The World Today for March 22, 2018



Got a Light?

A video of an orangutan smoking a cigarette in an Indonesian zoo went viral recently.

It’s funny to see a great ape smoking, of course.

But anyone who doesn’t second-guess their amusement needs to consider the abuse occurring here.

Many have already done so. ABC News reported that around one million people signed a petition on to shut down the zoo after the video surfaced.

Those folks should consider the fate of orangutans in general, too.

National Geographic recently wrote that 150,000 orangutans were lost between 1999 and 2015 in Borneo, an island divided between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. That was roughly half the population of the endangered species.

People, not disease or other natural causes, were almost certainly the cause of the decline. Locals poach the apes for food. Farmers kill them because they eat their crops.

Indonesian authorities recently arrested four farmers who killed an orangutan, shooting it 130 times with a rifle, because the creature kept getting into their pineapple groves, for example, Agence France-Presse reported.

Because orangutans normally produce only one baby every six years, the reduction in their numbers could spell the end of the species.

“We have to somehow make it not cool to kill an orangutan,” Serge Wich, a biologist at Liverpool John Moores University, told National Geographic.

Scientists are trying to rescue and relocate orangutans who have lost habitat to palm-oil plantations. See this BBC photo essay to learn more.

Those efforts only go so far, however. The Economist suggested that conservationists think like businesspeople. Orangutans bring tourists. Tourists bring money. Money means jobs.

“A night and two days of climbing and crawling in search of orangutans can cost a visitor around $100,” the magazine wrote.

Orangutans teach us about ourselves, too. In the wild, orangutans are remarkably incurious, according to the Atlantic. They don’t really care about new things. In captivity around humans, however, they become very inquisitive and enjoy exercising their problem-solving skills.

People stood upright and fashioned basic tools before they developed language and art. Perhaps the safety and fellowship of communities made those advanced inventions possible. Who knows what else is possible.

The man who gave the cigarette to the orangutan in the Indonesia zoo apologized, the Jakarta Post said. A fried fish dumpling seller, he could face charges of animal abuse that carry three months in jail.

Police probably should give him a break. The orangutan – named Ozon – was already smoking when he arrived, the man said. When Ozon finished, the poor confined ape held up his hand and asked for another.



Relief and Suspicion

Nigerians reacted with a mixture of relief and suspicion after Boko Haram militants returned dozens of schoolgirls they’d kidnapped from the northern Nigerian community of Dapchi a little more than a month ago.

Relief, because the militants released at least 101 of the 110 girls who had been kidnapped, according to government officials. Suspicion, because it appears several girls may be dead, the New York Times reported.

With the government and military facing criticism over an alleged failure to act on warnings that preceded the abduction, Boko Haram may score a propaganda victory with the release, though a government statement claimed credit for negotiating their return “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country,” the paper said.

One of the released students said that five captives who had been in a weakened state from fasting had died in captivity, according to a local government worker, while media reports said five captives were crushed to death in overcrowded trucks.

The government has in the past secured the release of many previous victims by paying ransoms.


Signing On

Most members of the African Union signed an important free trade pact, taking a big step toward integrating the continent’s economy.

Some 44 out of 55 members of the international political body joined the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda, on Wednesday in what they hailed as the largest such deal since they agreed to join the World Trade Organization more than two decades ago, Stratfor reported.

Designed to set up a rules-based trading system for the continent, the pact aims to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods while slowly phasing out tariffs on the remaining 10 percent. It needs to be ratified by at least 22 countries before it can be implemented, after which representatives will begin work on expanding it to cover issues such as intellectual property, the think tank said, noting that the fragmentation of Africa’s combined $2 trillion economy has slowed development.

Notably, the continent’s two largest economic players, Nigeria and South Africa, declined to sign the pact.


You Can’t Fire Me

Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned Wednesday on the eve of an impeachment vote, ending months of political turmoil.

Kuczynski is expected to be replaced by Vice President Martin Vizcarra on Friday, Reuters reported.

The outgoing president denied any wrongdoing and blamed the opposition for tarnishing his reputation. Elected two years ago on promises to boost the economy and root out corruption, Kuczynski himself fell victim to corruption allegations, the latest of which included audio and video recordings that appeared to show Kuczynski’s allies offering government contracts to lawmakers in exchange for political support, the agency said.

“I’ve worked for nearly 60 years of my life with complete honesty. The opposition has tried to depict me as a corrupt person,” Kuczynski said in a pre-recorded video message to the nation.

In December, Kuczynski had narrowly averted impeachment over allegations that his company received money from Brazil’s Odebrecht construction firm, which has been at the center of various corruption cases around the region.


White Lie

Spreading the white lie that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real can be treacherous territory for some parents when the truth eventually comes out.

But one Canadian couple had to deal with more than just tears of disappointment for refusing to entertain the existence of the popular holiday figures.

Frances Baars and her husband, Derek, had their foster home in Hamilton, Ontario, shut down by Canada’s Children’s Aid Society when they indicated they wouldn’t lie to their kids, ages 3 and 5, about the existence of the Easter Bunny, CBC News reporte­d.

Their stubbornness drew the ire of a caseworker, who argued that revealing the truth was against the wishes of the girls’ biological parents. She promptly shut down their foster home.

The couple, devout Reformed Presbyterians, took the issue to court, arguing that their religious beliefs were being infringed by the state.

The court sided with the couple, saying there was plenty of evidence to suggest they were punished only for refusing to entertain the lie. The judge called the state’s actions “capricious” and “not in the children’s best interest.”

With the Easter Bunny issue put to rest, the couple will continue to pursue their dreams of adopting, they told CBC news.

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