Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Early orangutan researcher Galdikas announces new "cruise expedition"

Birute Galdikas with young orangutan. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

John Bordsen, travel writer for the Charlotte Observer, published on July 3 a brief interview with Birute Galdikas about her work with the orangutans of Borneo. Decades ago, Galdikas was one of three women sent by famed anthropologist Louis Leakey to research the world's great apes: Jane Goodall pioneered the study of wild chimpanzees and Dian Fossey pursued wild gorillas, both projects in Africa. As a young woman, Galdikas took off to Borneo (tropical island in Southeast Asia) to study the natural behavior of orangutans in their native forests. For a summary of the research of all three woman, see Sy Montgomery's excellent book Walking with the Great Apes.\ Another great read, about a North American journalist's search for Birute Galdikas on Borneo, is A Dark Place in the Jungle by Linda Spalding.

I visited Indonesian wildlife markets; illegal sale of baby orangutans rampant

Fossey was killed on site in Africa (by poachers?), but Goodall and Galdikas have maintained a lifelong commitment to chimps and orangutans, respectively. At some point during her career, Galdikas' forest research morphed into rescuing orphaned orangutans, as the forests of their native islands have been plundered by timber interests and the palm-oil industry. Mother orangutans are often killed when they're in the way of commercial development, in fact are often killed to obtain their offspring. A baby orangutan can bring tens of thousands of dollars in the blackmarket pet trade. I learned that, first hand, while posing as a tourist in the illegal wildlife markets of Jakarta last summer. I was offered a baby orangutan in the Jakarta market of Pramuka, although more often orangutan sales occur in backwoods and sequestered locations to avoid any risk of prosecution. For more about the specifics of my interactions with traders, see my post: Laws flaunted: flourishing pet trade threatens orangutans's survival

I traveled through Borneo and Sumatra last summer investigating...

the conservation efforts for orangutans, whose numbers are dwindling as their habitat disappears. I was astonished at how much of the tropical forests of these lush islands is already gone. So sad, because these Southeast Asian islands have been among the most bio-diverse sites in the world. More posts, and pix, from my travels in orangutan habitat:
My search for wild orangutans on Borneo and Sumatra
Hunting may threaten orangutans even more than habitat loss

Galdikas' 10-day expedition for tourists next year

Anyway, early next year, Galdikas will lead a 10-day "Indonesian Interlude" cruise expedition to two of her research stations in Borneo (see Orangutan.Travel.or Fronteirs.Elegant Journeys to learn more about the trips).

Protecting apes and other wildlife

Trapping, shooting, eating, and selling wildlife are long-held traditions in forest cultures. Solutions must involve enforcement of local laws protecting forests and wildlife, and enforcement of penalties. That's something that's not happening right now in developing countries. But it must if orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers, and thousands of other species are to survive this century. Many organizations are busy, on site, trying to make it happen. In Southeast Asia, TRAFFIC and Greenpeace are working hard to turn things around.

What can you do?

Support some of the NGOs who are making the most progress in protecting orangutans from illegal hunting and trade and who are fighting to protect Southeast Asia's remaining forests from destruction. And working to rehabilitate orphaned orangutans.

These are some of the best:

Orangutan Outreach
Greenpeace International
TRAFFIC: the wildlife trade monitoring network
ProFauna (an Indonesian NGO that helped me in Jakarta by providing a local guide to go with me to the markets)
Sumatran Orangutan Society
World Wildlife
Rainforest Action Network
Earth Pulp and Paper

Some of my previous posts on conservation in Southeast Asia:

Some of my previous posts on wildlife smuggling around the world:

Monkeys and parrots pouring from the jungle. September, 2008
The U.S. imports 20,000 primates per year. February, 2010
The great apes are losing ground. March, 2010

Some of my previous posts about deforestation:

Orangutans dwindle as Borneo, Sumatra converted to palm-oil plantations August 3, 2010
Wild tigers are in trouble October 4, 2010
Plush toilet paper flushes old forests. September 26, 2009

Keywords: orangutan orphans orangutans poaching Borneo Sumatra Galdikas 10 day expedition Indonesian Interlude Camp Leakey deforestation palm-oil industry

1 comment:

Manhattan Air Conditioning Service said...

This is very bad that the very rich preserves of animal resource that we have is being extinguished for the greed of money of some.What they do not realize that they restore the balance in nature and help it co exist happily.