While we’re busy paving the way for technological progress, other species sharing our planet have far more pressing concerns. Countless animals are endangered and will soon be extinct soon, mostly as cause of our direct or indirect actions. And some of these animals are closer to us than we’d like to admit.
Sumatran orangutans some of the animals most similar to us in biology, were known to be endangered. However, as their previous population was estimated at around 6,600 individuals, it turns out that the recent discovery of about 8,000 more individuals doesn’t really have an impact on the species’ chances of survival.
But why is that despite larger numbers Sumatran orangutans are still endangered? As it turns out, it’s pretty much what we all expected – human factors. True, the population has more than doubled, but that doesn’t really impact anything other than that it will take slightly longer for them to be wiped out.
A team of scientists from the United States, Germany, the UK, Indonesia, and the Netherlands recently revealed that the Sumatran orangutan population was in fact larger than previously believed – 14,613 individuals left rather than 6,600. This isn’t because of the population breeding, or its numbers actually increasing, but because the number was just miscalculated.
But how could we have miscalculated by more than a half of the total population? Well, it was pretty much because of lack of funding. Three new populations of the creatures were actually found, all in areas very difficult to access and outside of their regular habitats – still in Sumatran jungles, just in areas where it would have been both unlikely for the animals to be and expensive for researchers to explore.
Despite this whole new population segment, the orangutans are still dying off at alarming speeds. This is because if new individuals were found alive, it means that as many individuals of their population were killed as those belonging to other populations. So, the 80% decrease their population has seen since in the past 75 years is still very much accurate.
According to the lead researcher, Dr. Serge Wich,
They were always probably more widespread than we thought. And some of those areas that we hadn’t gone to, they probably had orangutans that are now gone. It is therefore very important that these results are not interpreted as indicating that Sumatran orangutan numbers have increased, nor that their range has expanded. Since 2004, Sumatran orangutan numbers have undoubtedly declined, and they continue to do so at an alarming rate because of ongoing deforestation and poaching/persecution.
It projected that if the current trends keep going, at least 4,500 of the animals will die of human causes by 2030. According to Wich, all that would need to happen for the animals to keep on living would be for Indonesia to follow its own environmental laws and protected areas, but that doesn’t really seem likely to happen.
Image source: Wikimedia