Orangutans have lost over 80% of their habitat that they live in within the last 20 years. Researchers also estimate that ⅓ of the wild orangutan population died in the fires in Indonesia during 1997 to 1998. 

The rapid loss of rainforest over the last few decades does not compare to the land being bulldozed for palm oil plantations in the 21st century (2001 – present). For each palm plantation that destroys thousands of hectares (1 hectares = about 2.47105 acres) also takes the lives of many wild orangutans. Recent news headlines have reported how one palm oil company hunted down wild orangutans while expanding their palm oil production. On top of this, the government mandates that are meant to protect the land and the animals, are disappearing as fast as the trees in the forests. 

Deforestation for Palm oil.

Indonesia has lost nearly 100 million acres of the rainforest during the rainforest destruction that occurred during the leadership of Indonesia’s former president Suharto. Soon after Suharto’s reign ended in 1998, illegal logging of the forests grew even faster.

A 2007 United Nations report found that illegal logging occurred in 37 of Indonesia’s 41 national parks. These researchers believe that at the current rate of rainforest destruction, these forests could be wiped out as soon as 2022. 

Orangutans once roamed over thousands of miles across the rainforests of Southeast Asia. Today, orangutans only live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Their home is in a beautiful, lush rainforest, and shared by many other endangered species, such as tigers, elephants, and rhinos. This forest is crossed with large rivers and has the greatest number of species of trees, birds, and animals per acre of almost anyplace in the world. The treasures of this forest are hard to estimate since they are so precious and numerous. Many different species of plants and animals have yet to be discovered there. 

Currently, their limited habitat on the remaining two islands is being threatened by economic pressures, human greed and ignorance, and natural disasters. Indonesia’s population has grown from 10 million people at the beginning of the 20th century, to well over 240 million people in 2014. This means that the needs of all of the many people within the little landmass are urgent, which means that there is little time for planning or care about the local environment. People and orangutans need the same land, and in this situation of human vs. orangutan, the orangutan does not win. 

What does deforestation entail?

  • Illegal logging
  • Slash and burn methods to plant large-scale palm oil plantations
  • Slash and burn methods used by the local farmers
  • Transmigration program of the government to move more of the population of Java in to the rainforests of Borneo
  • Fires caused by the above methods of clearing land were inflamed by the extra dry conditions caused by the drought.
  • Slash and burn techniques also cause the peat and coal deposits deep in the ground to ignite and further escalate the fires