I am Serge Wich, a biologist affiliated with Liverpool John Moores University (ljmu.ac.uk/RCEAP/) who studies on primates and specifically orangutans. During the course of my career I apply science to further the conservation of orangutans and other species in the tropical rainforest where they occur. Naturally I do this in collaboration with a large number of dedicated people from all over the globe and specifically those in Indonesia. During the course of the past decade I have done so specifically together with the people from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (www.sumatranorangutan.org) who are working very hard to conserve the last areas where Sumatran orangutans still occur. One of the real conservation battlegrounds at the moment is the Tripa peat swamp area on the west coast of Aceh (Sumatra). This once magnificent forest area is being transformed into oil palm plantation in a frightening speed. The area is part of the Leuser Ecosystem, a hugely important conservation area and home to Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinos, Sumatran elephants and a host of other species. Many people are supporting the effort to stop the conversion of forest there and these two films illustrate what is happening there (http://endoftheicons.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/saving-leuser-tripa-a-film-by-carlos-quilles/ and http://endoftheicons.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/tripa-field-update-junejuly-2012-6/). I have been working in the Leuser Ecosystem for two decades now and even though much has been lost the area deserves all our efforts because there is still so much magnificent forest and wildlife left. Each time I am in the forest there I am still amazed by the sheer beauty of the forest and its wildlife. I am hoping to continue to contribute to the conservation of forests where orangutans occur by conducting scientific research and educating students that are interested in wildlife conservation, but also by helping to show the value of the forest to the local and global communities by documenting the ecosystem services that these forest provide like water (for example see: www.orangutanreport.un-grasp.org). As a researcher I try to use conventional and less conventional research methods such as unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor land use changes and wildlife (www.conservationdrones.org). Conserving these forest will need a lot of attention globally so I am glad to be part of the whale of a time community.
Orangutans in Indonesia could be on the brink of extinction all for a product many Americans do not even know they are consuming. The Orangutans natural habitat in Indonesia are allegedly being burned down and decimated to make room for trees that produce palm oil.
Palm oil is a cheap ingredient that is used in almost half the items in American grocery stores. But because palm oil goes by so many different names it can be hard for consumers to identify it in the products they are purchasing.
Jane Velez-Mitchell spoke to Rolf Skar the Forest Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA.
Serge Wich interview at Whale of a Time Festival 2012