Bornean Orangutan

Borneo, Sumatra

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Clade: Synapsida
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Primates
  • Suborder: Haplorhini
  • Family: Hominidae
  • Genus: Pongo
  • Species: P. pygmaeus

The Bornean Orangutan is one of the two only great apes of Asia. Characterised by a wide face due to broad cheeks, a short beard and dark colouring this species differs slightly in appearance from the Sumatran Orangutan, the other great ape species of Asia. Inhabiting the lowland, tropical and mountain forests of Borneo, today there are around 45,000 to 69,000 currently remaining.

Like other orangutan species, the Bornean Orangutan plays an essential role in the well-being of forests in the area, allowing for seed dispersal to take place. Relying on trees for their existence, they rarely spend time the forest floor. This species food source is found in the trees in which it inhabits, primarily being fruit. A rather solitary species, they are not particularly fond of spending time with others and likewise are apprehensive of humans.

The Bornean Orangutan is a critically endangered species, certainly due to human interaction with the animal and its habitat. Deforestation is having a shocking impact, with much of the forest being cleared, with no regard to the animal’s welfare. Much of the forest is then converted into agricultural land, leaving confused orangutans which enter agricultural land desperately seeking food and as a consequence are shot. The illegal pet trade is harrowing, with many willing to pay extortionate sums of money for the illegal capturing and distribution of young orangutans. Hunting is an additional threat, with evidence that in areas in Kalimantan, skulls are sold for up to $70.

Despite many who are irresponsible and are killing off the Bornean Orangutan, many at the same time are striving to save the animal. Conservation programmes are allowing for protection of the animal’s habitat as well as strict enforcement of rules in cooperation with government organisations to avoid hunting and illegal pet trade from continuing and expanding.

Estimated Bornean Orangutan population figures per decade from 1930 to 2020

The graph above represents the estimated decline rate of the Bornean Orangutan population between the years of 1930 and 2020. The graph is measured in decades rather than single years, with the initial population figure in 1930 standing at an approximated 210,000 individuals. The Bornean Orangutan population drastically decreased over a period of 90 years to a projected 57,000 individuals in 2020, should the current population trend continue.

The population figure today stands between 45,000 and 69,000 individuals, indicating that 2,000–3,000 orangutans were killed every year in Indonesian Borneo. The above data shows that the population has decreased by an approximated 153,000 individuals, accounting for more than 50% of the population.

Approximated pal oil production figures in Malaysia and Indonesia between 1997 and 2016

The graph above illustrates the concerning growth of palm oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia.Palm oil plantations have had a devastating effect on the Bornean Orangutanpopulation. Betweenthe years of 2015 and 2016 58,140 million metric tonnes of palmoil were produced in Malaysia andIndonesia alone, this figure being almost 5 times more than between the years of 1998 and 1999.

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