The most important risk factor for orangutans is the loss of habitat. Suitable orangutan habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia has declined by more than 80% in the last 20 years.
It is estimated that an average of 1.15 million hectares of forest per year has been lost in Borneo between 2003 and 2007. For Sumatra, the loss is put at 550,000 hectares per year between 1985 and 2007.
A deadly combination of logging (legal and illegal) and expansion of the palm oil industry is largely responsible. There are around 7 million hectares of palm oil plantations in Indonesia but considerably more forest than this has been lost. Often logging occurs on the pretext of being for palm oil but is merely to gain income from the sale of timber.
Palm oil is the world’s most productive oil seed and demand for the product has been growing by more than 9% per year in the last decade. This is being driven by not only the food and cosmetic industry but more recently its usage as a biofuel.
The combined effect of logging and palm oil expansion resulted in Indonesia having the world’s highest deforestation rate in 2006 according to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report from 2007. It concluded that up to 98% of the orangutan habitat in Borneo and Sumatra may be destroyed by 2022 without urgent action.
The UNEP report, ‘The Last Stand of the Orangutan: State of Emergency‘, estimated that illegal logging accounts for more than 70% of the timber harvested in Indonesia and that it is occurring in 37 of the country’s 41 national parks. The industry is driven by excess saw mill capacity and better returns for timber producers than utilising legally harvested timber.
In addition to the direct loss of habitat, there are flow-on effects from the opening up of the forest and introduction of network roads:
- The creation of ‘forest islands’: these are areas of land too small to support an orangutan population and result in animals caught on these islands starving to death or turning to desperate food seeking measures.
- The vulnerability of these areas to forest fires increases. The large quantities of dead wood littering what was once forest floor provide the perfect combustion material for Kalimantan’s famous uncontrollable infernos.
- Micro-climate changes impact fruiting in the forests: when local conditions deteriorate, orangutans are forced to move to new areas in search of food, bringing them in conflict with humans and often ending in them being killed as ‘pests’.
In 1997 and 1998 thousands of orangutans perished either from starvation, fires or at the hands of people whose gardens they entered in search of food.
How Can You Help
There are lots of ways you can support orangutans and help ensure the survival of this precious ape.
Adopt an Orangutan
Orangutans are endangered and at risk of extinction. Habitat destruction means hundreds of orphan orangutans need to care for every year. You can help by adopting one. Their dedicated ‘nannies’ teach them everything they need to know for when it’s time to release them back to the wild. You can follow their progress through Forest School.Adopt Now
Make a Donation
Please help the Orangutans in their struggle for survival. Your donation is important and goes directly to BOS Indonesia. By donating, you are helping bring this noble yet endangered species back from the brink of extinction and on a path to freedom - from rescue to rehabilitation and release.Donate Now
Visit Our Shop
The perfect gift for any occasion! Choose from our selection of instant gifts that directly support our orangutans. You can buy a wheelbarrow, provide food for an orangutan for two months or lots more. You will receive a certificate, personalised with the name of your choice - perfect gift for you or a friend.Shop Now