Celebrating Orangutan Caring Week - November 8-14, 2020
"Protecting Biodiversity for a Healthy Planet" is this year's theme as the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened our understanding of how human and planetary health are linked to maintaining and respecting biodiversity in all forms.
ALL LIFE ON EARTH DEPENDS ON A HEALTHY PLANET!
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. All living creatures need other creatures and plants in one way or another - even if the connection is not so clear." (Young People's Trust for the Environment)
Although the COVID-19 virus has not yet been observed in great apes in the wild, there is abundant scientific evidence showing that our closest living relatives are susceptible to diseases transmitted by humans.
"Scientists fear that the virus, which is thought to have originated in bats and jumped to humans, could just as easily jump to great apes — gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans — which share 97 to 99 percent of their DNA with people. If the virus were to infect even one wild ape, experts fear it could spread unchecked and wipe out an entire population. There would be no way to stop it in the wild." (Richard C. Paddock, "Virus Delays Orangutans' Long-Awaited Return Home," New York Times, May 6, 2020, https://tinyurl.com/
The combined impacts of habitat loss, habitat degradation, illegal hunting, and the illegal pet trade, have pushed the orangutan toward an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild and now they face a new possible threat of a disease that can potentially add to that risk.
"We are worried about this and are taking it very seriously," said Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (https://www.sumatranorangutan.org/
Orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centers are taking every precaution to protect orangutans in their care, as well as, protecting staff and caretakers from possible transmission of the coronavirus, but expenses are high, and they are facing extra challenges in these difficult times.
Centers are still taking in rescues yet they are not able to release captive orangutans that are ready to be reintroduced back into the wild for fear of spreading the virus to wild populations further challenging already limited space situations.
We are already facing a climate crisis and a mass extinction threatening the very existence of thousands of animals and plant species, as well as threatening human populations, and the urgency of action has never been more important. The populations of these intelligent, sentient beings have declined by more than half over the past 60 years, and their habitat has been reduced by at least 55% over just the past 20 years.
To contain this virus and to stop the next pandemic, we need to start protecting wildlife habitats. Some of the deadliest new diseases, including COVID-19, Ebola, SARS, and HIV, have all arisen when man has crossed the natural barriers between human and animal populations. It is imperative that we afford critically endangered species their right to safe, thriving habitats unbothered by human encroachment and interference.
"Protecting nature is our first, best, and most cost-effective line of defense against future pandemics. (Sahir Doshi and Nicole Gentile, "When Confronting a Pandemic, We Must Save Nature to Save Ourselves," Center for American Progress, April 20, 2020, https://tinyurl.com/
By saving orangutans, we save ourselves and our life-sustaining environment. If we can protect and save this closest of evolutionary cousins and their rainforest homes, it would mean we are making the necessary changes to possibly protect all life on earth.
For more information visit http://orangutancaringweek.org/
Orang Utan Republik Foundation