According to a new study published in the journal Science Advances, changes to future land-use will mean population declines for the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). Previous population counts of the orangutan species were previously thought to be around 6,000 but according to new information confirmed by the study new population estimates are closer to 14,000.
The increase in population size for the Sumatran orangutan came after the discovery of populations living in higher altitudes. The reason scientists had overlooked these populations is that resources to count the species are sparse and the locations are remote. Unfortunately, the new population estimates did not change the findings of the study which estimates that future forest loss would eliminate 4,500 individual orangutans from the population by 2030.
The Sumatran orangutan and other animals that inhabit the Leuser ecosystem, one of the most ecologically dense rain forest ecosystems in the world, are at great risk for extinction. It is the last place on Earth where the Sumatran orangutan can be found. Due to deforestation, poaching and palm oil production, critical habitat and resources have been lost.
There are no relocation plans for the animals caught in the middle of this deforestation method and many of them are burned alive.
Deforestation techniques in Indonesia include the slash and burn method, which means that large areas of rain forest are cut down and then indiscriminately burned. There are no relocation plans for the animals caught in the middle of this deforestation method and many of them are burned alive. Palm oil is an ingredient found in nearly all products ranging from toothpaste to snack foods.
The Guardian reported that despite the increase in orangutan populations confirmed by the study, the increase does not mean that the population is growing. It simply means that orangutans have been found living in other areas of the island. Previous surveys did not look for orangutan populations above 900 meters. These orangutans were found at 1,500 meters.
The discovery of the new population is not expected to change the Sumatran orangutan’s critically endangered status.