Experts Worried That Orangutans Could Be Extinct Within Ten Years
Posted on May 28th 2019
Some experts think that orangutans could face extinction within the next decade whilst others believe that this could occur within several. Regardless of when the breaking point occurs, the reasons are the same. Habitat loss is perhaps the greatest threat. WWF has classified orangutans as a ‘critically endangered’ species with the total population of all three species at around 122,000 in the wild.
Population has fallen by 50 per cent
The Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) estimates the population of wild orangutan’s was upwards of hundreds of thousands of individuals and within the last half century the population has fallen by 50 per cent in the wild. In the past some of the population decline was probably the result of a changing climate, however the primary threat is human development and activity that results in habitat destruction.
Orangutans are the only great apes in Asia and WWF says the species is losing its habitat to chainsaws that are chopping down forests to make way for palm oil plantations and other uses. Deforestation is massive with Indonesia having lost more than 25 per cent of its forests or 76 million acres over the last 25 years. The major threat is illegal logging and unsustainable logging inside protected areas. Over half of all orangutans live outside protected areas which is a real problem.
Other threats faced are from humans who hunt orangutans for food, retaliation for them destroying crops or for the illegal trade in wildlife. Female orangutans are the most targeted and are usually captured with offspring who are usually kept as pets. The illegal wildlife trade is a real problem with each orangutan that is exported to a country like Taiwan resulting in the death of between three to five additional animals in the process.
150,000 lost in 16 years
In 2018 a study emerged which shoed that over the last 16 years the forest of Borneo has lost as many as 150,000 animals causing great concern amongst experts. Many were expecting to see a large decline but were caught completely unawares by the actual figure. The scientists who did the research were so surprised they thought they had made a mistake so they did the analysis again because they couldn’t believe the number could be that high, unfortunately the numbers did not change.
Things can change
Experts have not lost all hope, and think that with some intervention the situation can be salvaged. The decline is mainly as a result of hunting and if that can be stopped, there is hope that the species could bounce back over a long period of time. When habitat is destroyed, that is gone forever, however much of the forest remains, so if the hunting stops, the trend can be reversed.