Orangutan population plunges 43% in Indonesia
August 14, 2006

The Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) said that Indonesia's population of orangutans fell nearly 43 percent in the past decade, from 35,000 in 1996 to 20,000 today. The decline has been caused by ongoing forest destruction and poaching in Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra, the only two islands that still support wild orangutans.

According WCS-IP, in 1996 there were around 35,000 orangutans in Indonesia -- 23,000 in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, and 12,000 in Sumatra, but the massive 1997 forest fires cut the population of orangutans in Kalimantan by about one-third, bringing Indonesia's total population to around 27,000. Since then, continued deforestation has taken a heavy toll of the species which shares 95-97 percent of the genetic material found in humans.

Environmental groups have warned that red ape could be extinct in the wild without urgent conservation measures. Recently WWF has launched the "Heart of Borneo" campaign to pressure Indonesia's government to protect orangutan habitat by establishing reserves and cracking down on illegal logging and oil palm plantations.

Orangutan in Borneo.

Further reading

Saving Orangutans in Borneo. I'm in Tanjung Puting National Park in southern Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. At 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) Tanjung Puting is the largest protected expanse of coastal tropical heath and peat swamp forest in southeast Asia. It's also one of the biggest remaining habitats for the critically endangered orangutan, the population of which has been great diminished in recent years due to habitat destruction and poaching. Orangutans have become the focus of a much wider effort to save Borneo's natural environment.

Why is oil palm replacing tropical rainforests. Recently much has been made about the conversion of Asia's biodiverse rainforests for oil-palm cultivation. Environmental organizations have warned that by eating foods that use palm oil as an ingredient, Western consumers are directly fueling the destruction of orangutan habitat and sensitive ecosystems. So, why is it that oil-palm plantations now cover millions of hectares across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand? Why has oil palm become the world's number one fruit crop, trouncing its nearest competitor, the humble banana? The answer lies in the crop's unparalleled productivity. Simply put, oil palm is the most productive oil seed in the world

Study finds deforestation has pushed orangutans to brink of extinction. A three year genetic study by wildlife geneticists from Cardiff School of Biosciences has shown a population collapse in the Bornean orang-utan. The population has declined up to one hundred fold since the late 19th Century, coinciding with the arrival of colonial powers on the island of Borneo and accelerated timber extraction. The research is among the first to link species decline with colonial deforestation, as opposed to when humans first appeared in the region.

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mongabay.com (August 14, 2006).

Orangutan population plunges 43% in Indonesia.