Borneo's orang-utans | wwf

Borneo's orang-utans

Orang-utan baby, Semengoh Nature reserve, Malaysia. rel=
Orang-utan baby, Semengoh Nature reserve, Malaysia.
© / Edwin Giesbers / WWF
Orang-utans once lived in an area ranging from the foothills of the Himalayas and south to Java. Now they only survive on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

Orang-utan populations on the two islands are now considered as two distinct species: the Sumatran orang-utan and the Bornean orang-utan.

Over the last 60 years, the Bornean orang-utan population has fallen by over 50%, and over the last 75 years, the Sumatran orang-utan population has fallen by over 80%, and now only around 6,000 survive on Sumatra and 57,000 on Borneo.

Orang-utans spend most of their time in the treetops. Their strong arms stretch out longer than their bodies (up to 2m across) and allow them to swing through the rainforest canopy or to hang from branches eating fruit and leaves.

Challenges and threats

The most serious threat to orang-utans is the destruction of their rainforest habitat. In the last 100 years an estimated 80% of suitable orang-utan habitat in Borneo has disappeared, and only around 10% of Borneo’s forests are strictly protected.

The main causes of this habitat loss are conversion to plantations, clearance for agriculture, commercial logging and associated infrastructure development. Not only is conversion, clearance and logging often illegal or if legal undertaken badly but they also result in the development of roads in previously inaccessible areas, which – if not locked or guarded – provide easy access to poachers.

Despite legal protection in Sumatra and Borneo, orang-utans are often killed for their meat or caught for the pet trade. Between 1994 and 2003, a total of 559 orang-utans and gibbons were found in rescue centres, zoos, privately owned collections, and on sale in 35 wildlife markets across the islands of Java and Bali.

What is WWF doing?

WWF has been working on orang-utan conservation since the 1970s, in partnership with both international and local organisations and groups including national, provincial and district governments, research institutions, universities and local communities. This work is guided by a specific Species Action Plan for orang-utans, and includes:
  • Conserving orang-utan habitat: We are working in both Borneo and Sumatra to secure well-managed protected areas and wider forest landscapes connected by corridors.
  • Promoting sustainable forestry and agriculture: Our work on sustainable production of commodities – including forest products and palm oil – also contributes towards the protection and conservation of major orang-utan habitats on the islands, as well as to mitigating human/orang-utan conflict.
  • Halting the pet trade. We work with TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) to help governments enforce restrictions on the trade in live animals and orang-utan products. We also help to rescue orang-utans from traders. Many are taken to refuges where they can recover and be rehabilitated, and are eventually released back into the wild.

Adopt an orang-utan

Orang utan male portrait, wild (Pongo pygmaeus) Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Borneo. 29 ... 
	© /Ingo Arndt / WWF
Symbolically adopt an orang-utan through WWF and your donation will support WWF’s conservation efforts, including the protection of orang-utans.

And, of course, don’t forget to spread the word. The more people realise what simple steps can be taken to save the orang-utan, the more success we will have. So go on, get your friends, your family, and your workmates to help too!

The good news is that we can save the orang-utan.

Adopt an orang-utan

You can help save the orang-utan!

No matter where you live, no matter how small your actions are, we ALL have a part to play in saving the orang-utan and our planet as a whole.

Here are some simple things you can do to help ensure our children and grandchildren live in a world where orang-utans still exist in the wild.

Donate to our Heart of Borneo program
Donate to WWF and you will support WWF’s conservation efforts, including the protection of orang-utans.

Shop wisely
Avoid buying endangered wildlife products when on holiday. The illegal wildlife trade is having a devastating effect on our endangered species.

Buy forest-friendly products
Orang-utan habitat in Borneo and Sumatra is being lost as a result of clearing, conversation to plantations and poor logging practices:
- Buy recycled paper and FSC-certified wood products.
- Support companies who are using palm oil certified to the standards of the RSPO and buy products carrying the RSPO label where available. .

Stay informed
Stay up to date with the Heart of Borneo newsletter.

Commitment to conserve the Heart of Borneo

In 2007, WWF helped secure a historic declaration that commits the governments of the three countries sharing Borneo – Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia – to a common vision for the conservation and sustainable development of the 22 million hectares of the forest in an area known as the Heart of Borneo.

Work to save orang-utans
Our strategy to save Borneo’s orang-utans forms part of our overall work in the Heart of Borneo, and builds on more than 50 years of WWF’s work on the island. WWF-Indonesia was a prominent contributor to Indonesian Government’s Orang-utan Indonesia Conservation Strategies and Action Plan 2007-2017.
Young bornan orang-utan at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, Sabah District, North Borneo, Malaysia.
	© Cede Prudente / WWF
Young bornan orang-utan at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, Sabah District, North Borneo, Malaysia.
© Cede Prudente / WWF