Orangutans are on the brink of extinction. Many conservation groups estimate that wild populations will only exist for ten to twenty more years. Orangutans are a unique large primate species that is a part of the story of human origins. They also contribute vital ecosystem services to the forests they inhabit. Studies show that orangutans act as a keystone species by spreading biodiversity through the forest. This occurs because orangutans are a highly mobile species that mainly eats fruit as it migrates. However, this important species has been under threat for decades from hunting, habitat loss, and abductions of young orangutans for sale in the pet trade. Drought and forest fire have also impacted the already dwindling population.
Orangutans have seen a steady decline of 40 percent in the last 20 years. This decline has mainly occurred due to the conversion of lowland forest in to oil palm plantations. This past year has seen the killing of 750 orangutans in Indonesia alone. These hundreds have been killed as food but also as a way of protecting crops. Humans and orangutans have come into increasing conflict as forests are cleared for farming communities. However, habitat loss is just as much of a factor, as Orangutans need extensive tracts of forests habitat to survive. The forest must also be lowland forest, as this is the only type of forest in the region that produces fruit year-round. This is also the only type of forest with a dependable supply of water. Unfortunately, this is also the most fertile farming land in the area.
Illegal logging is another threat to Orangutan populations. Illegal logging forces many orangutans from their native habitat. This causes overcrowding, starvation, a lower birth rate, and conflicts with humans. Loggers also remove trees that are essential to the growth of strangler figs that comprise much of the orangutan diet. This causes stresses to the population when and if they return to their native habitat. There is hope in protecting the last vestiges of this amazing primate species, but we have to act fast. One of the first ways you can help is by signing this petition to Indonesian President Yudhoyono encouraging him to invest more in the protection ofOragnutans. Another way to help is by joining campaigns by the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace that are both working to protect this amazing species from extinction.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/axinar/161618130/in/photostream/