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Dr. Reese Halter Headshot

Trans Borneo Challenge to Save Orangutans

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Nature in Borneo, Indonesia is in desperate shape. My colleague Leif Cocks, founder of The Orangutan Project, is on a mission to save the critically endangered Borneo orangutan and he needs your help.

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Leif Cocks is the founder of The Orangutan Project and has been the President since its inception. He has worked hands on with and for orangutans for more than 25 years including the most successful breeding colony of orangutans in the world, orangutan rescues and the successful reintroduction of numerous orangutans included the first two ever successful zoo-born reintroductions. Photo credit: Orangutan.org.au


The "War Against Nature" is escalating at an exponential rate throughout Indonesia. Its bloating population of in excess of 238 million humans is now feeling the wrath of climate disruption and the consequences of razing its magnificent jungles. Today there are more severe and frequent floods displacing a half of a million people regularly, massive hillside slumps, extinction of fauna and flora and unimaginable squalor with nil by way of sanitation for people.

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Thousands of people are displaced regularly now when torrential rains dump feet of water onto the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta and its burgeoning populations of 10.2 million people. Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk



The assault on nature is mostly from multi-national companies that regularly bribe government officials. Irreparable damage has occurred to priceless rainforests and millions of people are suffering.

It's predicted to get far worse as a potent El Nino is currently brewing in the Western Pacific Ocean. During El Nino's, haze from an area three quarters the size of Massachusetts that is clearcut each year kills approximately 300,000 people. Ancient peat forests are set alight to make room for monoculture palm oil plantations. All forests animals are doomed. And the human race looses the greatest carbon dioxide warehouses to have ever evolved on Earth, Indonesia's rainforests.

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Tropical rainforests along with coral reefs have the highest diversity of life forms on our globe. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute over 2,000 tropical rainforest plants (including Indonesia) contain the following potent chemicals that offer humans relief from: inflammation, fungal diseases, rheumatism, diabetes, muscle tension, malaria, coronary disease, skin diseases, arthritis, glaucoma and dozens of other cancers with thousands of medicines awaiting discovery. The caveat: Stop destroying all priceless tropical forests. Photo credit: fineartamerica.com


Infuriatingly, it's not just palm oil gluttony in Borneo and Sumatra that is impoverishing biodiversity and bleeding mega tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into an ever-rising atmospheric pool. It's also colossal, devastating open-pit coal mining operations.

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Mountains of coal are being barged down the polluted Mahakam River every few moments. Indonesia is racing to supply the insatiable demand for coal from China and India. Photo credit: phys.org

This rapacious and accelerated human-induced ecocide including Alberta's tar sands and Queensland's Galilee coal basin and elsewhere globally has recently been identified as the primary reason why our natural world is in the midst of the 6th Great Extinction.

Clearly, it is time we all lend a helping hand to reverse this staggering, life-ending ecocide. Last week the German banking giant Deutche Bank sold its stake in Bumitama, an Indonesian palm oil company that annihilates Borneo's rainforests, leaving all animals homeless.

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The race to deforest Borneo for palm oil and coal is leaving so many animals like this orangutan homeless. It is, in fact, up to each of us to make the correct consumer choices. Scrutinize all labels, refuse to purchase any products containing palm oil. Together our purchasing power is indeed formidable. Timber-mining Borneo's rainforests and their conversion to vast monoculture palm oil plantations is expediently killing our planet. Photo credit: ngm.com


Orangutans are great apes, only found on my two favorite Indonesian islands: Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutans rely solely on the rainforests for their habitat.

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Orangutans are wondrous creatures that can live in excess of 30 years, and, just like people, they relish honey and bird eggs. Photo credit: Orangutan.org.au


Orangutans are intelligent toolmakers like elephants, dolphins, alligators, ants, ravens, crows and humans. There are no more than 1,600 orangutans left on Earth and their habitat is vanishing quickly.

So here's what each of us can do to make a difference and save these sentient animals.

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The Trans Borneo Challenge aims to raise $100,000 to protect the critically endangered orangutans. It also seeks to heighten worldwide awareness of the orangutan plight and the rampant destruction of their exquisite rainforest habitat. Photo credit: OrangutanOdysseys.com

Please consider supporting one of the 10 adventurers racing on foot across 600 miles of Borneo's wilderness.

I asked Leif Cocks what his main message was? He told me that "There is no good reason to let the orangutans go extinct and all the destruction of their habitat is against Indonesian law. We should not let a greedy few profit at the expense of the many."

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Leif Cocks years in the field have earned him respect within the conservation field. He has been a key player in developing conservation plans for orangutans and influencing positive change for orangutan protection and survival. This respect has given The Orangutan Project world standing in conservation, and allows Leif to successfully negotiate conservation agreements with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and other government officials. It has also allowed The Orangutan Project to attract major sponsors. Photo credit: Orangutan.org.au

Children are fascinated by orangutans and rightfully so. "It's crucial for school children to know that they will pay the true cost of the rainforest's destruction with global warming and an unstable regions as unsustainable land-uses collapse. If we can connect them to at least helping one orphan, then they can make a difference," says orangutan expert Cocks.

Eighty percent of orangutans live in degraded habitat outside of protected areas, in unviable declining populations. "We have our backs up against the wall and need to put everything into turning the tide in the next few years," warns a passionate Cocks.

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Bruised, tied up and caged: The desperate plight of starving orangutans forced into villages to look for food. Is this the legacy that we wish to leave for our children? Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk


When I asked Cocks what each of us could do, he told me, "That we all live better off through cheap goods, as the true cost of converting the forest is passed onto the powerless -- local people, wildlife and future generations. If everyone just gave a little of that back to an effective charity such as The Orangutan Project, with as little as $10 a month regular giving we can save the orangutan."

It's time for each of us to act together and make an enormous difference by saving these magnificent creatures now, because extinction means forever.

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Amnesty for our relatives the orangutans -- Just do it! Photo credit. panada.org

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist, educator and author of the forthcoming book 'Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.'

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