Save the Orangutans from Extinction

Published 05 Jan 2017

At present, there are many animal species that are in danger. The orangutans are one of them, and in the few years they may be extinct. There are many factors that are threatening their species: loss of habitat due to population growth and illegal logging, natural disasters as well as illegal animal trade and poaching. The authorities must act immediately, as the problem continues to worsen as time goes by. This research paper aims to discuss the short life history of the orangutans, the problems that endanger them, and the solutions that are currently being made to prevent their extinction.

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The orangutans are known by the scientific name of Pongo pygmaeus (“Orangutan”). Originally, the orangutan species live throughout the Southeast Asian forests, and are native to Borneo and Sumatra islands (“Orangutans”; “Orangutan”). Their habitat is the rainforest, and they share this habitat with other animals, such as tigers and rhinos (“Orangutans”). Orangutans live in groups, that which consist of only two to four animals; nonetheless, adult males are usually solitary (“Orangutan”).

Orangutans are arboreal animals; in fact, they are the “world’s largest exclusively tree-dwelling mammal” (“Orangutan”; Xu). They seldom leave the trees, and their nourishment includes fruit, leaves, bark and birds’ eggs (“Orangutan”). They spend the night on nests or platforms that they built themselves (“Orangutan”).

The orangutans reach their full maturity at 10 to 12 years of age, while their sexual maturity is attained at eight years of age (“Orangutan”). The female orangutan has a 29-day menstrual cycle, and just like humans, the gestation period lasts for nine months (“Orangutan”). In addition, it is the only species with the “longest birth interval”: female orangutans only give birth after eight years (Xu). Unfortunately, the only threat to the species is mankind (“Orangutan”). The orangutan species is so threatened that it was declared by the IUCN or the World Conservation Union as “critically endangered” (Mayhell).

How does mankind threaten the existence of the orangutans? Humans endanger the species due to actions that lead to the orangutans’ loss of habitat. In the last two decades, orangutans have lost 20% of their habitat (“Orangutans”). In 1996, there were 20,000 orangutans in Borneo; at present, the number is estimated between 12,000 to 15,000 (“Orangutans”). In Sumatra, there are only an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 orangutans left, from its original number of 10,000 in 1996 (“Orangutans”). The growth of the Indonesian population is one of the contributing factors behind the loss of habitat.

One hundred years ago, the population of Indonesia was approximately 10 million; today, however, the population has increased to 200 million (Mayhell). Currently, the area where people live is no longer sufficient to sustain the growing population, which forces the authorities to convert rainforests to residential areas (“Orangutans”). This means the habitat of the orangutans would be utilized for human consumption. Moreover, the increasing population requires more food, which forces farmers to modify their agricultural techniques, one of which is the slash-and-burn technique (Mayhell).

This technique makes land clearing much easier, and is used by timber and palm oil companies on many acres of land (“Orangutans”). This manner of land clearing forces the orangutans deeper in the forests (Mayhell). However, the conditions of the forest are not conducive for orangutans to live either. Illegal logging is still rampant, as it provides for a lucrative industry (“Orangutans”). Illegal logging had decreased the forests’ resources, and a few trees are inadequate for the survival of the orangutans (Mayhell).

Natural disasters are also to blame for the decrease in the orangutan population. Between 1997 and 1998, there were forest fires that were caused by drought (Mayhell). Many orangutans were killed, and those that survived had to look for food in human territory which made the orangutans victims of poaching (Mayhell). Because the forests can no longer provide the nourishment for their survival, orangutans search for food in human territories. The people, in turn, are bothered by the presence of these animals in their farms (Mayhell). These orangutans are then killed for food (“Orangutans”).

Poaching, along with illegal animal trade, also decreased the populations of the orangutans. Both of these are effects of the economic problems that affected Asia in 1997 (Mayhell). Many Indonesians were unemployed, and the rainforests seemed to present an opportunity for them to earn a living (Mayhell). The young orangutans are taken from their mothers to be sold as pets (“Orangutans”). However, orangutans are never meant to be pets because they are wild animals. While they are an infant, they may seem as cute pets. However, once they grow up, taking care of them becomes extremely difficult (“Orangutans”). Moreover, once they have been sold as pets, most of them die either from sickness or poor living conditions (“Orangutans”). Even at death, orangutans prove to be a source of income, as orangutan skulls are sold as souvenirs for tourists (Mayhell).

The possible extinction of orangutans poses a serious problem not only for Indonesia, but also for the world. So far, steps have been made to regulate this problem. To prevent the further loss of orangutan habitat, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments have sent police patrols to guard the animals’ territory (Xu). In addition, there exists the U.S. Great Ape Conservation Act of 2000 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). This act seeks to provide monetary assistance to other countries for the conservation of great apes such as the orangutans (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Other animals that would benefit from this law include gorillas, chimpanzees and gibbons (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

The aforementioned measures would surely help in preventing the extinction of orangutans. However, these are not enough. The Indonesian government should create policies that would surely make a difference in the conservation of orangutans. Illegal logging such be closely monitored, and the agricultural sector must be advised to stop the slash-and-burn method. The citizens should also be educated, so that illegal pet trade and poaching would no longer occur. Orangutans are great animals, and if their species are not taken care of, future generations may not get to see them. Everyone should do their part in preventing the extinction of orangutans.

Works Cited

  • Mayhell, Hillary. “Orangutans Edging Closer to Brink of Extinction.” National Geographic. 24 October 2000. National Geographic Society. 16 February 2008 <>.
  • “Orangutan.” Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia. 1992 ed.
  • “Orangutans Face Extinction.” 16 February 2008 .
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Great Apes Program.” 31 January 2008. 16 February 2008 .
  • Xu, Risheng. “Professor Predicts Orangutan Extinction.” The Harvard Crimson. 1 October 2003. 16 February 2008 .
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