In the rainforest, there is a delicate equilibrium, an ecosystem of plants, animals of the rain forest and indigenous people who make up the environment. The indigenous populations are steadily declining, for many reasons. One of these is that diseases such as measles and smallpox are spreading, which were originally introduced to the people by Europeans. Another is the governmental land seizure for the purpose of logging, clearing the trees for farming, and various other purposes. The declining of the human population has a direct effect on the rainforest animals, as they have been hunted by the indigenous people. However, the animals’ numbers are still going down, as many species are impacted by the adverse effects of human’s actions in using the land and trees for their own gain. It remains to be seen what will become of many of the wonderful species that exist in both the temperate and tropical rainforests.
The African rainforest elephant is a majestic creature to behold. They share some similarities to other species of elephants, though a major difference is that they have a longer lower jaw, making their head appear more angular. They are also smaller and stockier than savannah elephants. They have rounded ears, as well as thin, straight tusks that have a slight pink tinge to them. This type of elephant lives in smaller family groups, is darker than the savannah elephants, and has been adapted to live in dense forests. They are listed as endangered on the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species list.
An orang-utan, or “man of the forest” in Malaysian, is a species of monkey that lives in the tree tops of the rainforests in Sumatra and Borneo. They are the largest tree dwelling apes in Southeast Asia. The orang-utan may grow up to five feet tall, though the females are generally shorter than the males. They have long thin red hair, thin and lanky strong arms, and relatively weak legs. Their curved feet (almost like four hands) are great for balance. The orang-utan mates year round, with the mother carrying the baby for about 260 days, after which the baby clings to its mother for about a year, though they are not weaned until they are about 3 or 4 years old. They are solitary animals, preferring to live with only one other of their kind. Orang-utans are endangered because of the devastating effects of deforestation.
Other animals that live in the rainforest include the King Cobra, Harpy Eagle, Vampire Bat, Kinkajou, Toco Toucan, Silvery Gibbon, Golden Lion Tamarin, Chimpanzee, Bengal Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Wagler’s Pet Viper, Linn’s Sloth, and many other exceptional species. These animals have lived together for quite some time, and the balance could be thrown off if any more species are not protected. The future of the rainforest ecosystem depends on the current trends changing.
The downward trend in the global economy has caused significant problems worldwide – rising demand in the third world, rising inflation, decreased output and growth and lower wage expectations and employment, combined with a global banking crisis, means that much of the world’s economies have experienced several years of downturn and recession.
However, interestingly it appears that it may not be all bad news for the efforts of ecologists and campaigners seeking to protect our rainforest. Initial concern from our supporters was that many sources of campaign funding and private donations to green and rainforest charities would dry up as times grew harder. However, although this has undoubtedly had an impact on charity and third sector income for rainforest protection programmes, research shows that the plunge in commodity prices may in fact be benefiting struggling rainforests.
Globally, the downturn has caused a plunge in the the prices of energy, timber, minerals and agriculture and these combined factors are slowly minimising rainforest deforestation. Surging demand from the emerging economies and the demand for biofuels, had led to a land rush before the recession that then led to wide scale conversion of rainforests into farms, ranches and plantations. Demand for natural resources also led to stripping back rainforests in their search. Ethanol and soya crops demanded clear land for farming and again, this led to vast tracts of natural lands and rainforest canopies being cut back and made way for farmers and companies wishing to capitalise.
Now the demand bonanza is quietening and we watch with interest what this means longer term for stemming the tide of deforestation. Perhaps the world economies will emerge with a new era of balanced and sustainable production and economics, as the green movement continues to gather pace. Certainly consumers are waking up to the importance of rainforest protection and climate change in ever greater numbers, as the next generation wakes up to the world it has inherited.
It’s been interesting to read that James Cameron, the producer and director of the box-office smash, Avatar, is planning to take his cast on location to the South American rainforest to learn first hand about life in ‘the jungle’ for native peoples.
With Avatar focusing on the lush imaginary planet of Pandora, the film’s topics very strongly covered the themes of ecology, nature, conservation and the respect and care of native traditions towards their environments. The film raised discussion and debate within many spheres of current affairs, media and culture and stimulated interest and awareness in the parallels with our own planet’s rainforests and their conservation.
So it’s great to see Cameron’s hands on approach to education and equally that he held a number of sustainability debates with Bill Clinton and ex-Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, capitalising on his name in Brazil for the International Sustainability forum. Cameron even apparently took Schwarzenegger to Xingu River, which was once threatened by a construction project planning to build a damn in Brasilia and encouraged him to meet local leaders of the Amazon tripe or Caiapo.
Furthermore, Cameron has pledged to put some of the profits from Avatar’s sequels to green causes and it’s a real boost to see the positive impact that such a high profile media figure can play on raising awareness of this issue, bringing it to new audiences in a fresh and engaging way. It raises an interesting and positive view on the way the media and film industry can play their part in protecting the rainforest through education and entertainment.