The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is now critically endangered, with populations in sharp decline due to habitat destruction and illegal hunting, the IUCN declared last week.
Bornean orangutans live only on the island of Borneo, where their populations have declined by 60 percent since 1950. New projections anticipate their numbers will fall another 22 percent by the year 2025 to an estimated 47,000 apes.
“This is the first time in many decades that we have a clear understanding of Bornean orangutan population trends,” Erik Meijaard, a member of the IUCN SSC Primates Specialist Group, said in a prepared release. “As orangutans are hunted and pushed out of their habitats, losses to this slow-breeding species are enormous and will be extremely difficult to reverse.”
Bornean orangutans now join their cousins, Sumatran orangutans (P. abelii), which have been listed as critically endangered since 2008. Populations for that species are currently estimated at about 14,000.
As someone who has been writing about orangutan conservation for more than a decade now, I find this news particularly devastating. I honestly felt as if we would make more progress by now. Until Indonesia and Malaysia get a handle on their illegal deforestation and clamp down on bad behavior by the legal palm oil and rubber plantation industries, orangutans will only continue to decline. Alas, the world has yet to wake up to that threat.
Previously in Extinction Countdown:
- Another Challenge for Orangutan Conservation: Food
- Rescued Baby Orangutan Shines Light on Cruel, Illegal Pet Trade
- Great Apes in Crisis: Thousands Poached and Stolen from the Wild Annually
- Eye in the Sky: Drones Help Conserve Sumatran Orangutans and Other Wildlife
- Apps for Apes: Engaging Orangutans with iPads
- Orangutans Illegally Killed In the Past Decade: 20,000—Prosecutions: 0
Also by John Platt: