Viral video footage of a brave orangutan trying to fight a BULLDOZER has drawn attention to the plight of wild orang-utans as their forest homes are destroyed in Indonesia and Malaysia. The poor creatures face a deadly combination of deforestation, fires, poaching and the illegal pet trade.
The primary threat is loss of habitat through deforestation (for palm oil plantations) and fires, with up to 80% of suitable forest in Indonesia and Malaysia having been cut down in the past 20 years. Other threats, which often go hand-in-hand with the destruction of the rainforest, are the illegal pet trade and poaching.
Most recent estimates indicate that around 15,000 Sumatran orangutans and 57,000 Bornean orangutans survive in the wild today. There is a debate as to the rate of population decline, however recent estimates suggest a loss of between 3,000 and 5,000 orangutans every year.
To add pressure to the situation, orangutans have a comparatively slow reproduction rate. A female orangutan will not reach sexual maturity until she is about fourteen to sixteen years of age and will only bear offspring once every 6–8 years.
Reproduction is also affected by the abundance of food. When food supplies dwindle so too does the orangutan’s reproduction rate.
While the rate of decline may be debated, the trend is not.
The survival of the orangutan is becoming more precarious with every passing year with some experts predicting extinction in the wild likely to be within 10–20 years in the absence of effective protection of habitat.
The organisations doing great work to raise awareness of the problem, pressure governments and provide practical help for individual orang-utans include: