Why Are Orangutans Endangered?

Featured/Top Photo: Paulina L. Ela/BOSF

Five great apes exist on earth today, two of them are on the brink of extinction, two are decreasing rapidly in population, and one is the most abundant primate species on earth.

Orangutans and gorillas are critically endangered. Chimpanzees and bonobos are endangered. Humans are expanding.

Critically Endangered

The category of “critically endangered” describes a species that meets a specific set of criteria including but not limited to:

A. Population Reduction

  1. ≥90% population reduction over last 10 years or 3 generations
  2. ≥80% population reduction projected over next 10 years or 3 generations

B. Shrinking Geographic Range

  1. Exists in a habitat less than 100 square kilometers in addition to two of the following: severely fragmented, continuing decline, and extreme fluctuation.
  2. Exists in a habitat less than 10 square kilometers in addition to two of the following: severely fragmented, continuing decline, and extreme fluctuation

C. Population Size < 250 Mature Individuals

  1. 25% population decline in three years or one generation or
  2. A steady decline projected or observed in mature individuals or
  3. Population size estimated to be under 50 individuals (mature) or
  4. the probability of extinction in the wild is at least 50% within 10 years or three generations (whichever is longer)

Source: IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria

Factors Affecting Orangutans

Deforestation is the leading cause of habitat loss for orangutans. In fact, over the past 20 years orangutans have lost over 80% of their habitat. This doesn’t even consider the effect that the palm oil industry has had on habitats across Southeast Asia>>)

Orangutan in small wooden cage. (Photo from OC archives, courtesy of CITES).
Photo from the OC archives | Courtesy of CITES

Slash and burn methods used by local farmers to prepare land for large palm oil plantations are a large threat to orangutan survival. Fires also pose an annual threat as the drought season combined with unethical deforestation methods create extremely flammable and dangerous conditions. (Read more about how draining peat swamps creates more flammable forests).

In addition to habitat loss, illegal hunting in the form of poaching and the illegal pet trade contribute to the ever declining populations across Borneo and Sumatra.

You can help save the orangutan population by donating below!


  1. I love orangutans so much 🙁
    So sad they’re endangered.

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