Hunting, wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflict are the main drivers of orang-utan loss. The harvesting of palm oil and pulp is also a major driver, but just one of several causes. Below are some facts on the Borneo orang-utan population and the effect the palm oil industry has on it.
Bornean orang-utan populations declined by 100,000 animals between 1999 and 2015. The species is Critically Endangered under the criteria of the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (meaning that at least 80% of the total number has disappeared in three generations’ time, or 75 years for this species).
- Recent estimates are larger than past estimates because many new areas that had never been surveyed before revealed orang-utan presence. However, an increase in estimates due to better surveying does not change the trend of declining numbers in the areas that had been surveyed in the past.
- The majority of orang-utans are found outside of primary and protected forests. They are found mostly in degraded forests and selectively logged forest.
- About half of Borneo orang-utans live in areas open for development or areas that are already being developed.
Hunting and forest conversion are the two major threats for orang-utan long-term survival.
- Non land-use drivers such as hunting, wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflict are main causes of orang-utan loss. Even low rates of killings have a high impact due to the species’ slow reproductively rate.
- Human population densities have a negative influence on orang-utan numbers.
- Land clearance for industrial and smallholder plantations, such as for palm oil and pulp, are also major drivers of extinction in agricultural areas (about half of the original orang-utan range). However, orang-utan populations in areas with unsustainable natural resource use show the highest decline in orang-utan numbers. Habitat loss also has a negative impact on population viability – populations are considered non-viable under 100 animals.
Estimates of future orang-utan loss based on forest cover – 43,300 orang-utans during next 35 years (or about half of the current number) – fall short, as they do not include non-land use based impacts.
Protecting forests alone is not enough. Successful orang-utan conservation needs to address both orang-utan killings and habitat degradation in effective partnerships with local communities and public and private sectors.
Voigt et al 2018
Sephar et al 2018