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Bornean Orangutan

Overview

  • Status
    Endangered
  • Population
    45,000 - 69,000
  • Scientific Name
    Pongo pygmaeus
  • Height
    3.3 – 4.6 feet
  • Weight
    66–220 pounds
  • Habitats
    Lowland rainforests and tropical, swamp and mountain forests

Bornean orangutan populations have declined by more than 50% over the past 60 years, and the species' habitat has been reduced by at least 55% over the past 20 years.

The Bornean orangutan differs in appearance from the Sumatran orangutan, with a broader face and shorter beard and also slightly darker in color. Three subspecies are recognized, each localized to different parts of the island:

  • Northwest Bornean orangutans are the most threatened subspecies. Its habitat has been seriously affected by logging and hunting, and a mere 1,500 individuals or so remain. Many habitat patches in the area are small and fragmented.
  • Northeast Bornean orangutans are the smallest in size and found in Sabah and eastern Kalimantan as far as the Mahakam River.
  • Central Bornean orangutans are the subspecies with the most animals, with at least 35,000 individuals.

Where Do Orangutans Live? And Nine Other Orangutan Facts

Orangutans live in the forests of Sumatra and Borneo. Learn a bit more about the species and what WWF is doing to help.

orangutan with baby

Why They Matter

  • Orangutans play a critical role in seed dispersal, keeping forests healthy. Over 500 plant species have been recorded in their diet.

  • The majority of wild orangutan populations are located outside of protected areas, in forests that are exploited for timber production or in the process of being converted to agriculture. An estimated 300 million trees have been cut down in Borneo since 1994.

  • Orangutans have an extremely low reproductive rate because they have a long interbirth interval, single offspring, and take a long time to reach sexual maturity.

Threats

  • Population 45,000 - 69,000
  • Extinction Risk Endangered
    1. EX
      Extinct

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN
      Endangered

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU
      Vulnerable

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Bornean Orangutans are threatened by forest fires

Orangutan numbers and distribution have declined rapidly since the middle of the 20th century, due to human activities. These include hunting, unsustainable and often illegal logging, mining, and conversion of forests to agriculture. One particularly catastrophic event was the 1997-98 forest fires in Kalimantan, which killed up to 8,000 individual orangutans.

Conflict With Humans

Orangutans are sometimes shot in retaliation when they move into agricultural areas, such as oil palm plantations, and destroy crops. This occurs particularly in times of hardship when orangutans can’t find the food they need in the forest.

Young orangutans are in demand for a flourishing pet trade, with each animal fetching several hundred dollars in city markets on nearby islands. Studies have indicated that 200-500 orangutans from Indonesian Borneo alone enter the pet trade each year. This represents a real threat to wild orangutan populations as orangutans have an extremely low reproductive rate. There is also trade in orangutan parts in Kalimantan, with orangutan skulls fetching up to $70 in towns.

“Hunted, sold, pushed out of their forest homes—the plight of one of man’s closest living relatives is of our making and yet we can help them recover.” 

Dr. Barney Long Asian Species Expert

What WWF Is Doing

Bornean Orangutan

To secure a future for Bornean orangutans WWF focuses on restoring their habitats, addressing wildlife crime and reducing human-orangutan conflict.

Restoring habitat integrity

WWF works with governments to help create and manage a network of protected areas. We also collaborate with certified logging concessions to connect them with carefully managed “ecological corridors.” Studies show that Bornean orangutans can survive in logged forests if the impact of logging is reduced through selective logging, keeping fruit trees intact, and controlling hunting. WWF has developed scientifically rigorous assessment tools and plans to manage orangutan landscapes. We engage with timber and palm oil companies to develop specific protection and management plans for their concessions, in order to mitigate negative impacts on habitats and orangutan populations.

Addressing the illegal killing and trade of orangutans

WWF works closely with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, to help governments enforce the laws that prohibit orangutan capture and trade. This work includes strengthening the capacity of rangers, prosecutors and customs officers to identify, investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes. We assist government and specialized organizations in rescuing orangutans from traders and from people who keep them illegally as pets. Many rescued orangutans are taken to refuges where they can recover and be rehabilitated, and then are eventually released back into the wild.

Reducing human-orangutan conflicts

WWF works with the governments, local communities, plantation owners and indigenous Dayak people to help develop plantation management methods that do not affect orangutans. We assist with regional land use planning to ensure that agricultural areas are developed as far away from orangutan habitat as possible. We also help establish ecotourism to support conservation. Sustainable tourism can generate financial support for orangutan conservation, bring economic benefits to those living nearby, and increase the commitment of residents and foresters to protect the animals.

Communities Find a Voice through Photography

In 2010, WWF started a program in West Kalimantan, Indonesia that enables local communities to find a voice through photography. The program, Panda CLICK! (Communication Learning toward Innovative Change and Knowledge), encourages community members to capture photos and video of their surroundings—images they feel are significant to their culture and daily life. Participants are of all ages and include fishermen, farmers, teachers, students and tribal leaders. Panda CLICK! is part of WWF’s contribution to community education about nature conservation. The program encourages communities to transfer knowledge to younger generations through visual and written documentation.

Experts

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