At Last, Hope for Endangered Orangutans

Thousands of orangutans die every year as their forest home is destroyed by illegal logging and to make way for palm oil plantations. Populations are declining so rapidly, in fact, that some experts have warned orangutans could be extinct in as little as ten years.

But now there's new hope, as Indonesia today announced an initiative to preserve the orangutan and its rain forest habitat. Announced by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the new orangutan conservation plan will conserve as much as 1 million hectares of critical habitat -- that's more than 3,800 square miles -- with the goal of stabilizing orangutan populations for the next 10 years.

"This could lead to 9,800 orangutans being saved and prevent 700 million tons of carbon from being released," said The Nature Conservancy's Erik Meijaard. The NC helped to implement the plan, and has pledged $1 million to support it.

The most recent population statistics guess that there are just 6,650 Sumatran orangutans and about 55,000 Borneo orangutans (they're separate sub-species) remaining in the wild, and the studies show that their populations are fragmented and vulnerable to threats from further exploitation.

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