Monday, December 18, 2006



Death of the Orangutan

Yesterday's Independent had a report which particularly caught my attention: The destruction of Borneo's rainforst (ironically, to produce palm oil, a biofuel) means that Orangutans are expected to be extinct in the wild in ten years.

This is immensely depressing. Orangutans aren't our closest living relative (that distinction goes to the Bonobos), but they're cousins, and you can see it. When you look at one, there's definitely someone looking back. Terry Pratchett, who has worked with the Orangutan Foundation and donates some of the proceeds of his books to Orangutan conservation (its a moral debt to the Librarian), has an amusing story about the reactions of different Great Apes to being given a camera. A Chimpanzee will probably smash it. A Gorilla will look at it curiously and hand it back. An Orangutan will carefully dismantle it, and hand the pieces back with a grin. The reason that Visa ad [video] works so well is precisely because Orangutans are so bloody smart.

(As for Bonobos, if given a camera they would either a) try and hump it; or b) use it to make porn. But they do that with everything...)

A world without Orangutans will be a much poorer place. Unfortunately, there seems to be little we can do about it. Killing our relatives and burning them out of their homes seems to be the price of capitalism - just as it was in Scotland in the nineteenth century...

7 comments:

Yep I posted on this too, glad you did too.

Posted by eugene plawiuk : 12/18/2006 04:39:00 PM

"(As for Bonobos, if given a camera they would either a) try and hump it; or b) use it to make porn. But they do that with everything...)"

Speciesist generalisation. You only think that because you saw it on TV.
Or read it in some porn rag like BBC Wildlife.

Posted by woppo : 12/18/2006 08:15:00 PM

Woppo: or paid attention in that course on the evolution of the human mind

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/18/2006 09:21:00 PM

Sad but true :-( Last chance to see... so much. I'm reliably informed that the Great Barrier Reef will also disappear in our lifetimes.

The least we could do is get a DNA record of what's left, for better times. Otherwise, the last evidence of orangutan existence will one day be discovered on a DVD with Clint Eastwood.

Posted by Zippy Gonzales : 12/18/2006 10:06:00 PM

Evolution?
When I done that course, twarn't no bonobos, were colored folks. Nowadays that watermelon stuff 'n sechlike gone clear hout the windy.
Why shoot, a itty-bitty 1% or less difference in DNA mean you can generalise all you want. Or wipe 'em clear out, if'n you runnin low on palm grease.

Posted by woppo : 12/19/2006 12:54:00 AM

palm oil is mostly used for food isn't it? Which is the other reason biofuel concerns me - diversion of fertile land from food production to fuel production thus driving food prices up.

Posted by Genius : 12/19/2006 07:47:00 AM

"palm oil is mostly used for food isn't it"

Back in my chemistry days, our application of choice was napalm...

Buff

Posted by Sweet Bird of Truth : 12/19/2006 08:29:00 AM