For the past few months, wildfires have been burning out of control in Indonesia, creating an environmental catastrophe. Slash and burn agriculture along with the drying effects of this year’s El Niño are being blamed for the fires, which have destroyed million of acres of rainforest so far. The island nation of Borneo has been hit particularly hard by this environmental catastrophe, which is home to a large population of wild orangutans. With much of their habitat already under threat by both the logging and palm oil industries, the fires are now burning the only home that these animals have left.
The orangutan population has dropped by 20,000 in the past two decades alone and scientists predict that this species will go extinct within our lifetimes unless drastic measures are taken to save these animals and preserve their wild habitat. The added catastrophe of this massive fire poses a real and extremely serious threat to Borneo’s orangutans.
Thankfully, International Animal Rescue (IAR) is working diligently to rescue all of the imperiled animals that they possibly can. IAR representative Karmele Llano Sanchez explained the situation on their website, “We have fires in Pematang Gadung and Sungai Besar – forests full of orangutans,” she says. “We have also rescued four more orangutans in Pelansi (where we rescued the mother and infant just recently.) So that’s six in total in the last couple of weeks and we have just rescued another male near the centre. Our HOC teams (Human Orangutan Conflict) are following three more orangutans in different areas and we are starting to identify orangutans in Pem Gadung area and in other locations, but the situation is just going to get worse…”
With a sepia colored haze now hanging over much of southeast Asia, this fire is becoming as much of a threat to humans as it is to animals, causing some 500,000 upper respiratory infections in the human population alone. But unlike the humans, who now have naval vessels moored just off of the coast waiting to take in evacuees, the animal victims have no one to help them, but the kindhearted people working with IAR, who have organized rescue operations, vetted and relocated animals. But with these animals living in some of the most remote areas of the world, just accessing them is an expensive challenge. Everything and everyone must be flown in, which can be very expensive.
With the fires still raging, IAR will need all of the funding that they can get in order to continue with their rescue efforts. If you would like to donate, visit the International Animal Rescue website, or click here.
All image source: International Animal Rescue