Threats to Orangutans
There are numerous threats to the viability of the remaining wild orangutan population in Indonesia and Malaysia. The primary threat is loss of habitat with up to 80% of suitable forest in Indonesia and Malaysia having been lost in the past 20 years.
Other threats, which often go hand-in-hand with the destruction of the rainforest, are the illegal pet trade and poaching.
Estimates of the numbers left in the wild vary from as low as 16,000 to as high as 65,000. Most recent estimates indicate fewer than 7000 Sumatran orangutans and 50,000 Bornean orangutans survive in the wild today.
There is also debate as to the rate of population decline with estimates suggesting a loss of between 3,000 and 5,000 every year.
To add pressure to the situation, orangutans have a comparatively slow reproduction rate. A female orangutan will not reach sexual maturity until she is about fourteen to sixteen years of age and will only bear offspring once every eight to ten years.
Reproduction is also affected by the abundance of food. When food supplies dwindle so too does the orangutan’s reproduction rate.
While the rate of decline may be debated, the trend is not. The survival of the orangutan is becoming more precarious with every passing year with extinction in the wild likely to be within 10-20 years in the absence of effective protection of habitat.
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Loss of habitat
Illegal pet trade
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Photo: Karen Stenner