Will the 8th great ape- the Tapanuli orangutan – survive the first 2 decades after being described?

It is just 5 years since the Tapanuli orangutan was described. Despite this Orangutan being restricted to an area of Northern Sumatra, it is more closely related to the Bornean Orangutan than the Sumatran one. This might be the clearest indication of how long this species has been separate from its cousins.

Tapanuli Orangutan, only described in 2017 is still threatened by various projects in the area

The Tapanuli Orangutan split from its Bornean cousins around 670,000 years ago, while chimpanzee and Bonobo were split 1.5-2.2 million years ago. Baffling, the Sumatran Orangutan split from both the Borneon and Tapanuli Orangutan 3.38 million years ago. For context, Humans split from our chimpanzee ancestors 4-6 million years ago (so not much longer) and gorillas split from their chimpanzee ancestors 7-9 million years ago.

All this is to say, that while the Tapanuli Orangutan is relatively closely related to the Bornean Orangutan, it cannot interact with it as it is on another island; and the Sumatran Orangutan is too far removed to be able to interbreed.

It is thought that the Tapanuli Orangutan has faced population decline of 83% in the last few decades (three generations). Further threats are numerous. One of its biggest threats is a hydroelectric dam, which would remove much of the remaining habitat, but a gold mine, loss of habitat and an expansion of croplands are other threats.

Unfortunately little to nothing has improved in the last 6 years, they are probably closer to extinction now than ever. If you have followed this blog over the last 5 years, you will have seen that I have written on this new orangutan species a few times. We will continue to follow this animal on this blog – we must work to raise its profile and not merely chronicle its slide towards extinction.

This is a wonderful 8 minute documentary on the Tapanuli Orangutan, the 8th great ape

Orangutans are roaming into villages in Sumatra – bad news

At first glance, you could look at this headline as good news – in most instances, wild animals do not start looking outside their habitat for places to live, unless there are too many and they are being forced out. However, they also start looking elsewhere when they struggle to find food where they are, or as a result of encroachment.

Tapanuli Orangutan mother with young – Image by Aditya Sumitra/Mighty Earth.

In this instance it is thought to be as a result of construction of a hydroelectric dam. Perhaps more alarming, these are the Tapanuli Orangutans, which only number 800 and which if this dam is completed, will lose most of their range.

As the 8th great ape, it may also be the first great ape pushed to extinction and in their case as a direct choice of the local authorities.

Dam that threatens the survival all of the rarest great ape is in the wrong place will make more carbon dioxide emissions during building and reduce emissions less than claimed

A recent analysis has shown that the the Dam that would cover 90% of the Tapanuli orangutan population has had the prospects of positive outcomes hugely hyped by it’s backers, and minimising negative facts about the Dam have been buried.

The region is already well connected to the grid with almost all Communities already served. Due to the astounding amount of Forest that would be lost if this damn were to be created, if it were to ever reduce carbon emissions it would take many decades if not centuries for the carbon cost of the dam to be offset by the electricity it creates. Given that in order to stop catastrophic climate change we need to be cutting carbon emissions now it will not help in this fight whatsoever.

Continue reading “Dam that threatens the survival all of the rarest great ape is in the wrong place will make more carbon dioxide emissions during building and reduce emissions less than claimed”

New species of Orangutan

The Tapamuli Orangutan has recently been discovered. There are only thought to be 800 of these animals left and they are only found within the Batang Toru Forest of North Sumatra. It is thought that they have been a separate from the Borneon Orangutan for 674,000 years (despite living on Sumatra they appear to be more closely related to the Orangutans of Borneo than of Sumatra). As well as having such a tiny population they also live in an area of roughly 1000 square kilometres (386 square miles). This is the first great ape species to be discovered since 1929 when the Bonobo was discovered.

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