Orangutan Could be First Great Ape to Become Extinct

Mother orangutan photo

photo: Getty Images

According to new research published in the conservation journal Oryx, due to rapid declines in population because of habitat loss the orangutan could be the first of the great apes to become extinct.

New data decreases Orangutan populations
On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the orangutan population has been revised downwards from 7,501 to 6,600 in 2004. The new figure is the result of the discovery that a large area of Aceh which was thought to contain orangutans, did not in fact have contain any. Researchers also state that the 2004 estimated population on the island of Borneo of 54,000 orangutans has probably declined due a 10% loss in habitat from 2004 to 2008.

Article author Dr Serge Wich: "It is clear that the Sumatran orangutan is in rapid decline and unless extraordinary efforts are made soon, it could become the first great ape to go extinct." He added that "Although these revised estimates for Borneo are encouraging, forest loss and associated loss of orangutans are occurring at an alarming rate, and suggest that recent reductions of Bornean orangutan populations have been far more severe than previously supposed."

Palm oil plantation expansion biggest threat
Though Wich says there are encouraging signs, such as forest conservation becoming a more prominent political issue and habitat loss stabilizing in parts of Sumatra, ultimately the biggest threat is deforestation associated with the growing palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia. Together these two nations produce approximately 80% of the global palm oil supply.

:: Great Ape Trust of Iowa
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