4 September 2012

Distinguished primatologist Dr. Ian Singleton visited Melbourne Zoo today to highlight the plight of the endangered Sumatran Orang-utan.

Dr. Singleton is Director of the Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme or SOCP, which works with the Indonesian Government's Department of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation to protect Orang-utans and their wild habitats.

Dr. Singleton is based very near to the area now being illegally logged and burned, and his team is now involved in rescuing injured and displaced orang-utans whose habitat is going up in smoke.

Due to previous loss of rainforest which long ago linked them to other orang-utan populations, the Tripa Swamp Sumatran Orang-utans have lived in isolation from other groups of their fellow Great Apes for a very long time.

As a result, the Tripa Swamp orang-utans have developed distinctive behaviours specific to the area, which makes the prospective loss of this population even more devastating to primatology experts like Ian Singleton.

Dr. Singleton warns that without a cessation to the current logging and burning, continuing unobserved since a media ban was imposed, it is all too likely that Tripa's orang-utans could be gone by Christmas.

Zoos Victoria has provided two motorbikes to assist SOCP staff carrying out the rescue operation, but creating secure areas for their eventual release is a longer-term project which Dr. Singleton is also addressing.

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