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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 06:52 GMT
Student's fears for orang-utan
Abigail Dymond with orang-utans
Abigail Dymond spent two months working at a rescue centre in Malaysia
Urgent measures are needed to save orang-utans from extinction, according to a mid Wales student who has worked with rescuing the animals.

This week, global environment body, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has claimed the orang-utan could become extinct in the wild by 2025.

It revealed that, in the last century, the number of apes fell by 91% in its habitats of Borneo and Sumatra, and blames destruction of the forests for the decline.

Abigail Dymond, a University of Wales student in Aberystwyth who worked at the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, Malaysia, for the last year, is concerned by the report.

"The west have to stop buying up all the oil palm which is one of the reasons for the deforestation," she said.

"Commercial logging is another problem that has to be reduced."

Ms Dymond said she had "always wanted to work with orang-utans because they are extremely sweet and friendly creatures".

"It was not easy to find a placement involving the kind of voluntary work that I had in mind, but I was delighted when I heard of this centre in Sabah and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience," she said.

The number of orang-utans has been declining rapidly

For the first month of her stay, Ms Dymond worked with orang-utans brought from nearby rainforests who were not strong enough to look after themselves.

"Some were injured and orphaned, and I spent my time feeding them every two hours and giving them two baths every day and caring for them as if they were real babies." she said.

"I spent the second month looking after older orang-utans who were not strong enough to look after themselves in their own habitat.

"They lived in a large outdoor nursery and our work was to prepare them to return to the jungle."

Unsustainable decline

Almost 80% of all forests in Malaysia and Indonesia have now been logged.

The WWF believes there were between 45,000 and 60,000 orang-utans alive in 1987.

But that number had been halved by 2001.

The Sumatran orang-utan is now classified as critically endangered with only an estimated 9,000 specimens.

Stuart Chapman, head of the species programme at WWF-UK said the orang-utan could tolerate a loss in numbers of about 2% annually.

"This loss of 50% in 15 years is completely unsustainable, hence the urgency of the conservation work," he said.

Orang-utans 'may die out by 2025'
12 Jan 04  |  Science/Nature
Malaysia makes ape death arrest
26 Aug 03  |  Asia-Pacific
New ape population found
26 Nov 02  |  Science/Nature
UN's clarion call for great apes
26 Nov 03  |  Science/Nature
Apes' habitat 'vanishing fast'
04 Sep 02  |  Science/Nature

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