Threats: Why orangutans are endangered?


There are estimates that in about 30 years’ time all rainforests worldwide will be destroyed. As rainforest inhabitants, orangutans are directly affected by this. In Indonesia there are several reasons for deforestation. One of them is the export of tropical timber, as a much sought after material for the production of furniture or wooden floors.

Destroyed rainforest.

Palm oil plantations

A far greater danger comes from the palm oil industry. Over 85% of the palm oil traded worldwide comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil is an important raw material for the production of food (margarine, peanut butter, etc.), cosmetics, candles, laundry detergents, and bio fuels. Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of oil palms. Palm oil plantations are being expanded and rainforests continue to be cut down. This also forces orangutans to forage in palm oil plantations where they are caught or killed by workers. The infants are then sold as pets or food.

Close-up of harvested palm fruits.

Mining of natural resources

The mining of mineral resources like gold or zircon causes additional deforestation. Furthermore it is responsible for the pollution of rivers and lakes from poisonous mud and waste chemicals.

Close-up from a former mining pit. The rainforest has given way to white, toxic mud.

Slash and burn

Fire is a common (cheap and fast) method of making land areas usable for agricultural purposes. The cleared and then drained areas are mostly used for monoculture plantations.

The consequences of slash and burn for people and nature are enormous. In addition to the destruction of habitats, large amounts of carbon dioxide are released, accelerating climate change. The fires also cause smog with serious health consequences for people and animals.

Burning trees can be seen in the background, the sky is lit by fire, smoke hangs in the air.
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