A Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest great ape, in the Batang Toru  region of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. We hope to increase the Tapanuli Orangutan population & ensure the security of more than 15,000 hectares of Orangutan habitat spread over 3 nature reserves. Perhaps not even those 16th- and 17th-century sailors who wanted nothing more than a good meal after months at sea. For those unfamiliar with the Batang Toru context, this is once again a story of biodiversity threats under an expanding human footprint. Cancelling the hydropower plans and moving the project, or an alternative option to generate energy, to another, lower-risk location, would show the world that Indonesia takes its international sustainability commitments and national environmental legislation seriously. IUCN reserves the right to remove links added by commenters that are deemed inappropriate or unrelated to blog posts. As close cousins of this newly discovered species, we must make sure that the international attention brought about by the emergence of the Tapanuli orangutan is not allowed to simply peter out to be replaced by whatever arises in the next news cycle. Although 85% of the Tapanuli orangutan’s Batang Toru ecosystem is listed as protected forest, the species is still under threat from hunting, deforestation, gold mining, illegal logging and a planned hydroelectric power plant. The current delays might be an opportunity for the Indonesian government to propose alternative plans for the Batang Toru area – a life after the dam. Help us to increase Orangutan protection efforts in the Batang Toru ecosystem forests of Sibual Buali, Dolok Sipirok and Lubuk Raya in the Tapanuli region. In a surprising turn of events, the halting part of our wishes was fulfilled, although for the wrong reasons – COVID 19. Given the recent rescues of wounded or young Tapanuli orangutans it is clear that losses are high. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license . Photo: Herman Rijksen. Orangutans travelled from Sumatra to Borneo as the islands were connected by land bridges as parts of Sundaland during recent glacial periods when sea levels were much lower. Erik Meijaard is director of Borneo Futures, an environmental-sustainability initiative in Southeast Asia, and member of the Executive Committee of the Section on Great Apes, IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group. Absolutely. The area that it occurs in is a Key Biodiversity Area based on the Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN 2016) and is mostly protected, but a part of it that is crucial for its connectivity is not, and worryingly, part of this is being developed for hydro-electric power. Indonesia’s conservation laws are meant to prevent this. Creating New Wild Orangutan Populations The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) is the only project actively establishing entirely new, genetically viable and self-sustaining wild populations of any great ape species, anywhere in the world. In the NEE paper we argue that this hydro-electric project would not be developed in most nations due to environmental concerns about its impacts. Just 800 of these extremely wary tree-dwelling apes remain … Males can be identified by their distinctive moustache and protruding beard, as well as their noticeably flatter cheek pads which are covered in fine blonde hair. The project is a $1.6 billion hydro-electric power infrastructure scheme which would cut across the Tapanuli orangutan’s largest subpopulation, and effectively act as a wall blocking connectivity between the already fragmented forest areas. Orangutans eat over 300 different kinds of fruit. But there is no excuse for ignorance or indifference to the plight of life on earth today. The celebration that would normally accompany a scientific discovery of this magnitude has been tempered by the Tapanuli orangutan’s immediate assumption of a particularly unwanted title: that of the world’s rarest great ape. Some consider the earth to now be experiencing its sixth mass extinction.

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