Wild Orangutans Now Critically Endangered

Borneo population added to red list
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 8, 2016 2:29 AM CDT
Wild Orangutans Now Critically Endangered
An orangutan is seen in Borneo's Sangkulirang forest.   (AP Photo/The Nature Conservancy, HO)

A global conservation group says Borneo's orangutans are now a critically endangered species due to hunting and destruction of forest habitat. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 animals by 2025, the AP reports. The group says the projected population figure represents a population loss of 86%. The assessment for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species warns that deforestation has dramatically shrunk the primate's habitat, with about 40% of Borneo's forests lost since the early 1970s and another huge swath of forest expected to be converted to plantation agriculture in the next decade.

Hunting is also a significant pressure because orangutans are slow breeders, producing only one offspring every six to eight years on average. IUCN estimates between 2,000 and 3,000 of Borneo's orangutans have been killed every year for the past four decades, mainly for their meat. "If hunting does not stop, all populations that are hunted will decline, irrespective of what happens to their habitat," IUCN says. "These findings confirm that habitat protection alone will not ensure the survival of orangutans." Beyond Borneo, the only other place where orangutans live in the wild is Sumatra, where they were declared critically endangered in 2008. (A court decided that this orangutan has human rights.)

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