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Orangutans struggle to survive as palm oil booms

Source:  Copyright 2009, Independent (UK)
Date:  October 24, 2009
Original URL: Status ONLINE

Cinta, a baby orangutan found lost and alone in a vast Borneo palm oil plantation, now clings to a tree at a sanctuary for the great apes, staring intently at dozens of tourists.

She is one of the casualties of the boom in palm oil -- used extensively for biofuel and processed food like margarine -- which has seen swathes of jungle felled in Borneo, an island split between Malaysia and Indonesia.

There are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80 percent of them in Indonesia and the rest in Malaysia's Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.

A 2007 assessment by the United Nations Environment Program warned the charismatic red-haired apes will be virtually eliminated in the wild within two decades if current deforestation trends continue.

Stung by criticism of its environmental record, Malaysian palm oil industry officials pledged at a conference earlier this month to fund the establishment of wildlife corridors that experts say ...

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