Toxic haze affects orangutans as well as humans

Nase Smoke

Smog caused from the forest fires is suffocating cities and villages in the Central Kalimantan region of Indonesian Borneo, posing a serious risk to health. In one city over 2,000 people have been treated for respiratory and eye problems resulting from the toxic haze. The government has extended the state emergency until the end of October 2019 and has advised people limit outdoor activities.

This image of the smoke engulfing Borneo was captured by a NASA satellite last week.

Orangutans and humans share 97% of their DNA meaning orangutans are suffering in the same way as humans. Reports have been received from a rescue centre in Kalimantan that many of the orangutans there are suffering from respiratory infections. Unlike wild orangutans who live in the forests, they are receiving medical treatment.

Cop Orang

Our conservation partner, Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), is preparing for the worst. Their rescue and rehabilitation centre is under threat from fire. The nearest fire is less than 3km away.

The orphans' 'forest school' sessions have been suspended and plans have been put in place in case there is a need for evacuation.

"Fires are typically used across Indonesia to clear land, often carbon-rich peat forests, to make way for palm oil or pulpwood plantations. The resultant haze can travel as far as neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. This year’s fires are expected to be particularly harsh, aggravated by an intense dry season and El Niño weather pattern, following milder conditions the past three years." (Source Mongabay

Nasa Image

This map shows the amount of organic carbon emissions in the air above Borneo on 17 September 2019. "It indicates that the vast majority of carbon is being emitted from burning peatland areas. Peat fires can release enormous amounts of stored up carbon and are extremely difficult to put out." (Source:

Photograph courtesy of NASA