Watching the world from a distance of 4 to 5 feet above the ground and having a weight ranging from 80 to 180lbs, the ‘Pongo’, commonly named as ‘Orangutan’, is an incredible species in the family of the apes. The word orangutan is derived from a Malaysian term which means “person of the forest”. These adorable primates with long orange-tinted hair, reside in the dwindling wilds of Malaysia and Indonesia. Orangutans are known for their high intelligence quotient, so it’s really saddening that such a wonderful species is at the risk of being extinct. But why are orangutans endangered? What threats do they face today? We will discuss all this and more below. So keep reading!
What Are The Other Typical Features Of The Orangutan?
Let’s learn some astounding features of orangutan before discussing the main point of this article.
- One feature that makes orang-utans stand apart is their enormously lengthy arms, which may range about 7 feet, which is obviously longer than the standing height of the primate (5 feet). Their long arms help them adapt to the environment they live in, which is the tropical rainforest.
- These apes use the large tree leaves as their umbrellas, to protect themselves from varying weather conditions. These cerebral primates have a diet ranging from fruits to barks, from insects to meat.
- The orangutans enjoy solitude more than other animals. The males are known to be loners and it is observed that when they move in the jungle, they create loud howls and wails which can be heard from a distance of over 1.2 miles. This is their way to ensure that they keep out of the paths of other animals.
- The infant orangutans are very close to their mothers and stay around them for more or less 6-7 years until they develop their own skills to survive independently in the wilderness.
- The females give birth to the minor orangutans only once in 8 years, which is the longest time span for any animal.
- The average life span of a common orangutan is approximately 60 years, which makes these apes quite long-lived ones.
Why Are Orangutans Endangered? What Are The Threats Faced By Them?
With such striking qualities and highly unique traits, it is a matter of grave concern that these apes are getting endangered. What are the threats to their existence? Well, there’s not one, but several reasons that have brought orangutans to this position. Let’s learn about it below.
As mentioned before, orangutans reside only in few specific locations, such as in Sumatra and Borneo in Southeast Asia as the developed tropical rainforests are crucial for the survival of these apes. This makes it impossible for them to survive in other regions. Apart from this, they also face the severe problem of habitat loss, primarily due to deforestation. People generally destroy these areas for own commercial uses.
Deforestation has completely ruined the lives and lifestyles of the orangutans over the past few years. Surveys prove that the total population of the orangutans has nearly halved in the last 60 years in the regions of Borneo. Talking about Sumatra, the populace is just one-fifth what it was 75 years ago. The orangutans of Sumatra are the most endangered great ape living on the planet.
The primary threat to the territories of orangutans is logging. The loggers have cut down nearly 80% of the Indonesian old-growth woods within just 25 years, that is, from 1980 to 2005. As a result, jungles supporting 1000 orangutans were lost during the 1990s. It is due to these tragic issues faced by these primates that nearly 3 quarters of them are forced to live outside the protected zones of the rainforests which are vulnerable to logging.
The destruction of the habitat of the orangutans is not only due to logging, but also the dramatic climatic changes due to which the forests suffer frequent severe droughts, which eventually leads to large forest fires. According to the reports, nearly one-third of the populace of the orangutans were estimated to be killed in the years 1997 and 1998 at Borneo due to fire. A Peat-land fire that covered 400,000 hectares, reportedly decimated 8000 orangutans. The massive fires of 1983 and 1998 in Kutai National Park, brought almost a 90% decline in the number of orangutans.
Just like most of the wild animals, even orang-utans are highly subjected to poaching. The forest edges of Sumatra is a conflict arena between the farmer and orangutans. Farmers in this area persecute and even shoot the orangutans whom they consider to be pests or vexations. Apart from this, the local tribes poach the apes for bushmeat and medicines.
Slow Rate Of Reproduction:
On average, an orangutan gives birth to a junior one only once in 8 long years. They are slow to mature and breed and their population doesn’t have the capability to withstand even moderate damages from poaching. It is estimated by the scientists that death of even 1% of the Sumatran orangutans or 2% of that the Bornean ones will gradually end up terminating their entire group.
It’s really disheartening to learn that the future of these beautiful red animals is bleak. Numerous new lanes are being planned in the Singkil Swampus Wildlife Reserve on the northern Sumatra, where the most numbers of orang-utans are found. What’s even more unfortunate is that the people at multiple echelons of administration and society have no desire to implement conservation decrees for the orangutans in their territories. So unless the government takes strict action against it, the future of orang-utans seems bleak. We can only hope for a silver lining here.
<References: Hugo Ahlenius, cartographer, 2007. The extent of deforestation in Borneo1950-2005, and projection towards 2020. Anne E. Russon. 2009. Orangutan rehabilitation and reintroduction: Successes, failures, and role in conservation. In Orangutans. S. Wich, S. Utami, T. Setia, and C. Van Schaik, eds.
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