Published: Monday 15 June 1998

Wildfires and a prolonged drought spurred by the El Nio weather phenomenon have caused "mass starvation" and possible extinction of orangutans, according to wildlife officials in Borneo. Although environmentalists are unsure how many orangutans are left in the wild, some estimate they may number only in a few thousand.

Willie Smits, head of the Wanariset Samboja primate refuge, which currently harbours 150 orangutans rescued from the fires, said: "The jungle is black and bare. There is no fruit, no leaves, no bark. There is nothing for them to eat.

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