Conservation of the Orangutan in Indonesia and Malaysia

WHEREAS, the orangutan originally occurred throughout southeastern Asia, ranging from southern China in the north to the island of Java in the south; and

WHEREAS, its current range is now restricted only to relatively small portions of two islands, Borneo and Sumatra, where only relic populations remain; and

WHEREAS, orangutans almost exclusively require lowland, mature rain forest habitat in which to live, and a vast majority of this habitat on Borneo and Sumatra is located inside National Parks; and

WHEREAS, the forests of the National Parks in Indonesia and Malaysia are protected by law; however, the law is not enforced and these forests continue to be cut down at staggering rates; and

WHEREAS, unprecedented forest loss has resulted in an 80% decline in orangutan habitat in the last 50 years as forests in Indonesia are being cleared for palm oil plantations and other agricultural uses, timber harvest, and gold mining; and

WHEREAS, in addition to habitat loss, indiscriminate illegal hunting and trade continue to decimate orangutan numbers; and

WHEREAS, severe habitat fragmentation has resulted in increased inbreeding and longer distance movements for food, and individuals wandering in search of food often are captured and killed; and

WHEREAS, life history characteristics of the orangutan, including low birth rate (average of one young per 8 years) and late reproductive maturity (7–10 years), qualify the orang-utan as the slowest breeding primate species in the world and do not allow for a rapid population recovery; and

WHEREAS, orangutan populations on Borneo and Sumatra have declined 50% in the past 10 years, and numbers are now estimated at <10,000; and

WHEREAS, at the current rate of forest destruction on Borneo and Sumatra, and despite being listed as endangered by the US Endangered Species Act and fully protected (Appendix 1) by CITES, orangutan experts estimate that the this magnificent primate species will become extinct in the wild within 10 years;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Society of Mammalogists, assembled at their 81st Annual Meeting at the University of Montana, Missoula, on 16–20 June 2001, recognize that the current situation with orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia is of grave concern to all who study and appreciate mammals and biological diversity, and that immediate solutions to the underlying problems are of the utmost importance and urgency, and call on the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to immediately expend the necessary resources to enforce the protections set up for their National Parks, including the strict ban on logging, agriculture, and gold mining within National Park boundaries. In addition, we call on the United States government (US Department of State) to (1) initiate dialogue with the Indonesian and Malaysian governments on finding a solution to this serious situation and (2) expend the resources necessary to develop solutions to the challenges posed by the conservation of the orangutan, and call on the World Bank to (1) actively support the Indonesian and Malaysian governments in their efforts to enforce protections for their National Parks, and (2) deny support for any development projects that would jeopardize orangutans and their habitats in Indonesia or Malaysia; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the American Society of Mammalogists commends the Indonesian Minister of Forestry for his recent action to place ramin, an economically important lowland rain forest tree species, on CITES Appendix 3 with zero quota, thereby banning the domestic and international sale of ramin and protecting critical orangutan habitat.