Newest Species of Orangutans Are Already Endangered

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via Wikipedia

A Tapanuli orangutan

In October of 2017, a new species of orangutans was discovered by scientists in northern Sumatra. It is one of just three orangutan species in the world, with the first two being the Bornean and the Sumatran. It is also the first to be described as a great ape since the discovery of the Bonobo almost a century ago. It was given the name Tapanuli orangutan, or Pongo Tapanuliensis.

The Tapanuli orangutans have a special mix of facial structures that was able to lead scientists to a new discovery in orangutan species. These animals have a smaller skull than the Bornean and Sumatran, but longer canines. Also, the mature males have cheek flanges that are similar to that of the Bornean, but it’s slender build makes them more comparable to the Sumatran orangutans.

Despite the discovery, this species is currently on the verge of extinction due to a dam project that will require a clearing through the forest, right through the middle of the animals’ habitat in the Batang Toru ecosystem, which has the highest density in population of the new orangutans. As of right now, it is estimated that there are less than 800 Tapanuli orangutans that are reported to inhabit the world. However, the population might soon drop drastically if the Chinese state-run company, Sinohydro, continues to move forward through the area.

According to orangutan experts, this dam project is very likely to present an immediate threat to the Tapanuli orangutans. They have stated that Sinohydro’s dam will split their habitat in half, resulting in two smaller populations, which is more likely to go extinct than one larger group. As a result, it may severely damage both sides of the population, making it impossible for them to reconnect. In addition to this, researches have said that the dam will directly impact 10-20% of the population.

To make matters even worse, orangutans have a very slow reproduction rate. Female orangutans begin to have an offspring staring at the age of 15 and continue to have one every seven to nine years. In addition to this, conservationists claim that a clearing may lead to a rise in hunting and further damage the conflicts between humans and wildlife. They have even suggested that it may cause other animals to appear in the list of endangered species.

Now, many conservationists are hoping that the great apes will receive the protection that they deserve and that the Indonesian government will consider the orangutans as a first priority. Hopefully, the Tapanuli Orangutans will be able to depart from the list of endangered animals and thrive as a normal species in our world.