CONSERVATIONISTS have 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 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 Malaysia.
Birute Mary Galdikas said most of the populations are small and scattered, making them vulnerable to extinction.
“So yes, finding a population that science did not know about is significant, especially one of this size,” she said.
Some experts say at the current rate of habitat destruction, the animals could be wiped out within the next two decades.
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