The Tapanuli Orangutan – Extinction Beckons
The Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) was only officially recognised as a distinct species in 2017, though we have known about their existence since the 30’s. The population is tiny – around 800 or so – and they are limited geographically to a small area of Sumatra in Indonesia. But now, remarkably, their very existence is threatened. Not by natural disasters or other similar factors, but directly by Man.
The Bank of China is funding an endeavor known as the Batang Toru Hydroelectric Project that will almost certainly directly affect this rare species that is classed as ‘critically endangered’ by the U.N. Renowned scientists and environmentalists have estimated that around 10% of the Tapanuli Orangutan habitat will be affected whilst access roads and other infrastructure surrounding the dam itself will fragment the already dwindling population. The project will also affect around 100,000 people living downstream whose livelihoods depend on the status quo being maintained. The area also sits on the Great Sumatran Fault and is subject to earthquakes – a fact astonishingly never mentioned in the environmental impact assessment report.
As was reported recently, a regional court ruled that the project should go ahead despite some serious concerns about glaring omissions from the reports like the one mentioned above, forgery of signatures from experts and a failure to even consider the locals affected.
But there has been a glimmer of hope. Following extensive protests outside their branches worldwide the Bank of China has agreed to look again at its funding of the project, so there is some cause for optimism. Furthermore, the environmental organisations that brought the recent court case have said they will be appealing.
We can only wish them well, and for the time being marvel at what we might be losing. With thanks to National Geographic, this 1-minute video shows these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat.