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People are Slaughtering Orangutans and Wiping Them Out

By The New Scientist

Borneo’s orangutan population has halved in just 16 years. Worse, it was not a tragic by-product of the growth of farming, as many had believed. Instead, most of the lost orangutans were deliberately killed.

 

“It’s not a good picture,” says study leader Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. “We really need to acknowledge that killing of orangutans is a big issue.”

His team studied Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), which as the name suggests live on the island of Borneo in South East Asia. There are two other species of orangutan, both confined to the neighbouring island of Sumatra.

 

Wich and his colleagues gathered data from surveys of Bornean orangutan nests between 1999 and 2015, performed by 38 conservation and research organisations. Orangutans make fresh nests to sleep in each night, so counting nests gives a good measure of orangutan numbers.

 

In 1999, surveyors spotted an average of 23 nests for every kilometre they walked through the forest. But by 2015 they only saw 10 nests per kilometre.

 

Based on that, Wich’s team estimates that the Bornean orangutan population fell from around 300,000 to 150,000. In all, an estimated 148,500 animals were lost over the 16-year period.

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