Sumatran Orang-utan, Menyaru celebrated his ninth birthday today with his family and lots of fruit cake. But it wasn't all cake and presents as the Zoo delivered a strong message about the current crisis unfolding in the Tripa Peatland Reserve in Sumatra.
Zoos Victoria's Conservation Director, Rachel Lowry says Sumatran Orang-utans are even more endangered now than they were when Menyaru was born. Their population numbers are dropping drastically as they lose their rainforest habitat to rapidly expanding palm oil plantations.
The Tripa Peatland Forest is only one-sixth of the size it was in the 1970s, and the population of orang-utans in the remaining 10,000 hectares has dropped from more than 2,000 just 20 years ago to fewer than 200 now.
In the past six months, approximately 15% of the remaining 10,000 hectares has been illegally cleared, and more than 20 fires are raging in the reserve.
Rachel Lowry says the major reason for this unsustainable rainforest loss is the demand by food manufacturers worldwide for a cheap edible oil.
Aceh-based primatologist and conservationist Ian Singleton says the Tripa situation is critical: "For too long it's been business as usual for the palm oil industry, to destroy forests and ignore Indonesia's national laws. The time has come for the legal system to start challenging these practices, and for the destruction of the Sumatran Orang-utan habitat to stop...immediately!
"As we have seen in Tripa to date, public pressure has a major role to play in making change happen, but even then the destruction is still going on, and if these companies cannot be halted immediately the orang-utans there will be gone by the end of 2012. They have to be stopped right now!" he states.
Because Menyaru already has everything he needs for a healthy future, Zoos Victoria is making a gift on his behalf to the Tripa orang-utans: funding for two motor bikes to enable conservationists there to seek out and assist injured or orphaned orang-utans, innocent victims of the current crisis.