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Stop Bulldozing the Tapanuli Orangutan!

With their long, wavy hair, the orangutans in the forests of Tapanuli in North Sumatra, Indonesia, are strikingly different than their relatives elsewhere on Sumatra and on Borneo. The calls of the males could be mistaken for a human language.

It was only in November 2017 that scientists found that the orangutans in Tapanuli are a distinct species and not a subspecies of the Sumatran orangutan. They gave them the name Pongo tapanuliensis.

Genome analyses have shown that the Tapanuli orangutan split from the Borneo orangutan line 670,000 years ago. Pongo tapanuliensis is thus the rarest and most critically endangered orangutan species.

This discovery shows us just how little we know about our closest relatives and how incomplete our understanding of biodiversity remains. Humans are driving other species to extinction faster than we can discover and document them. The Tapanuli orangutans will also face that fate if a massive hydropower project is realized in their habitat.

800 individuals – the last of their kind – cling to survival in a forest south of Lake Toba. In Batang Toru Forest, the state-owned Chinese hydropower company Sinohydro wants to build a dam for a 510 MW power plant as part of China's Belt & Road mega-infrastructure initiative.

Wildlife experts are horrified: The dam would destroy the only habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, marking the beginning of the end of the world’s rarest primate.

Do we really want to sentence our closest relatives to death for a couple hundred megawatts of electricity?

 

Tell the Indonesian and Chinese governments to cancel their plans NOW!

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