The Future for Borneo’s Critically Endangered Orangutans Looks Grim

Despite ongoing efforts to help orangutans survive, we continue to hear heartbreaking stories about many in need of rescue as the threats they face continue to grow. Now a team of researchers is sounding the alarm about the rate they’re disappearing in Borneo.

Almost exactly a year ago, Bornean orangutans’ status was changed to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ė just one step away from becoming extinct in the wild. According to a study just published in Scientific Reports, they’ve continued to decline at an alarming rate.

For the study, which is the first analysis of long-term population trends for orangutans, researchers combined data from land and aerial surveys, along with interviews conducted with local communities to model how their range and population has changed over time.

Although orangutans fared better in some areas than others, the study concluded that the population of Bornean orangutans has dropped by an alarming 25 percent over just the last 10 years.

Sadly, these amazing great apes continue to face a number of threats that range from being hunted for bushmeat and having infants stolen for the pet trade to losing their forest homes as land is lost to palm oil and rubber plantations, agriculture, development, logging, mining and fires. This decline in habitat has led to starvation for many, and has increased the risk of violent conflicts with humans as they move closer to us in search of food.

According to the study’s authors, an estimated 2,500 orangutans are killed in Borneo every year, while an estimated 10,000 are now living in areas that are earmarked for palm oil production.

“If these areas are converted to oil palm plantations without changes in current practices, most of these 10,000 individuals will be destroyed and the steep population decline is likely to continue,” said co-author Erik Meijaard of the University of Queensland.

Researchers called their findings “a wake-up call for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who have committed to saving the species.”

Although millions of dollars are spent in the region to combat wildlife decline, the study’s authors say it hasn’t been effectively spent. They’re now hoping their findings will lead to changes in conservation strategies that will effectively address the causes of this rapid decline.

“We canít envisage a bright future for orangutans if their habitat continues to be lost at this rapid rate. The orangutan only stands a chance of survival if people start to take the problem seriously. I just pray it isnít too late by then,” said International Animal Rescue’s (IAR) Program Director, Karmele L Sanchez, in response to the study.

Hopefully in the meantime individual orangutans will continue to benefit from the life-saving interventions of organizations like IAR, which is currently caring for more than 100 orangutans at its rescue center in West Borneo.

IAR is currently raising funds to buy 64 acres of forest adjacent to its rescue center, which will not only protect it from being destroyed for palm oil plantations, it will increase its existing site by 20 percent, and provide much needed space to expand its critical rehabilitation† program.

For more on how to help, check out International Animal Rescue and its Forest Fund campaign.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


natasha p
.about a year ago


Roberto M
Roberto MARINIabout a year ago


Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

silja s
silja salonen1 years ago

greed is destroying our world... every country should adopt the policies of Norway.
they are no longer accepting any imports from countries which are destroying the rainforests of Borneo or any country which are endangering the orangutans and of course the future of forests. they are also supporting endeavours of the different industries which are protecting rainforest..... brilliant bravo and standing ovation for Norway

Melania Padilla
Melania P1 years ago

This is the future for so many species, and ultimately, for us. This is so sad, other animals are not guilty of human's ignorance, cruelty, stupidity, and greed.....

joan s
joan silaco1 years ago


Margie FOURIE1 years ago

I agree. Dont buy products that contain palm oil.

Sandra V
Sandra Vito1 years ago


Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Rosalie H. Kaye
Rosalie Kaye1 years ago

This is such sad news- these magnificent primates need to be protected and it seems that Borneo doesn't give a damn about them!! The money from PALM OIL seems to take precedence over their environment and these wonderful Orangutans!! I read all labels and if there is PALM OIL in a product I DO NOT PURCHASE IT!! IF PEOPLE WOULD BOYCOTT PRODUCTS CONTAINING PALM OIL BORNEO WOULD WAKE UP REAL FAST AND START PROTECTING THE ORANGUTANS !! PLEASE BOYCOTT ITEMS CONTAINING PALM OIL!!!!