To save orangutans, think of them as money swinging from trees

Feb 22, 2018

A hairy orange meal ticket

THEY move with ease. In the shade of the jungle, a round-bellied orangutan glides towards the ground. Her long limbs give her a gangly appearance, but the flaming strands of her hair are beautiful. Mina is a notoriously bad-tempered ape, who has scratched and bitten dozens of locals on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. But humans harm orangutans far more than orangutans harm humans.

Estimating the number of orangutans is difficult. Researchers have to extrapolate from the number of nests observed. (The apes build new ones to sleep in each night.) A new study published in Current Biology finds that the number of orangutans on Borneo, an island divided between Indonesia and Malaysia, declined by some 148,000 between 1999 and 2015, leaving fewer than 100,000. Within the next 30 years, another 45,000 could disappear. The decline has been steepest, naturally, in areas where the jungle has been razed to plant palm-oil...


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