Orangutan Populations Declining

Science News Daily has a report on declining Orangutan populations in Sumatra and Borneo:

The survey found the orangutan population on Indonesia’s Sumatra island dropped almost 14 percent since 2004, Wich said. It also concluded that the populations on Borneo island, which is shared by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, have fallen by 10 percent. Researchers only surveyed areas of Borneo that are in Indonesia and Malaysia.


The number of orangutans on Sumatra has fallen from 7,500 to 6,600 while the number on Borneo has fallen from 54,000 to around 49,600, according to the survey on the endangered apes, which appears in this month’s science journal Oryx.

The decline is linked to continued deforestation and the expansion of palm oil plantations.

3 Responses

  1. There was a story on local TV about a competition at Auckland zoo regarding orangutans. The prize was to be a trip to Malaysia, sponsored by Tourism Malaysia. Unfortunately contestants had to answer a string of questions, one of which was “What is the main threat to orangutan survival?” The answer appears as the last of your comments above and so the Malaysians demanded the question be deleted. No, came the reply. At which point the prize dissappeared.
    As a famous person once sang, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”.

  2. It is often asked, “How many orangutans are left?” The numbers themselves do not matter. What matters is that the rate of decline is increasing, and unless something is done, the wild orangutan will go extinct. Once remaining populations become so small and fragmented, there will be no way to recover the species, as these small populations will be genetically unviable in the long run.
    What also matters is the welfare angle of this decline 5000 are dying unnaturally–either from starvation as a result of habitat destruction or from human-wildlife conflict. Working with orangutans for 14 years now, I see them as individuals capable of emotions and pain. The loss of just one of these is heartbreaking. 5000 is genocide.
    We have a moral obligation to save these sentient, intelligent cousins of ours from this brutality. I do not subscribe to the view that we need to keep orangutan numbers up so our children have a chance to see them in the wild. Orangutans do not exist for our benefit. They themselves have a right to life, regardless of whether we get the added benefit of gazing upon them in their world one day.
    The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is the largest primate rescue project in the world. We look after close to 1000 rescued orangutans presently, and have rescued and released more than 1000 others so far. We are the only organisation actively rescuing the wild orangutans from certain death in these oil-palm plantations. 2 weeks ago we released a further 25 wild orangutans rescued from oil-palm plantations into a remote protected forest in the north of Central Kalimantan. This release site could potentially support more than 1000 orangutans, making it a viable population. BOS also manages the Mawas Reserve, a forest of 360,000 hectares, home to some 3500 wild orangutans. If BOS can continue to protect populations like those in our release site and in Mawas, we can prevent the extinction of the orangutan in the wild. Find out more at http://www.savetheorangutan.co.uk.
    Michelle Desilets
    Founding Director
    Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK

  3. This is very sad news. If we don’t do something for Orangutan conservation, and not tomorrow or next year, but NOW, they will become extinct in the wild over the course of the next 20 or 30 years. It’s very likely already too late for the Sumatra Orangutans.
    Doing something for Orangutan conservation really isn’t all that hard. Donate money (to the BOS, for example). Cut back on products that use palm oil as an ingredient. Don’t use biofuel made from palm oil, and put pressure on your government to do the same.
    Orangutans are wonderful, amazing creatures. They’re our cousins, and it would be a shame if we let them go extinct. Especially since there’s so much we still have to learn about them.

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