Tuesday 27 September 2016

Bornean orangutan is now 'critically endangered'

Catherine Devine

Published 11/07/2016 | 13:39

Sibu the Orangutan sits in her new Forest habitat in Dublin Zoo yesterday Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Sibu the Orangutan sits in her new Forest habitat in Dublin Zoo yesterday Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The Bornean orangutan is now critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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This means that both species of orangutan now face an “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.”

“This is full acknowledgement of what has been clear for a long time: orangutan conservation is failing,” Andrew Marshall, one of the authors of the assessment, told Mongabay.

Despite conservation efforts the species haven’t maintained a stable or increasing population.

Female Orangutan Leonie(35) enjoying their new Home in Dublin Zoo. Picture: Kyran O’Brien
Female Orangutan Leonie(35) enjoying their new Home in Dublin Zoo. Picture: Kyran O’Brien

The new IUCN findings suggest that hunting, habitat destruction, habitat degradation and fragmentation are the biggest drivers behind the population loss.

In 2010 less than 60pc of Borneo’s forests were suitable for orangutans. While much of this land is technically protected by the Indonesian, Malaysian and Brunei governments, illegal logging and uncontrolled burning are still continual threats.

“The problem with assessing a species like orangutans is there is such a long time-lag effect,” Marshall said.

“Many populations in these forest fragments may be heading toward extinction already, and the grim reality is there is little we can do to alter this trajectory. We could remove every threat right now, and many populations would continue to decline for several generations.”

Female orangutans only give birth once every six to eight years so population growth remains slow.

While the species face extinction Marshall said that there is some hope that they wont reach that conclusion.

“Although I think things will likely get worse before they get better,” Marshall said, “it’s not too late for orangutans.”

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