Conservation news

Podcast: Will a newly discovered ape species face a dammed future?

An adult female Tapanuli orangutan. Image by Tim Laman/Wikimedia Commons.

  • As with many animals in Sumatra, the newly described 8th ape species are unique creatures that are critically threatened, with a maximum of 800 individuals estimated to be living in an increasingly fragmented habitat.
  • First described in 2017 after its habits and DNA proved them to be unique, the Tapanuli orangutan faces an uncertain future.
  • A hydroelectric dam proposed for the center of the animals’ tiny territory challenges this special species’ chances of survival, as well as that of 23 other threatened species which also live in the area. 
  • This episode of the podcast speaks with a biologist who helped discover its uniqueness, Dr. Puji Rianti of IPB University in Bogor, and Mongabay staff writer Hans Nicholas Jong in Jakarta, who has been covering the controversy over the project, as it’s been called into question by activists and funders alike and faces numerous delays.

North Sumatra is home to 1 of only 8 known great ape species in the world, the newly described Tapanuli orangutan, first classified in 2017 after its habits and DNA proved them to be unique. As with many animals in Sumatra, they are amazing creatures that are critically threatened, with a maximum of 800 individuals estimated to be living in an increasingly fragmented habitat.

Now a hydroelectric dam proposed for the center of the animals’ tiny territory further challenges this special species’ chances of survival, as well as that of 23 other threatened species which also live in the area.

Listen here:

To understand what’s interesting about this animal and how the proposed Batang Toru dam would impact it, we speak with a biologist who helped discover its uniqueness, Dr. Puji Rianti of IPB University in Bogor, and Mongabay staff writer Hans Nicholas Jong in Jakarta, who has been covering the controversy over the project, as it’s been called into question by activists and funders alike and faces numerous delays.

The saga is definitely not over, and this episode explains why. See related coverage here:

Mongabay Explores is a special podcast series that dives into the unique beauty, natural heritage, and key issues facing this one of a kind landscape by speaking with people working to study, understand, and protect it. Episode 1 features a Goldman Prize winner from Sumatra about what makes his home so special, listen here, and further programs have focused on the people working to save the Sumatran rhino, and the reasons why deforestation is so widespread in the province.

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Banner image: A female Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis). Image by Tim Laman under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.