Borneo's orangutan is now critically endangered


Yesterday, the IUCN changed the Bornean orangutans’ status from being endangered to critically endangered. – It is a very sad development. The changed status means that the Bornean orangutan has a very high risk of going extinct in the wild, explains Executive Director in Save the Orangutan Claus Staunstrup Nilsson.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has changed the orangutans’ status based on a new study that estimates 86 per cent of the orangutan population living will have disappeared by 2025 mainly because of destruction of their habitat.

The greatest threat to the orangutans is the degradation and destruction of their home in the rainforest. It is estimated than up to 3,000 orangutans loose their lives each year due to habitat destruction, and when it takes an orangutan female up to 8 years to raise her offspring, it´s a very bad combination” Claus Staunstrup Nilsson explains.

Less than 50.000 individuals are estimated to remain in the wild, and if the development continues unchanged the orangutan will go extinct in the wild within our lifetime.

Borneo’s rainforest is disappearing

The new study suggests that 56 per cent of the orangutans habitat on Borneo has been degraded between 1973 and 2010, and 39 per cent of Borneo’s rainforest has been completely lost - an area greater than Portugal (98,730 km²). By 2025 an additional 57,140 km² of orangutan habitat will be lost (almost twice the size of Belgium), as rainforest areas are converted to plantations.

It is very bad news for the world. The changed status implies that the only great ape living outside Africa is struggling to survive. If nothing is done the orangutan will only be a page in history” Claus Staunstrup Nilsson continues.

During 2000 to 2013 more than six million hectares of primary forest was cut down on Borneo alone., an area half the size of England.

Could be even worse

2015 was a catastrophic year for the tropical rainforest in Indonesia, as more than 125,000 dry-season fires, exacerbated by El Niño and climate change, burnt a rainforest area the size of Wales. On Borneo, home to the endangered orangutan, more than 800,000 Ha of pristine rainforests was lost in the flames.

“With the continued pressure on standing forests the problem is only growing. Last year, we probably saw the greatest forest loss in Indonesia ever recorded in one year and the consequences of these fires are not even included in the new study”, says Claus Staunstrup Nilsson.

Where there's will there's a way forward

Save the orangutan is financing the largest orangutan rehabilitation center in the world, and has released more than 200 orangutans into the wild. At the rehabilitation center – Nyaru Menteng - rescued orangutans learn to behave as wild orangutans and thereby survive on their own in the rainforest.

“Thanks to our loyal contributors we have managed to rehabilitate and release a sustainable population into a protected forest area, where the natural orangutan population had completely disappeared. This is a proof that our methods are working and orangutans still have a future in the rainforest”, Claus Staunstrup Nilsson states.

Last year, the Indonesian government extended it´s ban on new forest concessions in a 43 million hectares rainforest area (5 times the size of Ireland), and convicted corporations for their burning of Indonesian rainforest for the very first time. However, the establishment of palm oil plantations, one of the main drivers of deforestation, is excluded from the ban, as the Indonesian government pledged to expand the current 8 million hectares of palm oil to cover 12 million hectares by 2020.

Read more about Save the Orangutans work to release orangutans here >>

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For any additional information or questions, please don´t hesitate to contact Bue Heckmann (tell: +45 2987 3881), Head of Communication at Save the Orangutan

Facts about the orangutan:

Distribution/range: Orangutans only live on the Southeast Asia islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and it is the only great ape found outside of Africa.

Population numbers: 55,000 according to the latest estimate from 2004, but severely reduction is expected to have taken place during the last decade.

Re-production: Orangutans is thought to have the longest childhood in the world, as the age of first reproduction is around 15 years. Orangutan is also the mammal with the longest period between offspring – up to 8 years.

Fragmentation: Many of the remaining orangutan population are fragmented and low in numbers, which creates a high risk of inbreeding and thereby fragile individuals.