Orangutan with baby in forest
Half the Bornean orangutan population wiped out in 16 years – and more to come. Photo: ©Shutterstock

Orangutan numbers take huge dive

Logging, forest conversion to oil palm and human conflict are blamed for half of Borneo’s orangutans being lost in just 16 years.

That’s nearly 150,000 of the apes gone between 1999 and 2015. (Figures sourced from 38 different research organisations and published in the journal Cell Biology.)

The study found the primates were disappearing largely from forested areas, leading the research team to conclude hunting, or intentional killing were driving a previously underestimated portion of the population decline.

By modelling future habitat loss—largely the result of forest conversion for palm oil, pulpwood plantations and agriculture – an estimated 45,000 orangutans could be lost in the next 35 years, the report predicts.

Killing statistics

And with killing and hunting factored in, the figures will be much worse.

Orangutans typically have only one baby every six or seven years. In Borneo, only 38 of the 64 total population groups have more than 100 individuals. That means only 38 groups are self-sustaining.

The slightly better news is that the Indonesian and Malaysia governments (which control Borneo) are working on conservation plans to establish more reserves for the orangutans.

Natural Images 2018

Palm oil plantation
Massive jungle loss to oil palm plantations is destroying orangutan habitat. Photo: ©Tony Neilson
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