Orangutans in Kalimantan coal smoke & heated dispute
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2003:
DENVER–Underground coal fires beneath Kalimantan province,
Indonesia, could exterminate the island’s orangutans and sun bears,
Indonesian Ministry of Energy coalfield fire project chief Alfred
Whitehouse and East Georgia College professor Glenn Stracher told the
American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference
in Denver on February 15, 2003.
Of the 20,000 remaining wild orangutans, about 15,000 live
in Kalimantan, Wbitehouse and Stracher said. Already imperiled by
habitat loss due to logging and slash-and-burn agriculture,
orangutans have now lost about half of Kutain National Park due to
underground fires and lethal smoke, according to Whitehouse and
The Kalimantan coal reserves apparently ignited after
slash-and-burn fires raced out of control during the drought years of
1997 and 1998. razing an area the size of Costa Rica. Since then,
at least 159 separate underground fires and perhaps as many as 3,000
have evaporated groundwater and dried surface vegetation, allowing
more fires to start and burn uncontrolled on the surface. The fires
emit as much carbon dioxide per year as all the motor vehicles in the
U.S. combined, Whitehouse and Stracher said.
There is no known way to extinguish large underground coal
fires. Some such fires have burned in China for hundreds of years.
Meanwhile at Kualoa
The warning from Whitehouse and Stracher came while U.S.
orangutan defenders were distracted by heated disagreement over
housing and custody of Rusti, 23, a male orangutan who was rescued
from the defunct Scotch Plains Zoo in New Jersey in 1997.
“Orangutan Foundation International will build a
state-of-the-art orangutan sanctuary at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu,
Hawaii, for Rusti,” OFI announced on February 11 from the OFI
headquarters in Los Angeles.
“Rusti, who has been housed at the Honolulu Zoo, will soon
be moved to a temporary enclosure at the Kulaloa Ranch,” as his zoo
home is soon to be demolished, OFI said.
Begun by renowned wild orangutan researcher and rescuer Birute
Galdikas and her former student Gary Shapiro in 1986, OFI operates
the Camp Leakey research station in Tanjung Putting National Park,
Borneo, Indonesia, and has long planned to start a Hawaiian
sanctuary for captive orangutans.
After receiving custody of Rusti, OFI several times
announced that construction on leased state land was imminent, and
got as far as a groundbreaking ceremony at a site on Hilo, but after
repeated delays in obtaining permits, while the estimated building
costs escalated, Galdikas and Shapiro decided to send Rusti to the
Center for Orangutan and Chimpanzee Conservation in Florida.
“To that end, OFI designed, funded, and constructed a very
fine indoor facility,” the OFI press release said. “Fortunately,
as construction of the Florida facility was nearing completion,
Kualoa Ranch offered space for not only a temporary facility but also
to become the site for our sanctuary.”
As keeping Rusti in Hawaii while the OFI sanctuary is built
will eliminate the risks inherent in sedating him for the long flight
to Florida, OFI cancelled the plan to send him to Florida.
The Kualoa arrangements were not applauded by Cathy Goeggel
of Animal Rights Hawaii and Marc Jurnove, founder of the
International Society for the Protection of Exotic Animal Kind and
Livestock, Inc., in Plainview, New Jersey.
Jurnove was involved in closing the Scotch Plains Zoo, which
had been repeatedly cited for numerous Animal Welfare Act violations,
and in September 1998 won a landmark U.S. Court of Appeals verdict
affirming the right of activists to file lawsuits seeking AWA
enforcement. That case involved a now deceased chimpanzee who was
kept at the Long Island Game Farm.
“The Kualoa Ranch has offered to allow the Marines to use its
property for jungle warfare maneuvers,” Jurnove objected, citing
e-mails from Goeggel. “Currently a spider monkey is kept [there] in
a rusty cage with no environmental enrichment. Rusti’s holding area
will be a small concrete and metal cage.”
Jurnove asked “all humane organizations and humane people” to
ask that OFI “be investigated” for allegedly misusing donations, of
which ANIMAL PEOPLE found no evidence in the most recent OFI filing
of IRS Form 990, and for purportedly sending Rusti “to a private