100,000 orangutans killed in Borneo; researchers blame deforestation

orangutans at the Singapore Zoo
Singapore, SingaporeUkrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina visits orangutans at the Singapore Zoo October 19, 2017. Reuters

Researchers have revealed that more than nearly 150,000 critically endangered orangutans have been killed in Borneo since 1999. A latest report said on Thursday that the population of the apes has primarily reduced due to deforestation for logging, paper, palm oil and mining.

BBC reported that the scientists who carried out the 16-year research on the island described the figure as "mind-boggling". The research, published in the journal Current Biology, has also revealed that animals were "disappearing" from areas that remained forested.

"Our findings are alarming," said the report that estimated that 148,500 orangutans vanished on the southeast Asian island between 1999 and 2015. "Natural resources are being exploited at unsustainably high rates across tropical ecosystems, including Borneo."

Lead researcher Maria Voigt of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany told AFP that the deaths represent a 53 percent decline in the population. "We estimate there are between 70,000 and 100,000 left," she told AFP.

"The decline in population density was most severe in areas that were deforested or transformed for industrial agriculture, as orangutans struggle to live outside forest areas," Voigt added.

"Worryingly, however, the largest number of orangutans were lost from areas that remained forested during the study period. This implies a large role of killing."

Serge Wich from Liverpool John Moores University, another researchers who is also a part of the team, told BBC: "We didn't expect the losses to be so large in standing forest, so these (studies) confirm that hunting is a major issue.

"When these animals come into conflict with people on the edge of a plantation, they are always on the losing end. People will kill them. Just last week, we had a report of an orangutan that had 130 pellets in its body, after being shot at in Borneo."

According to the researchers, deforestation alone could wipe out a further 45,000 slow-breeding ginger-haired apes over the next 35 years.

(With inputs from IANS)