Jakarta, Indonesia –  This World Orangutan Day marks a critical time for the Bornean Orangutan, whose numbers are rapidly declining experts say. This is despite new claims from the Indonesian government that orangutan populations have increased by more than 10% between 2015-2017.[1]

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry says in a new report, ‘The state of Indonesia’s forests 2018’, that orangutan numbers have increased. This is at odds with the findings of a 41-strong team of scientists, led by Maria Voigt, who published their peer-reviewed research in March. World Orangutan Day is this 19 August.

“Based on the life-history traits of orangutans, such a rapid growth rate isn’t possible – not even in zoos. From the most comprehensive compilation of observation data available to science, we estimated a 25-30% decline between 2005 and 2015. It is not likely that after one year there was a complete change in the situation,” said Maria Voigt of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

The team found that half of all Bornean Orangutans are impacted by resource extraction, and that their numbers fell by more than 100,000 over the sixteen years of the study -1999 to 2015-.[2]

“If hunting and forest loss are halted in the future this decline could be reversed, but to the best of our knowledge that has not happened yet. It is therefore not clear how the authors of the report reached their conclusions about increases in orangutan numbers,” said  Prof. Serge Wich at Liverpool John Moores University, leading co-author of the research, published in the journal Current Biology.

A Greenpeace International investigation recently revealed an illegal logging operation in a critical peat landscape in Sungai Putri, West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo – home to one of the key remaining wild orangutan populations.[3] On the same site in 2017, Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry instructed timber concession holder PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (PT. MPK) to stop its operations and fill in a drainage canal which the company cut deep into the peat landscape. Photos taken by Greenpeace Indonesia in March 2018 revealed PT. MPK had failed to comply, and its machinery remained on site.

“The government has promised to protect Indonesia’s remaining peatland forests and the orangutans that rely on them. It cannot let this kind of destruction continue, while at the same time downplaying the harm to wildlife by releasing reports at odds with scientific evidence. The government must ensure and prioritise the full and permanent protection of the biodiversity of our forests,” said Ratri Kusumohartono, Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, around 24 million hectares of Indonesia’s forest was destroyed between 1990 and 2015 – an area almost the size of the UK.[4]

All three types of orangutan, the Bornean, Sumatran, and recently discovered Tapanuli species,[5] qualify as Critically Endangered according to the IUCN’s Red List.

Greenpeace released this week a powerful new 90-second animation voiced by Emma Thompson that highlights how orangutans are being pushed to the brink of extinction because of deforestation for palm oil.


Photos available here

Animated Rang-tan video story available here www.greenpeace.org.uk/rangtanfilm  


[1] The State of Indonesia’s Forests 2018 p.105 states this 10% figure, citing reports from the Directorate of Biodiversity Conservation from 2017 and 2018, which in turn are based on fewer than ten orangutan sampling locations, and show widely fluctuating estimates. See for example ‘Laporan Kinerja Ditjen KSDAE 2017’ p.129

[2] https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)30086-1

[3] Greenpeace – Over 1000 orangutans threatened by illegal operations in Indonesia

[4] Taken from Indonesia’s FREL Annex 5.1, pp90-91 at United Nations: Framework convention on climate change plus subsequent annual Ministry of Environment and Forestry deforestation reports

[5] How the Batang Toru megadam threatens a new orangutan species with extinction


Sol Gosetti, [email protected], +44 (0) 7380845754

Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 (0) 20 718 2470, [email protected] (available 24 hours)