Before 2025 more than 86 per cent of the orangutan population will be disappeared according to IUCN. Each year an additional 2-3.000 are lost. The latest orangutan estimate is from 2016 and suggesting there is around 104.000 Bornean orangutans left, down from 288.000 in 1973. On the face of it, it sounds like many, but the number should be viewed in the light of numerous critical factors and in 2016, the Bornean orangutan was declared critically endangered by IUCN as the population is expected to decrease to 47.000 individuals in 2025.
Clearing of habitat
Clearing of the orangutans’ habitat, the tropical rainforest, threatens the survival of the wild orangutan. When the forest disappears, the orangutan loses its source of food and its home and is forced close to humans – an encounter which is often fatal to the orangutans. Adult orangutans are regarded as pests in the plantations and are killed, whereas baby orangutans are sold in the illegal pet market. Another important factor is that clearing of the rainforest separates the orangutan populations and thus creates a great risk of inbreeding.
A vulnerable species
Female orangutans only reach sexual maturity when they are 12-15 years old, and they give birth every six years approximately. This makes the orangutan a vulnerable species. Furthermore, female orangutans prefer to stay in their own territory even if the trees are cut down and they can no longer find food and shelter.
Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil and many plantations are growing where the rainforest previously was.
Orangutans are unfortunately popular pets even though it is illegal. It is estimated that 200-500 orangutans are traded illegally each year.
The precious wood in the forest of Borneo is unfortunatelyt in demand all over the planet.
A 2015 report estimates that 49-69 of the orangutans habitat can be destroyed by 2080 due to global warming.
Can a rainforest really burn? Yes, unfortunately. When the tropical ecosystem is destroyed, the forest becomes highly inflammable.
Borneos rainforest is not only rich on precious timber, but also many precious resources. These minerals are often recovered with minimal regards to the environment and local communities.
Read the UNEP report The Last Stand of the Orangutan about the threats facing the orangutan.