Orangutans fight for survival as rainforest burns

Palm oil plantations are destroying the Sumatran apes’ habitat, leaving just 200 of the animals struggling for existence

Gethin Chamberlain for The Observer, 15 December 2013

Even in the first light of dawn in the Tripa swamp forest of Sumatra it is clear that something is terribly wrong. Where there should be lush foliage stretching away towards the horizon, there are only the skeletons of trees. Smoke drifts across a scene of devastation.

Tripa is part of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the world’s most ecologically important rainforests and once home to its densest population of Sumatran orangutans.

As recently as 1990, there were 60,000 hectares of swamp forest in Tripa: now just 10,000 remain, the rest grubbed up to make way for palm oil plantations servicing the needs of some of the world’s biggest brands. Over the same period, the population of 2,000 orangutans has dwindled to just 200.

Orangutans fight for survival as thirst for palm oil devastates rainforests

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