The mass movement of people to Indonesia’s new capital threatens endangered orangutans

The mass movement of people to Indonesia’s new capital threatens endangered orangutans

Borneo, a tropical island off the coast of Southeast Asia, was formerly one of the world’s most inaccessible locations. It is the only area in the world where orangutans exist in the wild, along with Sumatra. The deep tropical jungles of Borneo are known as “Paru-Paru Dunia,” which translates to “lungs of the earth.”

Deforestation and cultivation have been progressively destroying the lush forest that orangutans formerly called home for years. According to the WWF, they are currently critically endangered.

Another catastrophic tragedy is now bringing these clever beings closer than ever to extinction. The Indonesian government is moving the country’s capital 730 kilometres to East Kalimantan province, on Borneo’s border.

The relocation has now been written into law, and the move to the soon-to-be Nusantara is set to begin in 2024. The UN has warned that the critically endangered animal could be extinct in just a few decades without a drastic change in human behavior. People fear that Indonesia has chosen the wrong location while guaranteeing a future for the sinking city.

Anton Nurcahyo, CEO of Indonesian non-profit Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, said, “The move will bring a large population but also big demands for changes to land-use to accommodate new housing and office complexes, even food production centers. This inevitably will create huge changes to the surrounding habitats.”

The mass movement of the population to this area could be devastating for the orangutang population, as they need these forests to be preserved in their current condition more than ever.

In the last 100 years, the population of orangutans has been cut almost in half to a current population of 112,000. Half of those great apes live in Borneo, and the red list animal can’t bear to lose much more.

Sophie Chao, an expert in ecology and indignity in Southeast Asia at the University of Sydney, told CNN,

“The region of East Kalimantan is immensely rich in biodiversity, with over 133 mammals, 11 primates species and 3,000 types of trees. These are found across a diverse mosaic of karst landscapes, peat marsh, mangrove, flatland dipterocarp forest and humid forest.”

The Indonesian government has promised that protected forests will not be bothered in the 1.5 million person move and ensures the new city will be environmentally friendly.

East Kalimantan Governor Isran Noor said, “Of course, there will be a few sacrifices, but ultimately, we aim to achieve forest revitalization,” he continued, “When finished it will boast at least 70% open green space.”

The government is planning for the new city to be a tourist destination and grow the economy of the country, bragging that the economic growth will double after relocation.

There has always been a problem with deliberate forest burning to clear land for agriculture and there’s the worry that this will only get worse as construction of the new city takes off.

From logging, coal mining, and palm tree agriculture, the forest and animals have endured a lot. The already fragile ecosystem can’t take much more.

Sign this petition to protect the orangutans of Indonesia.

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This article by Hailey Kanowsky was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 23 February 2022. Lead Image Source : Milan Zygmunt/Shutterstock.

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