The biggest threat to the survivability of orangutans is undoubtedly the loss of their natural habitat and this has been occurring due to the widespread deforestation across the islands of Borneo and Sumatra for various reasons. The largest culprits of deforestation are the palm oil plantation companies who clear the forests at alarming rates to make way for new palm oil plantations or to expand existing plantations. Other causes of deforestation in the region include illegal logging and the Transmigration programme introduced by the Indonesian government. We will look into these individual causes of deforestation further.
Besides deforestation, or the complete clearing of forested areas which results in a loss of habitat for orangutans, habitat fragmentation can have serious implications too. By simply cutting a single road through the forest, many trees have to be cleared and the orangutan’s habitat would be disrupted. Since orangutans prefer to reside on the trees and not on the ground, simply clearing trees just to make way for roads would already have significant implications on the reduction of their habitat. This only adds to the problem of a shrinking forest from the issue of deforestation.
This combined effect of palm oil expansion, logging and transmigration has resulted in Indonesia having the highest rate of deforestation in the world in 2006 according to reports by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). If urgent action is not taken and effective measures and solutions put in place to address these issues, the orangutans that we so adore will become extinct before we know it and this may even occur within the next 25 years.