Orangutan deathwatch

Every few months, a new study predicts the imminent demise of the orangutan in the wild. And with Indonesian rainforests disappearing faster and faster, each new study moves up orangutan extinction by a few more years.

The latest study, by Dr. Serge Wich of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, found that orangutan populations on Sumatra have dropped 14% since 2004 to just 6,600. Meanwhile, populations of their sister sub-species, the Borneo orangutan, have dropped 10% to 49,600. Wich says this "alarming" decline could soon make the orangutan "the first great ape species to go extinct."

Orangutan habitats are quickly disappearing due to illegal logging and hunting and increased conversion of rainforests into palm oil plantations, which feed the greed for biofuels.

Last December, Indonesia announced an initiative to preserve orangutan populations and habitats. Let's hope they aren't too late.


Learn how you can help save the orangutans.
Adopt an orphaned orangutan today!
Visit the Orangutan Outreach website:

Richard Zimmerman
Director, Orangutan Outreach
Reach out and save the orangutans!

If you would like to help the orangutans in Sumatra, go to to see how you can help us build our projects. We can each make a difference in this fight for survival.

It is often asked, "How many orangutans are left?" The numbers themselves do not matter. What matters is that the rate of decline is increasing, and unless something is done, the wild orangutan will go extinct. Once remaining populations become so small and fragmented, there will be no way to recover the species, as these small populations will be genetically unviable in the long run.
What also matters is the welfare angle of this decline 5000 are dying unnaturally--either from starvation as a result of habitat destruction or from human-wildlife conflict. Working with orangutans for 14 years now, I see them as individuals capable of emotions and pain. The loss of just one of these is heartbreaking. 5000 is genocide.
We have a moral obligation to save these sentient, intelligent cousins of ours from this brutality. I do not subscribe to the view that we need to keep orangutan numbers up so our children have a chance to see them in the wild. Orangutans do not exist for our benefit. They themselves have a right to life, regardless of whether we get the added benefit of gazing upon them in their world one day.
The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is the largest primate rescue project in the world. We look after close to 1000 rescued orangutans presently, and have rescued and released more than 1000 others so far. We are the only organisation actively rescuing the wild orangutans from certain death in these oil-palm plantations. 2 weeks ago we released a further 25 wild orangutans rescued from oil-palm plantations into a remote protected forest in the north of Central Kalimantan. This release site could potentially support more than 1000 orangutans, making it a viable population. BOS also manages the Mawas Reserve, a forest of 360,000 hectares, home to some 3500 wild orangutans. If BOS can continue to protect populations like those in our release site and in Mawas, we can prevent the extinction of the orangutan in the wild. Find out more at
Michelle Desilets
Founding Director
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK