Critically endangered orangutans depend on unprotected forest corridor

A new genetic study of the animals has found that deforestation on Sumatra has isolated different groups of the primates, which could lead to inbreeding and further decline.

Hardi Baktiantoro/Reuters/File
Orangutans rest in Palangkaraya in the province of Central Kalimantan in this 2007 photo.

Sumatran orangutans are in trouble: Only about 6,600 of the animals are left, scattered throughout the northern tip of the Indonesian island where they once flourished.

A new genetic study of the animals has found that deforestation on Sumatra has isolated different groups of the primates, which could lead to inbreeding and further decline. But the research also identified a critical corridor of forested hills that orangutans still travel though, which, if protected, could help the species rebound, according to a release describing the study.

The investigators took DNA from wild orangutan's hair and fecal samples, as well as blood samples from orangutans from known areas that were kept as pets before being confiscated by authorities.

Their study, published recently in the Journal of Heredity, found that there was recent genetic exchange between several of the groups by breeding males. "Our study revealed that some males can range widely over large distances and across natural barriers in search of females," said co-author Alexander Nater, a researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, in a statement.

Male apes use the passageway the study found to get around the headwaters of rivers high in the mountains. It's critical that these areas remained forested, the researchers say, since the critically endangered orangutan spends nearly all of its time in the canopies of trees.

"This result highlights the need to conserve these important dispersal corridors to uphold genetic exchange," Nater said in the statement.  "And it also gives hope that it is not yet too late to preserve these unique Asian great apes."

Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Critically endangered orangutans depend on unprotected forest corridor
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today