The illicit wildlife trade threatens species of all shapes and sizes.
According to UNEP 2016 report, of all great ape seizures, 70% are orangutans.
Major threats causing orangutan population decline are:
- Forest degradation – orangutan’s habitat is destroyed vastly by unsustainable palm oil plantations, and their subsequent forest fires, which are used by the industry to clear land for, you guessed it, more palm oil plantations.
- Pet trade – cute and cuddly when young, orangutans get plenty of unwanted attention. Greedy humans shoot orangutan mothers to steal their young before selling the babies to the pet trade. Because orangutans share 97% of DNA with us and are wildly intelligent, with our genetic and emotional similarities we can only imagine how much pain and suffering the poor orangutans have to go through.
- Human-wildlife conflict – coming back to lack of land left for orangutans, orangutans often venture into plantations (e.g. palm oil) where farmers are prepared to shoot and beat them to protect their crops.
These critically endangered orange-furballs are disappearing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that in less than 50 years, they will be vanished from the surface of the earth, if the current rate of deforestation and wildlife trade continues.
Our vague memories of the magnificent orangutans will fade into history as they join the long list of animals that humans have exploited to extinction. Move over dodo and thylacine, lets add a great ape to the list….