In Indonesia the wild fires have covered parts of the island nation in thick smoke that has affected especially the orangutan population on the island of Borneo, officials say.
Borneo – the largest island in Asia divided among Indonesia (south), Brunei (north), and Malaysia (north) – has one of the larges orangutan populations in the world with an estimate of 20,000 orangutans. About 73% of the Borneo Island is Indonesian territory.
According to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), the smoke coming from the wildfires in Indonesia has already led to a lot of smoke inhalation-related health problems among the apes.
The wildfires stared in September this year and have been burning ever since. The situation is so severe that (last month) NASA satellites managed to capture some images of the thick smoke spreading across the island.
People started the fires by illegally burning parts of the forest to clear the land for palm oil and pulpwood plantations.
The fires occurred in areas with peat – accumulation of partially decomposed plant material or organic matter that is rich in carbon – making them more difficult to put out.
In 2013, a study – presented at the Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina – stated that when it burns, peat releases massive amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2).
Both baby and adult orangutans are at very high risk because of smoke inhalation. Monterado Fridman said that several orangutans – that suffered from acute respiratory problems – have been rescued by officials.
“[The babies] get flu, cough and diarrhoea, and without intervention they collapse in one or two weeks,” Fridman stated.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Bornean orangutans are an endangered species, and less than 70,000 such orangutans can be found in wild around the world. They are very important to the Indonesian ecosystem, because they help spread the seeds of plants around the forest, the World Wildlife Fund said.
Officials at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation said that the Indonesian wildfires not only cause health problems to the apes, but they also destroy the animals’ habitat.
Currently, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation officials are working hard to save as many orangutans as possible.
Image Source: numerique