The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
New Dam Could Be 'Ecological Armageddon' for Rare Orangutan
Less than a year ago, scientists announced an exciting discovery—a new species of orangutan, called the Tapanuli orangutan, living in Batang Toru in Sumatra, Indonesia, The Conversation reported.
"This is just the seventh species of Great Ape ever discovered, and it could go extinct right before our eyes," study co-author and University of Indonesia Prof. Jatna Supriatna said in a James Cook University press release about the new study.
There are fewer than 800 of the rare apes squeezed into a habitat less than a tenth the size of Sydney, the release noted.
"In forty years of research, I don't think I've ever seen anything this dramatic," James Cook University professor and research team leader William Laurance said in the press release.
The Tapanuli orangutan is under threat for many reasons, including deforestation, poaching and road-building, but researchers said the most immediate threat is a large dam being built by China called the Batang Toru project, which will flood large parts of their habitat and disrupt others with roads and powerlines.
"This is a critical test for China and Indonesia. They say they want sustainable development—but words are cheap," Laurance said in the press release.
"Without urgent action, this could be ecological Armageddon for one of our closest living relatives," he continued.
In another article for The Conversation, Laurance explained the dam was part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that seeks to build roads, ports, railways and energy projects in 70 countries. Laurance said that, while the BRI projects were reviewed by China's National Development and Reform Commission until 2015, that body really only had direct control over projects funded by the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China. But most projects will have multiple, international funding sources.
"It will bring sizeable economic gains for some, but in nearly 40 years of working internationally, I have never seen a program that raises more red flags," Laurance wrote.
He mentioned working with Chinese colleagues who had withdrawn their authorship of scientific papers that criticized the BRI.
There is currently a debate in Beijing about environmental standards for the BRI, with larger corporations that face more liability demanding tougher standards and smaller companies lobbying for looser ones.
The Tapanuli orangutans threatened by the project are one of three orangutan species. Compared to the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, they have larger canines and smaller skulls, scientists reported in the 2017 Conversation article.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dan Gray
Pediatricians are being urged to start writing "exercise prescriptions" for the children they see in their office.
An indigenous rail blockade that snarled train travel in Canada for more than two weeks came to an end Monday when police moved in to clear protesters acting in solidarity with another indigenous community in British Columbia (B.C.), which is fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off its land.
A Florida hiker recently stumbled across a slithering surprise — a rare snake that hadn't been spotted in the area for more than 50 years.
By Genna Reed
The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.
This decision is based on three criteria:
- PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
- PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
- regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
By Kieran Cooke
Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.