Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Orangutans (and Science) Are in Trouble

By Kerrie Wilson

Robust science is telling us orangutan populations are in serious decline but the Indonesian government is disputing the finding.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Recently we published the first ever population trend analysis of the Bornean orangutan, showing that the species has declined at a rate of 25% over the past 10 years. This rate of decline was sufficient for the IUCN to elevate the conservation status of this species to Critically Endangered last year.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, used advanced modelling techniques that allowed the combination of different survey methods, including helicopter surveys, traditional ground surveys and interviews with local communities). This new approach enabled the population trend of the species to be determined over its entire range for the first time.

The study was led by Dr Truly Santika of the University of Queensland node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and conducted by a group of some 50 Indonesian, Malaysian and international researchers, with the results building upon over two decades of collaborative research on the species, its habitats, and the perceptions of key stakeholders involved in its conservation management.

Ostensibly, our study should be a wake-up call for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments, who have committed to saving the species. Indeed, every year some US$30–40 million is invested by government and non-governmental organisations to halt the decline of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.