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Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Pet Talk - BY KAREN ROCKETT

He may be King of the Swingers, the jun­gle VIP, but King Louie and his friends will be no more if man con­tin­ues its re­lent­less and greedy march of de­struc­tion.

Alarm­ing new fig­ures show the orang­utan pop­u­la­tion is fall­ing by 25 ev­ery day.

To­mor­row, World Orang­utan Day, an­i­mal lovers are asked to raise aware­ness in a bid to save them from ex­tinc­tion.

A cen­tury ago there were more than 230,000 orang­utans liv­ing through­out South East Asia, the World Wildlife Fund re­veals.

To­day, that num­ber has shrunk to 41,000 in Bor­neo and 7,500 in Su­ma­tra, the only places where they can be found. They re­main un­der con­stant threat as large swathes of rain­for­est have been ripped up for farm­land, palm oil plan­ta­tions and urban de­vel­op­ment.

Palm oil is used in a huge ar­ray of foods – from ice cream to pizza, bread to choco­late – as well as cos­met­ics, de­ter­gents and bio­fuel. But be­fore plan­ta­tion be­gins,

fires are com­monly started to clear the land. Many run out of con­trol and neigh­bour­ing forests are torched, killing orang­utans trapped in the canopy.

In 1997 and 1998 for­est fires dev­as­tated Bor­neo and Su­ma­tra. One-third of the en­tire orang­utan pop­u­la­tion per­ished in the de­for­esta­tion and a fol­low­ing drought which rav­aged the is­lands.

Many orang­utans which es­caped the fires ended up on plan­ta­tions and in vil­lages – hun­gry and seek­ing relief from the in­ferno be­hind them.

Starv­ing, tired, wounded or sick, they were easy prey for poach­ers who could sell meat from the adults and put the ba­bies up for sale.

Mothers were butchered and their off­spring were plucked off their dead and dy­ing bod­ies to be sold into the il­le­gal pet trade. It was a bar­baric ex­am­ple of man’s cal­lous dis­re­gard for these fine crea­tures. Now wildlife char­i­ties urge peo­ple to act to pro­tect their habi­tats. Oth­er­wise these jun­gle VIPs could be lost for ever.

APE PERIL Orang­utans in grow­ing dan­ger

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