Devastating Landslide in Critically Endangered Orangutan Habitat

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April 29th, 2021, a deadly landslide occurred at the hydropower plant that is located within the only known habitat of the critically endangered Pongo tapanuliensis, or Tapanuli orangutan. The landslide has officially killed 3 locals, 1 woman, and 2 children. There are 9 people missing since the incident, 6 local residents, and 3 workers.

After heavy midday rains at the site in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra province, the landslide occurred. The Batang Toru ecosystem is the only known habitat of the critically endangered and most threatened great ape, the Tapanuli orangutan. There are currently only approximately 800 Tapanuli orangutans in the wild.

A previous report from last December from a database managed by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources indicates that this site has a medium to high risk of landslides due to heavy rainfall, hilly terrain, and poor drainage areas. Along with this, activists and scientists state that the area is susceptible to earthquakes and dangerous, with the hydropower project located near a known tectonic fault line.

This area’s susceptibility to natural disasters and invasion into the Tapanuli orangutan’s habitat should be reason enough to evaluate and halt these large projects like the hydropower dam and mining activity is also found in the area.

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