Research has revealed that more than 100,000 Critically Endangered orangutans have been killed in Borneo since 1999, as reported by BBC News.
Scientists conducted a 16-year survey on the island and have found that deforestation, driven by logging, oil palm, mining and paper mills, continues to be the main culprit. The research was published in the journal “Current Biology”.
However, it was also found that animals were disappearing from forested areas. Lead researcher Maria Voigt of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany said this implied that large numbers of orangutans were simply being slaughtered. The animals were being killed by hunters in retaliation for crop-raiding.
“When these animals come into conflict with people on the edge of a plantation, they are always on the losing end. People will kill them. Just last week, we had a report of an orangutan that had 130 pellets in its body, after being shot at in Borneo. It’s shocking and it’s unnecessary. Orangutans might eat farmers’ fruit, but they are not dangerous.” Professor Serge Wich from Liverpool John Moores University, UK, also part of the team, told BBC News on February 16.
Professor Wich called for leaders in Malaysia and Indonesia to speak out against the slaughter of these animals.
But the exploitation of natural resources and deforestation in Borneo was still the main problem. Deforestation alone was predicted to wipe out 45,000 more orangutans in the next 35 years.
Although the new figures on orangutan declines are alarming, there is still a glimmer of hope for some patches of their habitat. Conservationists from all over the world have stepped in to help.
A team from Chester Zoo in the UK – together with the charity Hutan in Malaysia – have started building man-made “forest canopy bridges” to reconnect habitats destroyed by oil palm plantations, roads and drainage channels.
Chester Zoo’s field conservation manager Catherine Barton told BBC News, “To see the animals start to use these bridges and to reconnect across this fragmented habitat is a really positive sign,” said Ms Barton. “But it’s a short-term solution.”
In the long-term, she added, the aim was to replant forests and make space for the great apes.
Photos courtesy of BBC.com.