1 Tahrcountry Musings: Orangutans facing uncertain future

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Orangutans facing uncertain future

The adorable Orangutans (Pongo spp.) are facing an uncertain future. According to new findings published this month by Great Ape Trust of Iowa scientist Dr. Serge Wich and associates in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation, Orangutan populations have fallen sharply on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The revised estimates put the number of Sumatran orangutans (P. abelii) around 6,600 in 2004. This is lower than previous estimates of 7,501. "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 species to go extinct," Wich et al. wrote. The authors blamed logging and the expansion of oil palm plantations for the drop. The 2004 estimate of about 54,000 Bornean orangutans (P. pygmaeus) is probably also higher than the actual number today as there has been a 10 percent orangutan habitat loss in the Indonesian part of Borneo during that period. 75 percent of all orangutans live outside of national parks, which have been severely degraded by illegal logging, mining, and encroachment by palm oil plantations. So the the future conservation efforts will need to be focused beyond the boundaries of protected areas. The authors have made some sweeping recommendations for future conservation initiatives.

Wich et al. (2008). Distribution and conservation status of the orangutan (Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: How many remain?. Oryx
Click here for more details about orangutans from Wikipedia


savetheorangutan said...

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 www.savetheorangutan.co.uk.
Michelle Desilets
Founding Director
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK

Mohan Alembath said...

Hello Michelle,
Thank you vey much for that input. It was very enlightening. All the best for the wonderful work you are doing