Almost everything and everybody is gone. Your world has been reduced to a barren wasteland too hostile and too dangerous to cross.
You and eight of your family have survived, cocooned in a green oasis, where there is food and water and shelter.
So it’s a happy ending right? The future of humanity is assured. From you nine survivors, a new population will grow.
Wrong. You’re a male and so – obviously- are your two brothers. Your mum and your sister are too old to have babies and the other three females are either your daughters or your nieces. Even if you are prepared to commit incest, in the long run it won’t help. In a generation or two inbreeding will end the existence of your little colony as your offspring will be too weak, to prone to disease and defect to survive.
If you could see the bigger picture, if you could communicate over long distance the way humans used to be able to do, you’d know that strung out over this vast inhospitable, un-surviveable wasteland are other little islands of green, each holding their tiny parcel of survivors. All together they number perhaps four thousand individuals. A big enough population to be viable in the long term, to have enough genetic variability to keep the species going.
But each oasis is isolated. Even if if you knew about the other’s existence, how would you survive the journey to reach another oasis? Even though there are four thousand of you, the human race is still doomed. In fifty or maybe a hundred years you’ll be extinct.
This is exactly the situation facing the Orang Utans of the Kinabtangan River in Sabah, Borneo. Their world of pristine primary rainforest with a canopy at 70 meters is utterly gone. Most of it clear felled and replaced with a green desert of palm oil plantation.
Isolated little groups of Orangs survive in parcels of secondary forest (- forest that has had its biggest trees cherry picked by the loggers -) that lie plotted and pieced in a broken strip along the river, threatened every day by new plantations and development, that reduce the size and increase the isolation of each green island. Although the total number of orangs in these little parcels is quite large, they are as doomed as the human survivors in their desert oases. Separated from each other, and from the big forest reserves, with their pools of orang population that lie to the East and West, they will die out in a few generations, and another part of Borneo’s wild heritage will be gone forever.
However if the green islands can be joined up, by buying threatened plots of land, by replanting forest, preserving and safeguarded forest that survives, the green islands can be made into a continuous green chain, linking isolated populations of Orangs and utterly transforming their long term viability. By the purchase of just a few hundred acres of forest the fate thousands of orang utans – and elephants, and proboscis monkeys and leaf monykeys and hornbills – is changed from doomed to thriving.
This is what the World Land Trust with its partner in Borneo, Hutan is setting out to do, with this Autumn’s Borneo Rainforest Appeal which aims to raise a million pounds to make those links and join up forest fragments to make something that is, most definitely, greater than the sum of its parts.