A Boost for the Rarest Orangutans

April 10, 2013

Just a few thousand Bornean orangutans remain on the planet, but a new discovery offers hope for these shy red apes.

With heads thrown back and binoculars pointed to the sky, the researchers spotted fresh nests high up in the trees. The team had come to Malaysia’s Ulu Sungai Menyang to look for orangutans, and here was proof—leafy bedding for up to 200 of the world’s rarest Bornean orangutans.

The sub-species Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus is listed as the most severely threatened orangutan worldwide, with a total of 3,000–4,500 animals remaining. Some 2,000 are already known to live in Sarawak’s Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary. The new population offers hope for this beleaguered red ape.

Field surveys were conducted in February by staff from the Sarawak Forest Department, assisted by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, WCS, and Borneo Adventure. The surveys covered 154 miles of transects in the hilly, undulating terrain in central Borneo. Ground surveys were supplemented by data from aerial surveys so that 80 percent of the study area was covered.

The new population will receive protections from the Government of Sarawak. Melvin Gumal, Director of WCS’s Malaysia Program, said: “It is indeed wonderful to hear the Government’s initiative towards protecting these orangutan and their habitat, especially when preliminary scientific data indicates the existence of a globally significant population.”

The Sarawak Government intends to hold a dialogue with local communities and the other key stakeholders to discuss options and to involve them in any conservation effort in the area.

To learn more, read the press release >>
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