Dear Orangutan Foundation International Members and Friends,
Orangutan populations may become extinct in the wild within the next twenty years – a frightening fact.
I spent most of the summer in Indonesia and the situation there remains very critical. I want to keep you up to date on our struggle to keep orangutans and their forests in Indonesia from being completely destroyed.
There is good news and bad news to the story. And the good news is very good news! We threw all our resources at the problem of illegal logging and poaching in Lamandau Nature Reserve and in Tanjung Puting National Park this year. Sparing no effort as an organization, we hired more field assistants to patrol the northern part of the Park. As a result, dozens of illegal gold miners, wild-rubber tappers, and even farmers were discovered and evicted from the previously lawless area bordered by the left fork of the Sekonyer River. Our new twice-weekly exhaustive patrols are protecting the forest there.
When we heard that local poachers were still, in the dead of night, poaching for dragonfish and turtles in the Park, and shooting the highly endangered and endemic proboscis monkeys for turtle bait, we hired a second boat and additional local assistants to physically block the right hand fork of the Sekonyer River mouth and provide nightly patrols. The fishing and poaching stopped immediately.
Then, on August 25th, we learned that twenty illegal garu loggers from another region of Borneo had invaded the northern reaches of the Park. Garu is a fragrant wood created within one species of tree when its timber is attacked by a certain type of fungus. High-quality garu sells for $500 US (yes, five hundred dollars per pound!) right on the spot. It is sold to buyers in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. This makes garu loggers especially dangerous. Because garu is so valuable, loggers literally tear apart all garu trees, from the roots to the twigs, from tiny pole trees to large trees. Garu loggers have devastated forests all over Borneo.
Our Camp Leakey study area was one of the last remaining forests in Borneo never to have been ravaged by garu loggers. Our assistants confronted the 20 garu loggers who fled on foot five miles north. I immediately reported the garu loggers to the local police chief and on August 27th, I led a group of 25 local assistants and 10 heavily armed police officers, five from the elite mobile brigade, into the forest to track the loggers. Our forest-savvy Dayak assistants located the loggers’ camp deep in the forest and the police arrested 10 loggers (the other 10 fled) and took them to jail on August 30th.
As I write this letter two and a half months later, the 10 garu loggers are still in jail – something unprecedented in the annals of the Park and forest protection in the region. The police chief told the prosecutors that he did not want to disappoint us.
Even more good news comes from Lamandau Nature Reserve where we are closing in on our goal of releasing 31 orangutans back into the wild this year. Over 20 ex-captive orangutans have already been released at the reserve and we were able, with the help of community patrols, Forestry and local police, to stop the logging along one river in the Reserve. You should have seen the look of wonder on the faces of these orangutans when they returned to the great forest for all time!
But these successes came at a high cost. That’s the bad news. So far it has cost OFI fifty thousand dollars to implement the nightly patrols, to hire additional guard boats, and to fund the additional community, local police, and Forestry police in the forests we protect. Right now we have funds for only one month’s work in Borneo.
We are facing a most difficult time. Time is running out. Recent surveys in Borneo and Sumatra suggest that orangutan populations are in rapid decline. But so far we have been able to save Tanjung Puting National Park so it is home to the largest population of wild orangutans left on this planet. Your gift has never been more needed and means more to the orangutans, wildlife, and forests of Borneo than you’ll ever know. I would not be making this plea if it were not so urgently needed. We cannot abandon the orangutans and wildlife of Borneo when they need us the most.
Thank you very much for your support both in the past and in the future. And my warmest wishes go out to you this holiday season. Without you, the orangutans would have no future at all.
Biruté Mary Galdikas
P.S. Your generosity will help save pristine habitat for the 6,000 orangutans that live in Tanjung Puting National Park.