Borneo’s orangutan population falls dramatically in past 16 years

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Borneo’s orangutan population falls dramatically in past 16 years

By
19 February 2018

By | 19 February 2018

2,256 orangutans were hunted or killed each year in the area of Kalimantan alone

The Island of Borneo is famous not only for being a tropical paradise with rainforests and beaches but also for being home to one of the most intelligent apes on the planet – the orangutan.

Between the years 1999 and 2015 orangutan population of Borneo decreased by almost 150,000 — Shutterstock Borneo orangutan population Group Created with Sketch. Between the years 1999 and 2015, the orangutan population of Borneo has decreased by almost 150,000 — Shutterstock

However, the fate of the Man of the Forest, as locals call the iconic animal, is in the most perilous state ever recorded.

A new study published in Current Biology suggests that between the years 1999 and 2015 Borneo’s orangutan population decreased by almost 150,000.

The findings also illustrate that the apes suffer from massive deforestation linked to palm oil production, but mainly, from violent interactions with humans. Almost 70 per cent of the losses are caused by hunting and poaching, the report suggests.

“People have hunted orangutans for their meat on Borneo since they colonised the area,” said co-author of the study Maria Voigt of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research.

In the area of Kalimantan alone “2,256 orangutans per year were hunted or killed due to conflict with humans on average”, the findings reveal.

“Killing also occurs in situations where humans are frightened or startled by orangutans,” Voigt said. This often occurs when the animals wander into people’s gardens or during a hunt for a young orangutan that would be sold as a pet leaving its mother killed.  

Despite massive deforestation having a negative effect on the apes, around 70 per cent of the orangutans' losses were cause by violent encounter with humans — Shutterstock Borneo orangutan population Group Created with Sketch. Despite massive deforestation having a negative effect on the apes, around 70 per cent of the orangutans’ losses were caused by violent encounter with humans — Shutterstock

“We need to work with people to help them understand that orangutans are not dangerous and that it’s illegal to kill them,” ecologist Serge Wich, a co-author of the paper from Liverpool John Moores University, said.

The current population of orangutans in Borneo is estimated to be between 70,000 and 100,000.

As the scientists predict that this could fall by another 45,000 over next 35 years, they call for action by all sectors of society.

Their statement says: “Our findings are alarming. To prevent further decline and continued local extinctions of orangutans, humanity must act now: biodiversity conservation needs to permeate into all political and societal sectors and must become a guiding principle in the public discourse and in political decision-making processes.”

On the other hand, the researchers emphasise that there has been a positive trend of forest protection and re-plantation.