Orangutan forest school in Indonesia takes on its first eight students

Posted in 26/06/2018

Orangutan orphans and their caretakers at the forest school. The caretakers must step in to teach the motherless orangutans the skills they need to live independently in the forest. Image courtesy of Four Paws.

A team of scientists and caretakers aim to give orphaned orangutan a chance to return to the wild.

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Orangutans in crisis

Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) are classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. A recent study published in Current Biology estimates that over 100,000 orangutans have been lost across Borneo between 1999 and 2015. The remaining orangutans exist in a number of geographically isolated groups known as “metapopulations,” and the study found that only 38 of the 64 Bornean metapopulations have more than 100 individuals — the threshold that scientists estimate is required for a viable population.

In Borneo, the orangutans’ natural forest habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate. Between 1973 and 2016, 30 percent of the island’s old-growth forest was converted to farmland for crops such as oil palm or lost as a result of forest fires — 195,000 square kilometers (75,300 square miles). “There is no land planning,” Preuschoft said, “only land grabbing.”

But the study also found large declines in orangutan numbers within the remaining forest, indicating that habitat loss is not the only threat. Hunting for bushmeat, the illegal pet trade and human-wildlife conflict over resources — plantation workers killing orangutans to protect their crops, for example — are all also important drivers of orangutan declines, according to the study’s lead author, Maria Voigt.

(To be continued…)

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