Orangutan numbers have declined sharply on the only two islands where they still live in the wild and they could become the first great ape species to go extinct if urgent action isn’t taken, a new study says.
The declines in Indonesia and Malaysia since 2004 are mostly because of illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations, Serge Wich, a scientist at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, said on Saturday.
The survey found the orangutan population on Indonesia’s Sumatra island dropped almost 14 percent since 2004, Wich said. It also concluded that the populations on Borneo island, which is shared by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, have fallen by 10 percent. Researchers only surveyed areas of Borneo that are in Indonesia and Malaysia.
In their study, Wich and his 15 colleagues said the declines in Borneo were occurring at an “alarming rate” but that they were most concerned about Sumatra, where the numbers show the population is in “rapid decline.”
“Unless extraordinary efforts are made soon, it could become the first great ape species to go extinct,” researchers wrote.