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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shoppers' Thirst for Palm Oil Threatens to Wipe out Orangutan - by Martin Hickman

An estimated 5,000 orangutans are killed each year in Malaysia and Indonesia by the burning of vast tracts of virgin forest to supply the world's growing demand for palm oil. Building roads to the plantations has made the situation worse, by opening up the jungle for poachers, who kill orangutan mothers and sell their babies as pets to Asian families.
 
WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, estimates that 80 per cent of orangutan habitat has been lost in the past 20 years. Experts warn that at current rates of deforestation, the orangutan will be extinct in the wild in just 12 years. Its disappearance would set a dismal precedent for the survival of other endangered animals such as the polar bear and the tiger.
 
"The orangutan is one of the monkeys closest to us. We still have a lot to learn about them," said Mark Attwater of the Orangutan Foundation.
 
Dr Willie Smits, of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, said the loss of the orangutan had hastened in the last three years, "and palm oil plantations take the brunt of the blame".
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