QUOTE (Ek-ek @ Jun 3 2004, 12:37 AM)
Were they increasing in numbers?
no....sadly, their population is declining.
Here is some data:
In the Malay language orang-utan means "person of the forest". Along with the gorilla and chimpanzee, it is often described as "man's closest relative". However, the solitary life of the largest tree-living mammal has not saved it from destruction by humans. This great ape is in grave danger.
The orang-utan knows how to put on a show when necessary and defends its territory with dramatic displays, loudly announcing its presence with a booming voice that can be heard several kilometers away. Young orang-utans travel on the mother's back or belly for over two years. The animal lives mostly on fruit, young leaves, bark, small vertebrates, bird eggs and insects. Daytime is spent looking for food and every night the animal builds a new nest about 12 to 18 meters above the ground. Their life expectancy in the wild is approximately 35 years.
Orang-utans are long-haired and shaggy, except for the face which is hairless, and their colour varies from bright orange in young animals to dark reddish-brown in adults. The Sumatran subspecies is paler in colour than the one found on the island of Borneo. Orang-utans have long arms (with a spread of up to 2.25 meters) and long narrow hands, and both their hands and feet have opposable thumbs. Orang-utans may be up to 1.5 meters tall, and males may weigh as much as 144 kilos, while females may weigh up to 65 kilos.
Orang-utans live in the tropical montane forests, lowland dipterocarp forests, tropical peat swamp forests, and tropical health forests of Borneo and northern Sumatra (see map). The highest densities of orang-utans are found in swamp forest habitats. An estimated 9,000 orang-utans survive in northern Sumatra, mainly around one national park, while some 10,000 to 15,000 orang-utans remain on the island of Borneo, in eight major isolated areas.
Despite laws in Indonesia and Malaysia to protect the Orang-utan, it is facing extinction because its habitats are being destroyed by agriculture and logging. Forests around protected areas are also increasingly degraded and the orang-utan is being forced into areas too small to support viable populations. Poachers also hunt the infants, for the live-animal trade with the mother usually killed to at her young.
About 80 percent of the orang-utan's habitat has been deforested in the past 20 years. Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society predict that the world's largest natural orang-utan population will be extinct in a decade unless poaching and habitat destruction can be stopped. With losses running at a thousand a year, numbers have plummeted from 12,000 in 1993 to just 6,000 today.
WWF Malaysia disputes orang utans no more in 20 years
13 January, 2004
Kuala Lumpur: Wildlife experts in Malaysia fought back allegations made for the second time in four months that orang utans could be extinct in 20 years due to the destruction of their natural habitat.
“The 20-year scenario is rather alarmist and not realistic. The lifespan of one orang utan is 20 years and there are babies born every year,” said Geoffrey Davison, the Malaysian Borneo Programme Director for WWF.
The British chapter of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-UK) said in a statement that 91 per cent of the orang-utan population in Borneo and Sumatra islands had disappeared over the past century.
The red-haired apes, close kin to humans, are found only on Borneo, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and on the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra.
“There are now fewer than 30,000 orang utans left and it is likely that they will become extinct in the wild in as little as 20 years time if this decline continues,” the WWF-UK statement said.
It blamed commercial logging, clearance for oil palm plantations and agriculture, hunting and poaching for the bush meat and pet trades as well as forest fires for the shrinking population.
The statement echoed concerns voiced by Harvard University researcher Cheryl Knott, who wrote in the October issue of National Geographic magazine that orang-utans could disappear within the next 10 to 20 years if the illegal logging that is destroying their habitat is not stopped.
But Davison told AFP that the 20-year forecast was unrealistic because it failed to take into account local conditions and ongoing conservation projects.
For instance, he said, hunting and poaching were not a problem in Sabah, which is home to some 13,000 of the apes.
“Over the next 20 years, the population will face real challenges and there is no doubt that there will be some local spots in which orang utans will disappear but there will still be orang utans in Sabah and Borneo in 20 years.”
However, he agreed that it was necessary to increase conservation efforts given the long-term decline in the population due to the depletion of forests.
The WWF-UK said only 33 per cent of the Sabah orang utan population were found in protected areas such as parks or wildlife sanctuaries, leaving the rest vulnerable.