Orangutans are disappearing, their forest homes are being destroyed, and scientists are raising their status to ‘endangered’. Why should we care? The answer is, of course, that every high proﬁle species such as an orangutan is our indicator of the ecological health of the area in which it lives. The plight of the few remaining
orangutans, Asia’s only great ape, tells us that Indonesia’s forests are sick. Sick with corruption, money-politics, greed, violence, and self-interest. And the sad fact, borne out by the inaction of President Wahid’s government, is that nobody seems to have the courage to care.
The forests of Indonesia provide valuable resources to local communities, to wildlife that can generate valuable future income, and to regional and national treasuries through tariffs and taxes. The forests protect the land from erosion and play a vital role in the provision of fresh water. If a government ignores its true
assets and lets them be plundered by criminals and thieves – even if some of these are powerful people – then it ignores the very basis of civil society.