Sumatran Orangutans are Dangerously Close to Extinction


Nic Rendon, Contributor

In recent years, wildlife preservation has been a controversial topic around the world. This is because human made creations have been taking up more space and destroying habitats. This causes the wildlife in those areas to lose their homes, and start dying. Humans destroying animal habitats has caused the extinction of multiple species throughout history. One species that is in danger of suffering the same fate is the Sumatran orangutan.

The Sumatran orangutan is a species of orangutan found in northern Sumatra, an Indonesian island. It is only one of the three species of orangutan that exist, the others being the Tapanuli and the Bornean orangutan. The official name of  the species is the Pongo abelii. Typically, adult orangutans are 4-5 feet long and weigh between 66 and 198 pounds. The species used to be spread out over all of Sumatra, but recently they have been restricted to only the northern section of the island.  The orangutan travels almost exclusively by swinging from tree to tree, rarely travelling on the ground. Males generally live alone while Females live with their offspring.

Recently, the rainforest habitat of these orangutans has been shrinking at an alarming rate due to man made creations. More roads are being created, and plantations for palm oil and rubber are being built. This is forcing the orangutans into a smaller area, increasing competition for resources. Hunting also plays a role in the severe decrease in population. Poachers and other hunters have been killing some of these orangutans. They are currently listed as critically endangered, with about 14,000 of them left alive.

Wildlife preservation organizations have been working hard to try to save the Sumatran orangutans. Photographer Alain Schroeder has worked with a few of these organizations in the past, such as the Orangutan Information Center and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. When asked about what these companies do, Schroeder said, “They go in the field, they rescue the animals, they do the medical check. And eventually they train the animals for a few years to put them back in the wild.” Since 1931, these orangutans have had laws in Indonesia protecting them from being hunted, but this has not stopped the hunters. People kill them for various different reason. In certain areas, they are captured and held in captivity as some type of status symbol, and in other areas, they are hunted for food.

The Sumatran orangutan population is decreasing at an alarming rate, and many organizations are doing whatever they can to save the species. The reason for their major decline is human development. Their habitat is being destroyed loggers, and they are being killed by locals. The population of these great apes has been reduced to only 14,000 individuals, making them critically endangered. Laws have been put in place to stop this problem from getting any worse, but it only helps so much. The Sumatran orangutans are some of the most human-like creatures left on earth, sharing about 96% of their DNA with humans. Wildlife preservation is working very hard to return their population to what it used to be.