Of orangutans and governments
I read with great interest the article Orangutan Woman' of Borneo," Jan. 13, on Prof. Birute Galdikas and the 20-year-old Orangutan Project. In December 1991 I was an Earthwatch volunteer at the Orang- utan Project at Camp Leakey in Tanjung Puting National Park on Borneo. My "tour of duty" was deeply rewarding, but also saddening.
Not only are orangutans endangered, but the Orangutan Project itself is endangered by factions of the Indonesian government that have taken the following actions: permitted poaching, logging, and settlements in the park; moved the park boundaries on several occasions; and continue to threaten the existence of the project and to harass Professor Galdikas. She and the project are the only witnesses to these predations with links to the outside world.
It is important to recognize that other parts of the Indonesian government, particularly the Ministry of Trade and Tourism, are strong advocates of the project and Galdikas; but the world should note, and call to account, those within the Indonesian government who are hoping to terminate the project, and with it the witness that the project and Earthwatch bear to the survival of orangutans in one of their few remaining refuges.
If the project is terminated, the eyes and ears of the world will be closed, and the poor treatment of Tanjung Puting National Park, the orangutans, and their habitat will continue unseen, unheard, and unchecked. Caroline D. Gabel, Washington
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