Blog: Trans Borneo Challenge to Save Orangutans


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.”

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. 

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.

Amnesty for our relatives the orangutans — Just do it

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