A worrying thought indeed that any of our great apes should be facing extinction yet a paper recently published in Oryx reveals the latest figures for orang-utans in the wild …and it doesn’t make for comfortable reading.

Written by a host of orang-utan experts and conservationists, the report charts the distribution of the species and sub-species in Borneo and Sumatra and answers the question ‘how many remain?’

It is the Sumatran orang-utan (Pongo abelii) which is facing the most dramatic decline, with an estimated population size in 2004 of approximately 6,500 individuals. This indeed could become the first great ape species to go extinct. The three sub-species of the Bornean orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus) are fairing better with numbers around 54,000 in 2004.

However, Wich et al. note that when extrapolating these figures to 2008 on the basis of forest loss, the estimates for P. abelii are relatively accurate as conflict in Sumatra has resulted in reduced forest loss, although numbers for Borneo could be 10% too high.

The full paper may be downloaded from Oryx for free:

Distribution and conservation status of the orang-utan ( Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: how many remain? by Serge A. Wich, Erik Meijaard, Andrew J. Marshall, Simon Husson, Marc Ancrenaz, Robert C. Lacy, Carel P. van Schaik, Jito Sugardjito, Togu Simorangkir, Kathy Traylor-Holzer, Matt Doughty, Jatna Supriatna, Rona Dennis, Melvin Gumal, Cheryl D. Knott and Ian Singleton. Oryx, 42(3): 329-339.

Orang-utan NGOs in the UK

Orangutan Foundation

Orangutan Appeal UK


In September colleagues at CABI are cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for the Orangutan Appeal UK. Suggestions have been made that they dress up as orang-utans for the journey. However, this may have a slightly too distracting effect on other road-users!

1 Comment

  1. Michelle Desilets on 4th September 2008 at 6:41 am

    Thank you for what you are doing for the orangutans.
    You forgot to mention the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK which funds the largest primate rescue project in the world. Our projects in Indonesia look after close to 1000 rescued orangutans at present, and we are the only organisation actively rescuing wild orangutans from certain death in the oil palm plantations which replace their habitat.
    Please check out our website:

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