Conservationists discovered a new population of orangutans in a remote, mountainous corner of Indonesia – perhaps as many as 2,000 – giving a rare boost to one of the world’s most critically endangered great apes.
A team surveying forests nestled between jagged, limestone cliffs on the eastern edge of Borneo island counted 219 orangutan nests, indicating a “substantial” number of the animals, said Erik Meijaard, a senior ecologist at the US-based The Nature Conservancy.
“We can’t say for sure how many,” he said, but even the most cautious estimate would indicate “several hundred at least, maybe 1,000 or 2,000 even”.
The team also encountered an adult male, which angrily threw branches as they tried to take photos, and a mother and child.
There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 90% of them in Indonesia and the rest in neighbouring Malaysia.
The countries are the world’s top producers of palm oil, used in food, cosmetics and to meet growing demands for “clean-burning” fuels in the US and Europe.
Rainforests, where the solitary animals spend almost all of their time, have been clear-cut and burned at alarming rates to make way for lucrative plantations.