For two decades, the war between orangutans and coal mining has raged. Significantly, this conflict has impacted the conservation world. In particular, the sustainability of natural ecosystems and wildlife is compromised by the extraction process. Meanwhile, human demand for energy, which is polluting and produces gas emissions, is on the rise. This means: Human dependence on coal is implicitly at the root of the conflict between orangutans and coal mines.
Coal mining activities and the development of various support infrastructures cause changes in land cover, landscape changes, changes in forest stand structure, changes in vegetation composition, and an increase in the number of human activities. In addition, coal mining activities begin with land clearing, which virtually eliminates large trees. These trees are very important to orangutans as food sources, nesting sites, and means of arboreal movement.
In their habitat, orangutans can spend 95 percent of their time in the trees. They move from tree to tree for activities such as eating, sleeping, and traveling. Orangutans can eat up to five times a day as an arboreal endemic primate. Orangutans play an important role in the health of the tropical forest ecosystems in which they live, serving as a keystone species. They disperse seeds while eating a variety of fruits. They can digest larger seeds and travel incredible distances while removing seeds.
In fact, through this nature-destroying process, coal mining has forced 70 percent of orangutans out of the trees and onto the ground, where they risk being hunted. The ability of orangutans to come down from the trees will increase their ability to adapt to the already extensive forest fragmentation and destruction caused by coal mining. This opens up new food sources for orangutans.
Efforts to minimize conflicts between orangutans and coal mining through translocation are not a concrete solution. Several studies have found that orangutans displaced by mining operations may be forced to move to smaller areas or closer to human settlements. This can lead to conflict, as orangutans may attack crops or cause property damage, leading to negative attitudes towards the species and even killing.
Therefore, there are several solutions that can be taken to protect orangutan habitat that is being eroded by coal mining:
First, coal mines are required to establish orangutan corridors to prevent prolonged conflicts and facilitate movement within their home range. Management of forest corridors for wildlife will be carried out in collaboration with the area management unit or area stakeholders connected to the corridor.
Second, encourage the government to review coal mining policies and regulations to prioritize the preservation of critical orangutan habitat as a result of the mining process.
Third, to minimize human dependence on coal energy through the use of renewable energy. However, this solution is one of the most difficult to implement, given that capitalism makes human life more consumptive.
The conclusion is that the conflict between orangutans and coal mining will not end unless all actors, including the government, mining companies, NGOs and the community itself, share the same understanding of the importance of preserving forests and protecting orangutan habitats.