Newly discovered orangutan species requires urgent habitat protection

Sean Sloan, Jatna Supriatna, Mason J. Campbell, Mohammed Alamgir, William F. Laurance

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Nater et al. [1] recently identified a new orangutan species (Pongo tapanuliensis) in northern Sumatra, Indonesia — only the seventh described species of living great ape. The population of this critically-endangered species is perilously small, at only ∼800 individuals [1], ranking it among the planet's rarest animals. We assert that P. tapanuliensis is highly vulnerable to extinction because its remaining habitat is small, fragmented and poorly protected. While road incursions within its habitat are modest — road density is only one-eighth that of northern Sumatra — over one-fifth of its habitat is zoned for agricultural conversion or is composed of mosaic agricultural and regrowth/degraded forest. Additionally, a further 8% will be affected by flooding and infrastructure development for a hydroelectric project. We recommend urgent steps to increase the chance that P. tapanuliensis will persist in the wild. Sloan et al. show that the small remaining habitat (1195 km2) of the newly discovered orangutan in Sumatra, Indonesia, comprising just ∼800 individuals, is imperilled by weak forest protection, ongoing forest fragmentation, and infrastructure development. Collectively, one-third of the habitat is directly threatened, reducing survival prospects for this critically endangered rare species in the wild.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R650-R651
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2018


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