Nowhere to Escape Featured

The wildlife warriors saving Borneo’s orangutans

The release of a baby orangutan into the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah, Borneo. © Gil Woolley/ Scubazoo

The illegal animal trade, deforestation and its affect on the climate, pose an existential threat to Borneo’s wildlife.

Did you know?

1) Borneo’s population has doubled in the last 50 years to around 19 million. With more mouths to feed, many animals have found themselves on the menu, while others are targeted for their body parts or trafficked as exotic pets.

2) Up until 1975, nearly 75 percent of Borneo was forest, but that figure is now 50 percent. The land is stripped bare of the forest in order to harvest timber and to make way for pulp, rubber and palm oil plantations. The raging fires that clear the way for these plantations (as many as 127,000 in 2015) annihilate vast amounts of wildlife.

Extensive deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations is threatening the orangutan population in Borneo. © Gil Woolley/ Scubazoo

3) As a result of deforestation, carbon dioxide and other gases are released into the atmosphere. In fact, scientists now believe that up to one-tenth of greenhouse gases released are due to the clearing of forests and peatlands. This results in violent shifts in weather systems- floods are becoming more frequent, particularly in watersheds with more extensive palm oil plantations. This is bad news for orangutans. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has upgraded the status of orangutans to ‘critically endangered’.  They conducted a study in 2014 that found that by 2080, as much as 69 percent of the orangutans' remaining habitat could become unsuitable.

Dr Sen Nathan, head of the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), says "I doubt we’ll see orangutans in the wild by 2050, the situation is that serious.”


Check out the trailer for the exciting new web-series, Borneo Wildlife Warriors!

Check out the trailer for the exciting new web-series, Borneo Wildlife Warriors

The series follows wildlife photojournalist, Aaron ‘Bertie’ Gekoski, as he trains to become a ranger with Sabah’s Wildlife Rescue Unit, a team of local vets and rangers who deal with human-animal conflict. Featuring elephants, orangutans, sun bears, pangolins and much more, the series is as thrilling as it is informative, with breathtaking relocations and rescues of critically endangered animals. The world needs to know about these fascinating, yet threatened species and ecosystems - before it’s too late.

Learn more about the threats to Borneo’s species and what the WRU is doing to help- read the article in Asian Geographic’s Climate Change Issue 1/2017.


Original article by Aaron ‘Bertie’ Gekoski, Photos by Gil Woolley/ Scubazoo

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