Dean M. Chriss
Masters of the Jungle, Orangutans

Masters of the Jungle, Orangutans

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Orangutans are truly masters of the jungle. They move easily through the trees, seemingly with less effort than we humans move on the ground. Young orangutans hold onto their mother's fur and skin with a very strong grip, but she does not seem to mind. Female orangutans weigh between 65 and 110 pounds while males weigh from 110 to 200 pounds. They are tremendously strong. An adult male orangutan is estimated to have the physical strength of about ten humans. These orangutans were photographed in Sarawak, Borneo.

I feel privileged to have seen these animals in their native habitat. Sights like the one shown in this image will likely vanish from the earth within the next ten to twenty years. Orangutans now exist only in isolated areas on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, in the countries of Malaysia and Indonesia. Their population in Borneo has plummeted by more than thirty percent since 1997. This is due mainly to habitat destruction caused by oil palm plantations, logging, and the forest fires that have become so commonplace in the last decade. Studies in Malaysia and Indonesia have shown that 80 to 100 percent of the species that inhabit tropical rainforests cannot survive in oil palm plantations. Oil palm plantation companies were responsible for 80 per cent of the forest fires in Indonesia from 1997 to 1998. The World Wildlife Fund indicates that Indonesia has lost an area the size of the Netherlands to forest fires, and the burning of pristine rainforest continues today. Demand for tropical woods such as luan, teak, and Malaysian maple (often simply labeled "maple") keeps logging companies busy clear cutting the last and most diverse tropical jungles in the world.