Orangutan Habitat May Be Gone in 15 Years, UN Report Says

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Park rangers lack the staff, training, and equipment to cope with the incursions, the report reads.

"The logging at these scales is not done by individual impoverished people but by well-organized elusive commercial networks," Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said in a statement.

The report estimates that tens of millions of cubic meters of timber is illegally logged each year—more than 70 percent of all logging in Indonesia.

Approximately 20 percent of the timber is smuggled out as raw logs. The rest is processed in sawmills, pulp mills, and paper mills and then exported. The mills were built to process two to five times more timber than is legally available, according to the report.

Satellite imagery collected in 2006, together with data from the Indonesian government, confirms that illegal logging is now taking place in 37 out of the country's 41 national parks.

The overall logging rate is about 30 percent higher than estimated in a similar report the UN released in 2002. Experts then believed orangutan habitat would be lost by 2032.

"At current rates of intrusion into national parks, it is likely that many protected areas will already be severely degraded in three to five years—that is, by 2012," the new report reads.

In addition to logging, the orangutans' habitat is burned to clear land for palm oil plantations and agricultural fields, the report warns.

Call to Arms

The report praises recent efforts by the Indonesian government to combat the illegal logging with its navy, its army, and specially equipped rangers.

But the report also says the international community must join the battle.

Over the medium to long term, a timber-certification process now in place will help consumers choose sustainably produced wood and palm oil products from Indonesia, UNEP says.

The more immediate need is for funding for trained personnel and equipment to patrol and protect the national parks from illegal logging, UNEP says.

According to the report, only 2,000 field rangers currently patrol 35 of Indonesia's national parks, which cover an area of 41,700 square miles (108,000 square kilometers).

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