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  Home News and events General environmental news UN: Illegal Logging Decimating SE Asia’s Orangutans
UN: Illegal Logging Decimating SE Asia’s Orangutans

February 12, 2007 Reporting by Roddy Scheer

According to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the accelerated rate of logging across parts of Southeast Asia is decimating already endangered wildlife populations. While rhinoceros, tiger and elephant populations have been dwindling across the region as a result, orangutans face perhaps the most dire situation.

“The rapid rate of removal of food trees, killing of orangutans displaced by logging and plantation development, and fragmentation of remaining intact forest, constitutes a conservation emergency,” said the report.

According to the UNEP report, 98 percent of remaining forests on Sumatra and Borneo could be gone by 2022, with serious consequences for local people and wildlife. Increased international demand for wood and a depleted commercial supply has led loggers to cross over into national parks, traditionally the last stronghold for orangutans and other wildlife. In Indonesia, satellite imagery confirms that illegal logging is taking place in 37 of 41 national parks.

What troubles UNEP officials and environmentalists most about the illegal logging is how well organized it is. “It is not being done by individual impoverished people, but by well-organized elusive commercial networks,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UNEP.

The key to stemming the tide of forest loss is ending the illegal logging running rampant throughout the region to satisfy the world’s growing demand for wood. For its part, the government of Indonesia has urged Westerners not to buy illegally procured wood that has not been harvested through sustainable methods and certified by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council. “We are appealing today to the conscience of the whole world: do not buy uncertified wood,” Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s environment minister, told reporters.

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