Factsheet: Orangutans



Posted on 08 March 2006  | 
Portrait of a young Orang-utan (<i>Pongo pygmaeus</i>).
Portrait of a young Orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus).
© WWF-Canon / Alain COMPOSTEnlarge
Orangutans once lived all the way from southern China to the foothills of the Himalayas and south to the island of Java, Indonesia. Today, the red 'man of the forest' is confined to the rapidly dwindling forests of just 2 islands, Sumatra and Borneo.

Tragically, the animals share a preference with humans for fertile alluvial plains and lowland valleys - a habitat once rich in tropical forests but now disappearing fast due to logging and agricultural schemes such as rice cultivation and oil palm plantations.

Just 100 years ago there were probably more than 230,000 orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. In the last 10 years alone their numbers have declined by 30-50%, and now just over 60,000 survive. If efforts to protect orangutans are not urgently strengthened, Asia’s only great ape may be lost from the wild forever within a few decades.

Orangutans are 'flagship' species for the conservation of the tropical forests of Sumatra and Borneo. Because they require large areas of good quality habitat, ensuring their conservation in the wild means that the myriad of other species that share the ecosystem - including proboscis monkeys, Asian elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros, Sumatran tigers, clouded leopard, Malayan sun bear, and Malay tapirs - will be protected.
Portrait of a young Orang-utan (<i>Pongo pygmaeus</i>).
Portrait of a young Orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus).
© WWF-Canon / Alain COMPOST Enlarge

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