Conservation Perspective: An Ambitious Plan to Save These Great Apes

Young oraguntan in Borneo, Indonesia. Photo © Studio in the Wild
Young oraguntan in Borneo, Indonesia. Photo © Studio in the Wild

By Matt Miller for Cool Green Science

August 19 was World Orangutan Day, a day to bring attention and awareness to the plight of these great apes. And make no mistake: these animals need all the attention we can give. Faced with deforestation, poaching, the illegal pet trade and forest fires, orangutan populations have reached a critical point.

In fact, in July the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of Bornean orangutans from “endangered” to “critically endangered.” Since 1960, their populations have declined by 50 percent. According to Scientific American, scientists project their populations will fall another 22 percent by 2025.

Bornean orangutans are semi-solitary, eating mainly fruit: they’re the world’s largest seed dispersers. They cover large areas as they forage for food, an additional risk in fragmented habitat. They spend most of their time in trees. That’s where they thrive. But when the habitat changes, the orangutans are forced to the ground.

More time on the ground means they’re more visible and less mobile, making them easier prey for hunters.

All this, admittedly, adds up to a bleak picture for Bornean orangutans.

But conservationists don’t wallow in despair. They see this crisis as a call to action, as a way to improve forest management and work collaboratively for a better future for orangutans.

This edited section from a much larger article appeared in and is courtesy of Cool Green Science and can be read in its entirety here.

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