there were 230,000 orangutans across south-east Asia. Today, there are around 60,000 comprising 54 thousand Bornean orangutans and six thousand Sumatran orangutans, limited to living on two islands - Borneo and Sumatra, he added.
The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and the Kalimantan orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) differ slightly in appearance.
Sumatran orangutans have lighter hair and a longer beard than their Kalimantan relatives, while Sumatran males have narrower cheek pads. Both species are endangered due to the loss of their habitats and poaching.