"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof” (Psalms 24:1)
As for now, morality set aside, there are other, more practical reasons for saving the orangutan from extinction. The red ape’s very presence, in some ways, is a key to protecting all the rain forest of Southeast Asia. People are becoming more aware that all life on earth, including humans, are completely dependent on forests for survival. The world’s rain forests have provided humankind with a number of products they often take for granted: coffee (ah, yes!), chocolate, rubber, and about half of all medicines in the world today.
Of course, many of these items can now be artificially produced outside of the forest. However, the vast majority of the world’s rain forest plants have yet to be studied. There is no way to tell how many more medicines, natural pesticides, and foods are waiting to be found. Once the forests are gone, these undiscovered treasures will be lost forever.
The orangutan plays an important role in protecting these vital rain forest resources. Most rain forests are closed systems, which means the entire ecosystem operates as one large organism. The plants, fungi, and animals are all completely interconnected and dependent on each other for survival. The combined interactions of these smaller organisms make up the rain forest. The orangutan is an integral part of this system. By eating a large amount of ripe fruits, the orangutan serves as a seed distributor. In fact, some trees depend solely on the orangutan to distribute their seeds, throughout the forest. Furthermore, by eating buds, shoots, and leaves, the orangutan effectively thins out or prunes the forest, allowing the sunlight to come through the canopy and stimulate growth in the understory.
Orangutan are also messy eaters, which means that they serve as a food delivery service for many of the ground-dwelling creatures. As the orangutan drop uneaten portions of fruit to the ground below, a variety of smaller animals and insects are treated to a free meal. These scraps make up the bulk of many rain forest animals’ diets.
Perhaps the most important role the orangutan plays in the forest, however, is as a “keystone” species. A keystone species is one that has, for one reason or another, caught the attention of the human world and acts as a focal point for forest protection. Orangutans are large, attractive, interesting, and perceived as highly intelligent. They are also seen by many as a close relative to the human species (If you don’t agree, then just see orangutan as living being created by God). For all these reasons, people are interested in saving them. Thus, in the course of saving orangutans, people also unwittingly save the lives of countless species of smaller animals, insects and plants that share their habitat. By rallying behind efforts to protect orangutans, the general public helps to serve complete ecosystems.
Ecosystems is important. For example, people of Sarawak sometime don’t understand why the natives want the Baram Dam project to stop. Besides the unnecessary dam expansion, every habitat such as plants, animals, insects, flowers, trees - even people who are very dependence on the river and forest for living – include the orangutans will be badly affected. Anything happen to the forest will affect humankind in general. “A human made tsunami will roll down and destroy everything,” said Peter L. from Long Anap, longhouse interior of Baram district, “forest, rivers, crops, churches, schools, graveyards, just everything! This will be the end of our lives!” Save orangutan! Save ecosystem! Save our lives! My first practical way to save orangutan is through awareness, how about you?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
Reference: Lucent Endangered Animals and Habitats Series: The Orangutan by Stuart P. Levine (Lucent Books, Inc., 2000).