As orangutans die, banks get rich
Setting a forest on fire is the quickest and cheapest manner to clear it. (image credit: Greenpeace Australia)
It's pretty much known that palm oil plantations are one of the major causes of deforestation in Southeast Asia. While agricultural conglomerates such as the Indonesian Rajawali Group are undoubtedly responsible, they aren't solely to blame.
Major banks such as Credit Suisse and the Bank of America indirectly aided in the destruction of forests by giving out loans to companies like Rajawali.
According to a tally compiled by the California-based Rainforest Action Network, the Dutch consultancy Profundo and the Indonesian non-governmental organisation TuK Indonesia, at least US$ 43 billion in loans and underwriting went to companies linked to deforestation and forest burning in Southeast Asia that year. What's even more shocking is that more than a third of that sum came from American, European and Japanese banks that have ironically made sustainability pledges involving deforestation.
Of course, such banks are doing their best to cover up their trails and are reluctant to comment on their involvement with tree-burning corporations. Looking at the brighter side of things, food conglomerates such as Nestle and McDonalds are trying to distance themselves from deforestation by ensuring their suppliers do not use palm oil. McDonalds has even pledged to eliminate deforestation from its entire global supply chain, from the oil used in cooking to the raising of the cattle for their beef patties.
When forests are razed for plantations, native creatures such as these orangutans are the ones who suffer the most. (image credit: Takepart)
The New York Times recently reported that one of the most recognisable of rainforest dwellers, the Bornean orangutan, is critically endangered. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the world has lost 60 percent of the Bornean orangutan population since 1950.
International Animal Rescue Group Director Ms. Sanchez said the group managed to rescue roughly 50 of the primates during last year’s burning session; twice the number the organisation rescues annually.
“So far this year, about 25 orangutans have been rehabilitated," she said. “They were all starving, all skinny. The problem is that every time an area is destroyed and orangutans are under real threat, we have to look for areas to release them, and that’s challenging. We are running out of places where we can release these orangutans."
Scientists monitoring satellite images at Global Forest Watch had raised the alarm about the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia as early as 2015.
The act caused environmental groups to rush to the scene in West Kalimantan only to find a charred wasteland of smoldering fires, orangutans driven from their nests, and signs of an extensive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
A rescued baby orangutan indulging its curiosity. (image credit: The New York Times)