Meet the Orangutan. It’s listed as critically endangered due to, you guessed it, humans.
There are two species of Orangutan; The Bornean and Sumatran. The literal translation of orangutan is “man of the forest” because these species are keystone forest dwellers. One hundred years ago the population of orangutans was 230,000 individuals. Now there are only about 107,000 Borneans left and a staggering 7,500 Sumatrans.This sounds like a lot in comparison to other endangered species but over 100,000 individuals decimated in the span of 100 years is a big deal.
The number one reason for their rapid decline is, you guessed it, humans. Like I said before, orangutans are forest dwellers. They are living seed dispersal machines! Researchers have recorded upwards of 500 plant species in the orangutan’s diet. As humans invaded the forests and cut down trees for timber and agriculture operations, they push the orangutans to find other habitats. It’s estimated that roughly 300 million trees have been cut down or lost in forest fires (natural and deliberate) due to human activity. Another reason orangutan populations are so threatened is because humans, specifically in Indonesia, have decided that orangutans make great pets and poach them from the wild to sell.
Orangutans have a very low reproduction rate. It takes a while for an orangutan to reach sexual maturity and when they do they only bear one infant every 3-5 years. This means the more humans destroy the territory or steal them from their homes, the longer it will take to repopulate the species assuming we don’t wait too long and push them into extinction before then.
As usual, if you’re interested in more information you can check out WWF for a full page on the dangers and what they’re doing to help. If you want to contribute directly, they have an adopt an orangutan program here.