Deforestation is responsible for approximately 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is therefore a major contributor to climate change, but also to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and a direct threat to Asia’s great ape – the orangutan.Between 2005-2010, Indonesia had accelerating forest loss compared to 2000-2005 and is within the highest five countries for percentage of primary forest loss globally. This acceleration in forest loss not only negatively impacts forests and biodiversity, but also local and global ecosystem services such as water supply, human health and food security in addition to climate change mitigation. Much of the deforestation is caused by both illegal and short-term economic gains, often ndermining long-term development goals.
As its name implies, the Sumatran orangutan – “person (orang) of the forest (hutan)” in Malay – occurs only in forests on the island of Sumatra (Rijksen and Meijaard 1999). More specifically, the wild population today survives solely in the north-western regions of the island, in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. These provinces stretch from the Indian Ocean in the west to the Strait of Malacca, which separates Sumatra from mainland Malaysia further to the east. They are also bisected by the Bukit Barisan mountain range that runs down the full length of Sumatra.
These mountains reach altitudes of over 3,000 meters above sea level (m asl), with the highest peaks being Gunung Kerinci in West Sumatra (3,800 m asl) and Gunung Leuser (3,404 m asl) in Aceh (Map 2) and exert a major influence on rainfall patterns. Western regions receive much more rain than those in the east, as prevailing winds from the Indonesian ocean are forced upwards, cooling rapidly and condensing water vapour, which then falls as precipitation.
Gorillas, the largest of the great apes, are under renewed threat across the Congo Basin from Nigeria to the Albertine Rift: poaching for bushmeat, loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion, degradation of habitat from logging, mining and charcoal production are amongst these threats, in addition to natural epidemics such as ebola and the new risk of diseases passed from humans to gorillas.
Alarmingly, parts of the region are experiencing intensifed exploitation and logging of its forest, in some cases even within protected areas. In the DRC, many of these activities are controlled by militias illegally extracting natural resources such as gold, tin and coltan as well as producing charcoal for local communities, urban areas, camps for people displaced by fghting and sometimes even to communities across the border. These militias are located, motivated, armed and fnanced directly by this illegal extraction of minerals, timber and charcoal. A network of intermediaries including multinational companies or their subsidiaries, neighboring countries and corrupt offcials, are involved in the transportation and procurement of resources which stem from areas controlled by militia, or for which no legal exploitation permission exists.
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The survival of orangutans and other rain forest wildlife in Indonesia is seriously endangered by illegal logging, forest fires including those associated with the rapid spread of oil palm plantations, illegal hunting and trade. Recent estimates suggest there are between 45,000 and 69,000 Bornean and no more than 7,300 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild. The orangutans share their habitat with a wild range of other threatened and ecologically important species including the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and Asian elephant.
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The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation was launched by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP on September 1, 2005, at the Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London, with presentations by Lera Miles, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, co-editor of the Atlas, Glyn Davies, Director of Conservation Programmes, Zoological Society of London and Mark Leighton, Chair, GRASP Interim Scientific Commission. A second launch was done on the 9th of September 2005 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the Intergovernmental Meeting on Great Apes and First GRASP Council Meeting.
The UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation provides a comprehensive review of what is currently known about the Great Apes, including a description of their ecology, distribution and key threats that each great ape species faces. The Atlas includes an assessment of the current status of great ape species in each of the countries where they are found, together with an overview of current conservation action and priorities, illustrated with maps.
The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation also highlights the importance of Great Apes to humans. The Atlas will be of interest to the general public, as well as conservation groups, non-governmental organizations, governments, intergovernmental organisations, educators and students. The publication raises the international profile of Great Ape conservation efforts, and helps to guide future action.
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This report assesses the impact of infrastructural development on great ape populations, using the GLOBIO modelling approach. GLOBIO is a multivariable special model, which estimates the extent of land area with reduced abundance and diversity of living organisms, as a result of infrastructural development. The model can be used to develop scenarios of possible future impacts, based on the current rates of infrastructural development. Results of the GLOBIO analyses indicate that more than 70% of the habitat of each of the African great ape species has been negatively affected by infrastructural development. For the orangutan, the corresponding figure is 64%.
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A limited number of posters are available for distribution anywhere in the world from the United Kingdom. If you belong to an organization that could make significant use of these materials, please write to:
"We've lost half of the world's wild orangutan population since 1950.
Let's Do Better..."
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"The fate of the Great Apes is closely tied to ours as they inhabit some of the last remaining tropical rainforests - ecosystems that not only assist in supplying water, food and medecine but also play a global role in carbon sequestration and thus combating climate change."
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Pongo - orangutan [English] [Français]
Gorilla - gorilla [English] [Français]
Pan – chimpanzee [English] [Français]
GRASP leaflets summarizing the status of the Great Apes and the work of the Partnership are also available to download. [English] [Français] [Español]
Democratic Republic of the Congo [English] [Français] Guinea [Français] Rwanda [English] [Français]
Republic of Congo [English] [Français]
Regional Action Plan for West African Chimpanzees [English] [Français]
Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of Chimpanzees and Gorillas in Western Eq. Africa [English] [Français]
The GRASP Newsletter is published in English and French twice a year. The GRASP Newsletter provides recent information about the great apes as well as information about recent projects and news from the projects and partners. For print copies of the newsletter, please write to
Nov 2007 - Issue Number 7 [English] [Français]
Nov 2006 - Issue Number 6 [English] [Français] Mar 2006 - Issue Number 5 [English] [Français] Jun 2005 - Issue Number 4 [English] [Français]
May 2004 - Issue Number 3 [English] [Français]
Nov 2003 - Issue Number 2 [English] [Français]
May 2003 - Issue Number 1 [English]
GRASP issues regular updates to the entire Partnership.
May 2009 update [English] [Français]
May 2008 update [English] [Français]
June 2007 update [English] [Français]
February 2007 update [English] [Français]
August 2006 update [English] [Français]
April 2006 update [English] [Français]
May 2005 update [English] [Français]
December 2005 update [English] [Français]
ASB Policy Brief. Co-existence of people and orangutan in Sumatra: Stabilising gradients for landscape multifunctionality [English]
CITES Resolution Conf. 13.4 Conservation of and trade in great apes.IUCN-SSC: Best Practice Guidelines for Reducing the Impact of Commercial Logging on Great Apes in Western Equatorial Africa [English] [Français]IEED, Arcus - Linking conservation and poverty alleviation: The case of Great Apes. An overview of current policy and practice in Africa [English]IIED- Development AND Gorillas? Assessing fifteen years of integrated conservation and development in south-western Uganda [English]
© 2012 Great Apes Survival Partnership