An international team of researchers have found that current Sumatran orangutan population amounts to 14,613 individuals, which is more than double than previous estimates (6,600 individuals).
Though, the findings could bring immediate relief to conservationists fighting for the lives of the great apes, scientists cautioned that the numbers have not risen. Instead they were miscalculated.
During the latest research, scientists have monitored the orangutans in places that had been overlooked by past studies. For instance, study authors looked for the primates across habitats located 5,000 feet above sea level in both previously monitored areas and the western parts of the Tobas Lake. All in all, the latest study took into account at least three new habitats other researchers have failed to scour
“These are really remote areas,”
noted Prof. Serge Wich, lead author of the new analysis and researcher with Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K.
Wich explained that there never had been enough funds to conduct research in those areas. Plus some locations are so remote that they require a week’s walk.
With the new data, researchers have expanded the animals’ previous ranges by about 2.56 times. Researchers believe that the animals have always been in those locations that past research has overlooked.
The research team also thinks that deforestation has not pushed the primates into those hard-to-reach areas. Instead human activities might have actually increased orangutan population in those habitats.
Wich explained that deforestation often happens on lowlands, which doesn’t mean that the apes on highlands are out of harm’s way. All of the animals have visited the deforested areas while looking for food.
Though the erroneous estimates have also shown that Sumatran orangutan numbers dwindled 80 percent over the last 75 years, the authors of the recent analysis claim that this bit of information is still accurate.
Scientists explained that although they found more orangutans in those remote habitats, this also means that more individuals have died by the hand of man in the meantime.
Wich is convinced that the overlooked areas might have had lots of primates that died because of the deforestation. The recent study should not be interpreted as good news, Wich continued, since the population has neither increased nor had its range expanded.
Over the last decade, Sumatran orangutan populations have been on decline, Wich noted. And the major causes are man-made activities: deforestation and poaching. So, they should not be removed from the critically endangered list, researchers argued.
Image Source: Wikimedia