Demand Protection for the Sumatran Orangutan. We need 5,000 signatures
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NCBI genome ID
Number of chromosomes
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Orangutans have 48 chromosomes. The Sumatran orangutan genome was sequenced in January 2011, based on a captive female named Susie. Following humans and chimpanzees, the Sumatran orangutan has become the third extant hominid species to have its genome sequenced.
The researchers also published less complete copies from 10 wild orangutans, five from Borneo and five from Sumatra. The genetic diversity was found to be lower in Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) than in Sumatran ones (Pongo abelii), despite the fact that Borneo is home to six or seven times as many orangutans as Sumatra. The comparison has shown these two species diverged around 400,000 years ago, more recently than was previously thought. The orangutan genome also has fewer rearrangements than the chimpanzee/human lineage. The full sequence and annotation can be viewed on the Ensembl Genome Browser.
Sumatrans encounter threats such as logging (both legal and illegal), wholesale conversion of forest to agricultural land and oil palm plantations, and fragmentation by roads. Oil companies use a method of deforestation to utilize palm oil. This palm oil is taken from the trees in which Sumatran orangutans live and swing from. An assessment of forest loss in the 1990s concluded that forests supporting at least 1,000 orangutans were lost each year within the Leuser Ecosystem alone.
While poaching generally is not a huge problem for the Sumatrans, occasional local hunting does decrease the population size. They have been hunted in the Northern Sumatra in the past as targets for food; although deliberate attempts to hunt the Sumatrans are rare nowadays, locals such as the Batak people are known to eat almost all vertebrates in their area. Additionally, the Sumatrans are treated as pests by Sumatran farmers, becoming targets of elimination if they are seen damaging or stealing crops. For commercial aspects, hunts for both dead or alive specimens have also been recorded as an effect of the demand by European and North American zoos and institutions throughout the 20th century.
Sumatran orangutans have developed a highly functioning cardiovascular system. However, with this development air sacculitis has become more prevalent among orangutans in this species, due to the new hugely improved air sacs in their lungs. Air sacculitis is similar to Streptococcus i.e. strep throat in Homo sapiens. The bacterial infection is becoming increasing common in captive orangutans, due to the fact that captive orangutans are exposed to the human strain of Streptococcus in captivity. At first, both strains are treated and cured with antibiotics along with rest. Yet, in 2014 a Sumatran orangutan, ten years in captivity was the first of its species to die from Streptococcus anginosus. This remains the only known case, but raises the question of why the known human cure for Streptococcus was ineffective in this case.
The Sumatran orangutan is endemic to the north of Sumatra. In the wild, Sumatran orangutans only survive in the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), the northernmost tip of the island. The primate was once more widespread, as they were found farther to the south in the 19th century, such as in Jambi and Padang. There are small populations in the North Sumatra province along the border with NAD, particularly in the Lake Toba forests. A survey in the Lake Toba region found only two inhabited areas, Bukit Lawang (defined as the animal sanctuary) and Gunung Leuser National Park. The species has been assessed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2000. It is considered one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates."
A survey published in March 2016 estimates a population of 14,613 Sumatran orangutans in the wild, doubling previous population estimates. A survey in 2004 estimated that around 7,300 Sumatran orangutans still live in the wild. The same study estimates a 20,552 km2occupied area for the Sumatran orangutans, of which only an approximate area range of 8,992 km2 harbors permanent populations. Some of them are being protected in five areas in Gunung Leuser National Park; others live in unprotected areas: northwest and northeast Aceh block, West Batang Toru river, East Sarulla and Sidiangkat. A successful breeding program has been established in Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park in Jambi and Riau provinces. The main reason for the endangerment of these orangutans is because of palm oil companies destroying the native rain forests.
Two strategies that are recently being considered to conserve this species are 1) rehabilitation and reintroduction of ex-captive or displaced individuals and 2) the protection of their forest habitat by preventing threats such as deforestation and hunting. The former was determined to be more cost efficient for maintaining the wild orangutan populations, but comes with longer time scale of 10–20 years. The latter approach has better prospects for ensuring long-term stability of populations. This type of habitat conservation approach has been pursued by the World Wide Fund for Nature, who joined forces with several other organizations to stop the clearing of the biggest part of remaining natural forest close to the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park.
In addition to the above extant wild populations, a new population is being established in the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park (Jambi and Riau Provinces) via the re-introduction of confiscated illegal pets. This population currently numbers around 70 individuals and is reproducing. However it has been concluded that forest conservation costs twelve times less than reintroducing orangutans into the wild, and conserves more biological diversity.
Orangutans have large home ranges and low population densities, which complicates conservation efforts. Population densities depend to a large degree on the abundance of fruits with soft pulp. Sumatran orangutan will commute seasonally between lowland, intermediate, and highland regions, following fruit availability. Undisturbed forests with broader altitudinal range can thus sustain larger orangutan populations; conversely, the fragmentation and extensive clearance of forest ranges breaks up this seasonal movement. Sumatra currently has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world
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