Raging wildfires in Indonesia are seriously affecting the habitats of animals.
Conservationists rescued two male and female orangutans – named Bara and Arang – after they were found clinging to the last remaining trees when a fire tore through the rainforest in West Borneo.
A team led by International Animal Rescue (IAR) managed to sedate the starving primates, both around 20, and evacuate them to IAR’s conservation centre for rehabilitation on Monday.
The fires have also been spewing toxic haze over neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.
Air quality has been affected by thick smog that has been hanging over Singapore since last weekend.
It has led to the waterfront skyline being obscured and has even sparked fears Sunday’s Formula One night race may be affected.
F1 organisers say they have a contingency plan if the haze worsens but racing fans could be forced to wear face masks if there is still lingering smoke.
Jakarta has deployed tens of thousands of personnel and water-bombing aircraft to tackle the blazes and this has led to air quality improving to a ‘moderate’ level as the skies over Singapore cleared today.
The wind direction could however still change ahead of the weekend and push smog back over Singapore.
Indonesia and Malaysia have been worst affected by haze from the fires, which are burning on Indonesia’s Sumatra island and the Indonesian part of Borneo.
Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
Thousands of schools have been forced to close in both countries amid mounting health concerns, while several airports have shut in Indonesian Borneo due to poor visibility.
There has been an increase in reports of respiratory illnesses and conditions such as dry and itchy eyes.
The worst-affected state was Sarawak, on Borneo, where more than 1,000 schools were shuttered and air quality reached ‘hazardous’ levels in one area bordering Indonesia, according to an official index.
Indonesia had some success in ‘cloud-seeding’, which involved inducing rain using chemicals sprayed from planes.
Disaster agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said it produced a downpour over hard-hit Riau province on Sumatra.
Almost 250 people have been arrested on suspicion of activities that led to the blazes.
Experts say the fires are unlikely to be extinguished until the onset of the rainy season in October and have raised fears of a repeat of the 2015 crisis, the worst smog outbreak for about two decades.
The Indonesian fires are an annual problem during the dry season when farmers use illegal slash-and-burn techniques to clear land for agriculture, but this year’s are the worst since 2015.
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