Wild orangutans in Borneo are threatened with extinction and the main cause of their dwindling numbers is anthropogenic. Intense illegal logging, coal plants, timber estates, and especially palm oil plantations are eradicating the tropical rainforests of the island, the habitat of hundreds of living organisms including Bornean orangutans. We are destroying the homes of these magnificent creatures and forcing them into extinction.
In the past four decades, between 3000-4000 orangutans were killed every year, meaning a loss of more than half of their population. Since 2016, Bornean orangutans are declared critically endangered by International Union for Conservation(IUN). At this rate, they might go extinct in less than 50 years.
Four Paws, an international animal welfare organisation, serves animals under direct human threat and Bornean orangutans are amongst those they’re helping. However, their approach to conservation is a little different than traditional efforts.
When I think of wildlife conservation I think research and education, I think restoration of the environment, and I think keeping guard on a beach so that baby sea turtles can make it into the ocean. Four Paws also focuses on education (and on babies) when it comes to preserving the Bornean orangutan but not in the sense that you and I might think of. They don’t focus on teaching humans, instead, they teach the orangutans.
Orangutans learn how to be orangutans from their mothers. They are perfectly suited to live in rainforests on top of the trees but they need to learn how to do so and they need to practice. In an ideal wild world, it is the mother orangutans who take up the teaching duty. They climb with their babies, eat together, forage and build nests together and get their babies used to the social aspect of being an orangutan. So when baby orangutans are left without anyone to learn from, they suffer in the wild, multiplying the horrible effects of their mothers dying.
Four Paws has developed an intervention just right to fill this ‘education’ gap: The Orangutan Forest School. In this school, orphaned babies are taught by surrogate mothers, honorary orangutans. The aim is to teach the orphaned babies everything they would learn from their mothers and rehabilitate them as fully capable wild animals.
The Orangutan Forest School is a project in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry and is run by local organisation Jejak Pulang. It employs 15 local caregivers, two veterinarians and a biologist. This way, the school doesn’t only serve orangutan babies but it also strengthens the local community as well as their ties with their environment.
As primatologist Dr Signe Preuschoft says, Four Paws doesn’t “humanise the orangutans, but orangutanise the humans". This means most of the training needs to happen on treetops as that’s where orangutans spend the majority of their time in the wild. Thus, before teaching the babies, the surrogate ‘orangutan’ mothers need to be taught first.
So the surrogate mothers go through an extensive orangutan training that includes learning to safely climb trees (with harnesses). The American organisation Tree Monkey Project supervises these trainings and makes sure everyone is safe, including the trees. After learning how to be orangutans themselves, it is now the surrogate mothers’ turn to teach.
The Forest School has an extensive and multi-layered rehabilitation curriculum. The students go from kindergarten to forest school, and then the forest academy where they will go on to 'graduate' and be reintroduced to wildlife. For each orangutan, Four Paws makes the decision to move them onto the next level depending on their progression.
Currently, there are eight pupils in the project, going to school and learning everyday orangutan things. Four Paws aims to increase this number up to 30, a number they think will allow them to help as many babies while making sure every one of them gets the necessary care and attention.
As adorable as a forest school for orangutans sounds, the stark reality is that at the rate we're destroying the rainforests, soon there isn't going to be anywhere left for the pupils to go on to be wild orangutans after graduation. If we don't stop deforestation and protect the remaining rainforestsorangutans and millions of living organisms that rely on rainforests alike will disappear from the face of the planet.
Sign up for our newsletter. Every week, we will send you the best stories about the world of doing good.
Join us for the second of our Kinder Conversations - the Sky has a Limit.
Following our investigation into the Future of Meat in February, we've turned our attention to the sky. We'll be talking about whether air travel can be more sustainable, and how.
We're delighted to be hosting this event in collaboration with our friends at TQ, the Amsterdam tech hub where we're based.
📅 When Monday 17 June 18:30 - 20:30
📭 Where TQ, Singel 542, Amsterdam
🎯 Why should I fly Kinder? To hear about the latest research and technology making air travel more sustainable. To find out what you can do to reduce the impact your flights are having. To share a drink with like-minded travelers, and sample some of our vegan snacks (including beloved Professor Grunschnabel ice cream, as seen at the Future of Meat event)
Here at Kinder, we believe that greener travel is one of the key ways in which we can tackle the climate crisis. Travelling green can mean a lot of things, but right now we’re concerned about the aviation industry.
If aviation were a country, it’d be a top 10 polluter - and C02 emissions from air travel are growing many times faster than any other form. We’re already in a very dangerous position, and although there are many potential solutions, we sometimes feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do about it.
That’s where Kinder Conversations comes in.
Kinder Conversations is a series of events which delve into the biggest issues facing the world.
At the Sky has a Limit, we’ll be bringing together representatives from research and technology, the aviation industry and the not-for-profit sector to talk about sustainable air travel. We’ll hear more about the problem, and a lot more about the solutions.
Plus, there’ll be time to get a drink from TQ’s bar (buying a drink helps our friends from TQ support more events like this), try some vegan ice cream, and chat to fellow travellers about the steps you can take to travel greener.
✈️ Are you ready to #flykinder? Then secure your boarding pass here.
