Orangutans are some of the planet’s most intelligent animals. In fact, orangutans and human beings share 97% of their DNA sequence. Orangutans can only be found in the wild in Southeast Asia on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the island of Borneo, which is a landmass shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. And while all orangutans are endangered, the critically-endangered Bornean orangutans are under exceptional duress.
According to research recently published in the journal Current Biology, more than 100,000 Bornean orangutans have been killed since 1999. The scientists who carried out this 16-year survey on the island of Borneo described this figure as “mind boggling.”
Deforestation, as a result of mining, logging, paper mills, and palm oil production, continues to be the primary driver of orangutan decline. Rainforests are being cleared for palm oil production in particular at a rapid pace. In fact, the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia are projected to disappear entirely in 20 years if deforestation is not curbed. Scientists say consumers need to urge food manufacturers to commit to sourcing palm oil sustainably.
But the research also showed that large numbers of orangutans are vanishing from forested areas. The implication of this, according to the lead researcher, is that large numbers of orangutans are simply being killed.
Researchers say the orangutans are being targeted by hunters and are being killed in retaliation for crop-raiding. When orangutans come into conflict with people near a plantation, they always lose. Scientists are calling on the leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia to speak out against the deliberate targeting of the apes. To learn ways in which you can help support this and other species, visit the World Wildlife Fund website.
Photo, posted August 19, 2012, courtesy of Flickr.