Last Stand of the Orangutan

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Globalization and international trade are generating wealth on an unprecedented scale and lifting millions out of poverty. However, the growth of global markets is also putting pressure on the Earth’s ecosystems or natural assets that in many ways are the foundation of wealth creation in the first place.

The planet’s tropical forests are some of these extraordinary and economically important assets – ecosystems playing a vital role in moderating the atmosphere, sequestrating greenhouse gases, delivering watershed management and are home to a rich and biologically important array of plants and animals.

This UNEP Rapid Response report, carried out on behalf of the UN-led Great Ape Survival Project, has used the latest satellite imagery and data from the Government of Indonesia to assess changes in the forests in one part of south-east Asia.

The results indicate that illegal logging, fires and plantations of crops such as palm oil are now intruding extensively into Indonesia’s national parks which, for example, are the last safe-holds of the orangutan.

In the past five years more than 90% of over 40 parks have now been impacted putting at risk national and regional attempts to meet the 2010 biodiversity target. The driving forces are not impoverished farmers, but what appears to be well-organized companies with heavy machinery and strong international links to the global markets.

UNEP applauds the Indonesian government’s new initiative focusing on new and specially trained ranger units to win back the national parks. It is starting to show some promising results with illegal logging halted in two parks in 2006. But the authorities need more assistance. National parks represent a common heritage and their protection and enforcement is essential in international conservation. UNEP therefore hopes to work even more closely with Indonesia’s government in the coming years and support them in this vital work that may hold promise for other nations too.

Achim Steiner
Executive Director
United Nations Environment Programme

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