THE PLIGHT of Indonesian orangutans and what Australians can do to help their closest primate relatives will be in the spotlight at the next USQ Green + Thumbs session at University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast.
Coinciding with Threatened Species Day 2015, USQ business student Sophia Fuller of Hervey Bay will talk about her experiences in the Indonesian forests and the work being done there to ensure the orangutans’ survival.
Threatened Species Day is a national day held on September 7 each year to commemorate the death of the last remaining Tasmanian tiger (also known as the thylacine) at Hobart Zoo in 1936.
The event is a time to reflect on what happened in the past and how people can protect threatened species in the future.
Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Australia statistics show orangutans are an endangered species with an estimated 50,000 left in the wild.
“This large, gentle red ape is one of our closest relatives, sharing 98% of our DNA. The greatest threat to their survival is the destruction of the rainforest.
“Some experts say about 6000 orangutans are disappearing every year and without our collective help orangutans could be extinct in the wild within our lifetime.”
Ms Fuller’s interest in Borneo orangutans began in 2009 when she was still at high school in Brisbane.
“Working through the DeforestACTION centre we focused on the palm oil aspect, spreading the word,” she said.
“Natural forests were being cleared for logging and palm oil plantations. Orangutans can’t live in those plantations – there’s no fruit suitable for them to eat. When the forests are burnt the orangutans either die, get poached, or taken as pets and traded.”
BOS statistics show palm oil accounts for 35% of world edible vegetable oil production.
“About 80% is used as a vegetable oil or put in other ingredients. It can be found in many processed foods from ice cream and chocolate to cereals and fruit juice.
“Palm oil is also found in cosmetics and household products including toothpaste, shampoos, makeup and detergents.”
In 2014 and 2015, Ms Fuller and her fellow students visited the Orangutan Centre in Borneo.
“We saw the clinic where baby orangutans are rescued, rehabilitated and trained to live in the wild,” she said.
“The babies come out once a day to play in the trees. When they reach the next step in their growth, they’re moved to another place and eventually taken about 60km out of the city and released into a protected forest.
“Another protected forest I went to is specifically for research. They’ve got the most current data you can find in Indonesia and they’re doing some amazing things with conservation and reforestation.”
The USQ Green + Thumbs session will also include a talk on Australian Threatened Species.
For more information on orangutans including how to help the species survive, visit www.orangutans.com.au or https://planetfunder.org/projects/StudentsforOrangutanTropicalPeatland
What: Threatened Species session hosted by USQ Green + Thumbs
When: 5.30pm to 9pm, Monday September 7
Where: USQ Fraser Coast, Room A139.