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Orangutan: Status, Trends, Threats

New observations of orangutan populations in plantation forests seen as positive sign for future of species

Document created 19 January 2009 , last updated 14 November 2011

According to recent observations on the island of Borneo (see Mongabay, 23 Sep 10, link below), orangutans are able to use selectively logged forests and timber plantations as their habitat. While more research is needed to determine exactly how such environments are utilized, the findings provide hope that orangutans may be able to maintain themselves throughout more varied habitats than previously believed, thus increasing their chances of survival.

This is important as during the last decades the greatest part of the speciesí original habitats has been destroyed in various ways, often cleared by logging or replaced by oil palm and other tree plantations. For example, on the island of Borneo by the year 2000 over 60 % of the original tropical forest had been lost (see IUCN Red List, link below). Deforestation is ongoing, not only in Borneo but also in Sumatra, where the survival of orangutans appears even more precarious (see Australian Orangutan Foundation, 13 May 09, link below).

The total population may now be of the order of 50,000, down from an estimated half a million a century ago (see Mongabay, 12 Aug 10, link below, also IUCN Red List).

While important uncertainties remain regarding these figures (see Environmental New Network, 14 Apr 09, link below), the downward trend remains unchanged, due to continuing habitat destruction and loss (see Mongabay, 13 May 09, link below) as well as hunting and the pet trade (see Reuters, 15 Apr 09, link below, also IUCN Red List).

Links to external websites:

[wb1]  Environmental News Network - 14 Apr 09 - New orangutan population found on Borneo - A previously unknown population of rare orangutans has been discovered in the forests of Indonesian Borneo, raising hopes for the species' survival, conservationists said Monday.

[wb2]  Reuters - 15 Apr 09 - Indonesia's illegal orangutan trade on the rise - More of Indonesia's critically endangered orangutans are being caught for the pet trade now than in the 1970s, reflecting the country's weak law enforcement, a wildlife protection group said in

[wb3]  Mongabay.com - 16 May 09 - Orangutan population in Borneo park plunges 90% in 5 years - The population of orangutans in Indonesia's Kutai National Park has plunged by 90 percent in the past five years due to large-scale deforestation promoted by local authorities, repor

[wb4]  Australian Orangutan Foundation - 13 May 09 - Rainforest Clearing by Asia Pulp and Paper Threatens Species, Contributes to Climate Change - The Bukit Tigapuluh Landscape is severely threatened due to massive, ongoing forest clearing and a proposal by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its part

[wb5]  Mongabay - 23 Sep 10 - Orangutans can survive in timber plantations, selectively logged forests - Selectively logged forests and timber plantations can serve as habitat for orangutans, suggesting that populations of the endangered ape may be more resilient than prev

[wb6]  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Click to visit website

[wb7]  Mongabay - 14 Nov 11 - Orangutans in Indonesian Borneo doomed to extinction? - A new study finds orangutans in Indonesian Borneo in unprotected areas are being killed at a rate faster than what population viability analysis considers sustainable. Conflict between

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