Many Orangutans were reportedly killed in the forest fires that swept through the Indonesian Borneo, during this year’s dry seasons. Most of the forest fires were deliberately started by plantation owners, who were clearing forest lands for developing palm oil plantations. Willie Smits, a founder of the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) project, said that the forest fires killed many Orangutans and drove many others closers to human settlements, where they were killed by people, who consider them as pests. He estimates that at least 1,000 Orangutans could have been killed in Indonesia this year, by forest fires and land clearings.

Orangutans are the most arboreal among the apes, spending most of their lives in trees, making new nests every night and hence the destruction of tropical rainforests in the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is having a huge impact on the population of Orangutans, which are ill-equipped to live on land. Orangutans are found only in the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and less than 60,000 of them survive in these two islands. Forest fires, illegal logging, clearing of forests for farmlands and mining have been increasing in Indonesia in the last few years and these activities and events have decimated the Orangutan population in Indonesia.

Members of BOS rescued 137 injured orangutans during the fire season this year and found the remains of scores of others. Corruption and bureaucracy in Indonesia are not helping the cause of ‘saving orangutans’, since they are preventing the strict enforcement of laws on wildlife and forest conservation in this country.

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