This long-haired ape is a close relative of ours whose name literally means “man of the forest.”
The most tree-loving of all the great apes, it spends nearly all of its time in the trees. Males venture, rarely, to the forest floor and are usually solitary.
The Sumatran orang-utan (Pongo abelii
) shares its home – and highly threatened status – with a number of other endemic species in the Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspot, which encompasses much of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Borneo. The species is estimated to have lost half its population in the 1990s and is now only found scattered throughout 13 lowland forest patches on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Featured annually since 2000 on our list of the world’s 25 most threatened primates, the Sumatran orang-utan’s survival is at risk. Legal and illegal logging are often followed by complete land conversion to agriculture and oil palm plantations. Recent tsunamis devastated coastal areas of Indonesia, and along with local conflicts, have triggered another threat as communities resettle and the economy grows. Given the growing demand for space on the island, scientists fear remaining populations may be reduced by another half in the next ten years.
In addition, the species is killed as a pest in many areas, hunted for food, and occasionally taken for the pet trade. The Sumatran orang-utan, and many other primates on the verge of extinction in Asia, are prime targets of the global wildlife market.
With local partners and support from the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at CI, we recently assessed and identified priority conservation sites, known as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), for Indonesia’s threatened species like the orang-utan. Through detailed mapping of deforestation rates and patterns, we are targeting actions on sites under the most immediate threat. Stop the Clock on Species Extinction