The Sumatran orangutan can be one the first great apes to go extinct due to its shrinking habitat and poaching. Global Conservation is concerned with keeping the irreplaceable biodiversity hotspot of the Leuser Ecosystem World Heritage Site intact. It is one of the last places on Earth where large mammals continue to coexist, including the Sumatran orangutan, whose habitat is restricted to the north of the island. Illegal palm oil plantations, mining, logging, and unsustainable rubber tapping are bringing this orangutan population to dwindling numbers compared to prior years. Global Conservation is giving this great ape a chance at survival by protecting the Leuser Ecosystem. This is possible with new monitoring technology, the establishment of anti-hunting patrols, the enforcement of existing protection laws, and creating local conservation programs.
Common name Sumatran orangutan
Scientific name Pongo abelii
Status IUCN Critically endangered
Population 6,600 individuals
Threats Loss of habitat, poaching, and illegal trade
Photo by Global Conservation
Distribution, habits, and status
Sumatran orangutans lived across the island up until the last century. Today, they only survive in the northern provinces of Sumatra and Aceh. Their main threats are habitat destruction due to the encroachment of agriculture, cattle grazing, and forestry. They are also threatened by poaching and the illegal pet trade. The loss of habitat for oil palm plantations and other agricultural plantations is a particularly acute problem. Forest fires have destroyed and fragmented much of the Sumatran orangutan's habitat. These factors cause orangutans to seek refuge in places close to their residence, which leads to a limit in resources needed for their survival. Despite its legal protection, they continue to be illegally traded in the pet market. Sumatran orangutans are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Sumatran orangutan population has shown a dramatic decline from around 86,000 individuals in 1900 to less than 7,500 today. Many populations are too fragmented to be biologically viable.