I don't have a driving license and when pressed about getting one by friends tired of chauffeuring me around I usually say I will only get one if I can drive something cool, like the Batmobile or a flying car. Unfortunately, I might have to honour that promise as it seems that flying cars are finally taking off (alas, no commercial Batmobiles in sight).
Indeed, several promising startups around the world are working to deliver the "car of the future" over the next few years. Like the Dutch company PAL-V that showed off a limited edition of its flying car at the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland.
The PAL-V is a hybrid between a car and a helicopter (or more precisely, a gyrocopter), able to reach a top speed of 160 km/h on the tarmac but also get airborne in just 5 minutes, hitting airspeeds of 180 km/h over a range of up to 500 km. But since buying a PAL-V will set you back around € 350,000 I might have to pass on this one. Moreover, flying this beauty requires not just a driving license but also (understandably) a license to fly, and that's just too much for me.
Thankfully, other companies are developing vehicles that need no driver at all. Aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter, for example, is working on Nexus, an air taxi capable of taking off and landing in the middle of a city (whereas the PAL-V still needs a runway, albeit short, to get airborne).
Called VTOLs (short for Vertical Take Off and Landing), these aircraft aim to become sort of an Uber of urban air travel, bringing customers to the opposite part of the city or even to a nearby city in a matter of few minutes.
If you're at JFK airport in New York, for example, and have a meeting in Manhattan, instead of embarking on a 1-hour, Cosmopolis-style taxi ride, you could just hail a flying car and be downtown in 5 minutes.
Futuristic as it may sound, concrete plans to make it come true are underway. Earlier this month, German startup Lilium successfully completed the first test of its new five-seater Lilium Jet, an electric vehicle that, according to the company, will have a range of 300 km and a top speed of 300 km/h.
The reason electric flight is such an exciting area of research is not just because flying taxis will allow a handful of high rollers to drastically cut on their commuting time. Electric flying cars might be really good for the environment too.
A recent study published by Nature highlighted that, in some cases, flying cars could eventually be greener than even electric road cars, cutting emissions while reducing traffic on increasingly busy roads.
Moreover, developments in the field of flying cars could also boost the research on electric flight at large, including long haul electric flights, sort of the Holy Grail of aviation. And, as known, the civil aviation industry needs to find effective ways to lower its carbon emissions as soon as possible.
However, as explained by Hugh Hunt in an article on The Conversation that we republished here on Kinder World, "gaps in necessary technology and practical uncertainties beyond the cars’ promising physics mean that they may not arrive in time to be a large-scale solution to the energy crisis and congestion."
Let's get this one thing straight: most people prefer flying to other modes of transport, and we seem to do it more and more often. The airline industry is booming and 4.1 billion passengers have been transported last year. Almost every figure one looks at shows the impressive increase in flights over the last two decades.
Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Association for Flight Transport proclaims: “In 2000, the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months. Flying has never been more accessible. And this is liberating people to explore more of our planet for work, leisure, and education. Aviation is the business of freedom."
However, this ‘business of freedom’ runs on fossil energy carriers as planes still almost exclusively fly on kerosene. Kerosene is a fuel produced by oil refining and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major product of burning kerosene. The 2-5% of all global CO2 emissions the aviation industry emits is caused by its fuel consumption (and choice). And unlike other fuels like diesel or gasoline, airlines don't pay taxes on kerosene in most countries — making cheap air travel possible.
In 2018 Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair became number 9 in the list of Europe’s biggest CO2 emitters and still claims to be the ‘greenest and cleanest airline’. Andrew Murphy – the aviation manager at the European Federation for Transport and Environment — argues that Ryanair the new coal when it comes to climate pollution. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, on the other hand, dismisses such claims by saying the claims are ‘’complete and utter rubbish’’.
Other airlines, like KLM who partly uses renewable jet-fuel, are acknowledging the problem but they aren't too far behind Ryanair on the list of emitters.
The growth of the industry is not expected to slow down. India and China are the biggest growth markets, the latter alone is building 200 new commercial airports in the next ten years. Moreover, industry forecasts suggest that emissions will rise by 700% until 2050 which amounts to more than 4% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
If we want to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, every the average earthling has a quota of two tons of CO2 per annum but just a return trip between New York and Amsterdam generates three tons already.
Compared to other modes of transport planes are the biggest CO2 emitters per travelled kilometre followed by cars, buses and finally trains which are the least polluting. The CO2 emissions, however, are only one half of the medal. The impact of flying on global warming is different than most other transport as it happens in the air high above the ground where the processes that cause or reduce global warming happen. These include CO2 and nitrogen oxide emission but also cloud formation, ozone and soot as well as methane reduction.
The climate impact of the emitted greenhouse gases in the stratosphere are three times higher than on the ground. Flying also causes condensation trails and fog clouds in certain weather conditions. Such clouds can have a warming or a cooling effect on the climate. One way to improve the climate effect of flying would be planning better routes where warming clouds are avoided and the formation of cooling clouds is favoured — our current routes have an overall warming effect.
So, hypothetically, some flights with clever flight-route planning might even reduce global warming. However, as we don't have time to hypothesise, we need to find and urgently implement other ways to bring down the impact of flying, like using better fuels or even better planes.
This article was written by Eric Schuler for Kinder World. Schuler is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam and works on new industrial sustainable chemistries to turn captured CO2 into useful things such as plastics or fuel. He's also a photojournalist with an interest in climate and land-use change.