Tapanuli Orangutan – the rarest ape species on the planet – could lose its battle for survival, unless decisive steps are taken to rescue it, scientists said. Fewer than 800 members of the species survive, and they are under assault from mega-projects, deforestation, road building, and poaching, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology.
The most imminent threat to the species discovered last year in Sumatra, Indonesia, is a planned USD 1.6 billion mega-dam project that would be constructed by a Chinese state-owned corporation, researchers said. “If it proceeds, the dam will flood crucial parts of the ape’s habitat, while chopping up its remaining habitat with new roads and powerlines,” said Jatna Supriatna, a professor at the University of Indonesia.
“This is just the seventh species of Great Ape ever discovered, and it could go extinct right before our eyes,” said Supriatna. “In forty years of research, I do not think I have ever seen anything this dramatic,” said William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Australia.
The team discovered the ape survives only in areas with virtually no roads, which promote illegal logging, clearing, and poaching. “This is a critical test for China and Indonesia. They say they want sustainable development – but words are cheap,” said Laurance. “Without urgent action, this could be ecological Armageddon for one of our closest living relatives,” he added.