JAKARTA Climate change will hurt Indonesia's
orangutan population, already under threat from the rapid rate
of deforestation, by reducing their food stock, a leading
conservation group said on Wednesday.
Dubbed as the last of Asia's great apes, orangutans once
ranged the region but a recent UN environment program estimate
said only between 45,000 and 69,000 orangutans remained in
Borneo and 7,300 in Sumatra. The WWF said climate change would
add to the pressure already caused by human-induced activities
such as rampant illegal logging and massive conversion of
forests into plantations.
"A longer dry season will reduce the abundance of fruits
and will negatively impact orangutan populations because
females are more likely to conceive during periods when food
resources are not limited," the WWF report said.
"Climate-change induced fire will also negatively impact
orangutan populations by fragmenting their habitat and reducing
the number of fruit bearing trees, which can take many years to
mature and fruit." Environmentalists say rampant illegal
logging, lethal annual forest fires and the massive conversion
of forests into plantations for palm oil and pulp wood have
helped place orangutans on the world's list of endangered
"We have seen an example in East Kalimantan, where there
was once an abundance of fruits at the beginning of the year
followed by a long period of massive shortage," WWF
conservationist Chairul Saleh told Reuters at the launch of the
"This affected migration patterns and reproduction," he
said, "It has hurt the population of orangutans there."
A United Nations report in 2002, which raised alarm about
the plight of the apes, had projected that most of the habitat
suitable for orangutans would be lost by 2032. In February,
UNEP had put the date at 2022.
Saleh warned that a combination of rising temperature and
deforestation would drive thousands of orangutans out of the
forests into villages and plantations to look for food.
"It's happening. Already orangutans are invading
plantations to eat palm oil seedlings and get killed for it,"
"But what should they do? Their living space is shrinking
and there is simply no food."
(Reporting by Adhityani Arga; editing by Sanjeev Miglani)