Deforestation can wipe out Sumatran orangutans by the year 2030, researchers say.
With the current trends of forest loss, an estimated 4,500 species may vanish, spoiling the results of a recent study saying that the Sumatran orangutan populations are much more than previously thought.
The said study, published in the journal Science Advances on March 4, says that as of 2015, the total number of Sumatran orangutans is 14,613. This is more than double of the previous estimate of 6,600.
While it may sound like good news, scientists warn that it is not yet high time to celebrate.
Issue Of Deforestation Remains
Although the study results yielded some positive outcomes, it still projects that future deforestation will persist to induce swift declines in the numbers of Sumatran orangutans.
Because good news about the orangutans are elusive, it is critically important to pinpoint the effects of potential land uses and changes in their forest habitats. The group of international scientists did just that.
Using lands, or at least creating plans to use the areas where the orangutans live may be detrimental to the species. They key to mitigating this problem is to come up with a clear knowledge about the size and status of the orangutan population in the entire area.
Through this, scientists will be able to effectively evaluate diverse deforestation situations in relation to their impacts on the orangutan population.
It is also essential to take note how other species aside from orangutans may be affected by deforestation, as disruptions to species within the range may also create an issue on the long-term survival of orangutans.
The team looked into the different deforestation scenarios and discussed how each of these situations would impact Sumatran orangutans in the future.
Deforestation And Road Building
Clearing forests to make way for roads is one scenario that will affect the orangutan population. Therefore, it is important to take into account all road-making projects to keep track of deforestation and ascertain how orangutans would fare with the changes in their habitats.
Not being able to estimate all road constructions is one reason why previous underestimates of orangutan populations took place. It is then vital to develop careful road planning to at least minimize the effects of deforestation.
According to the study, Sumatran orangutans settle in areas that are higher than previously believed, but still head to lowland areas for food.
This then emphasizes the need to maintain lowland forests because they are valuable to the survival of the species. However, these areas are the most widely tapped for agricultural expansion, supporting the scientists' warning that deforestation can wipe out a chunk of Sumatran orangutan population.
Places where the human population is high are the ones with fewer orangutans. This may be due to poaching, particularly in Batang Toru. As lands clear up, more capturing and killings take place, decreasing the population of the species.
The fact that orangutan populations are high in deeply forested areas where there are no human settlers signifies that humans do have a role in the species' decreasing numbers.
What To Do
To conserve the Sumatran orangutan population, the authors recommend two things. The first one is to enforce a law that will prohibit poaching and trading of the animals. The second recommendation is to incorporate impact assessments in all land-planning strategies.
"The implementation of these recommendations would lead to a much improved conservation status for the Sumatran orangutan," the authors write.