The total Sumatran orangutan population has been estimated at 6600 individuals in previous surveys, according to an article published by the journal Science Advances.

Yet it appears that the actual population of this endangered species is estimated to be about 14,600 based on new transect surveys and a better funding allowing researchers to explore new areas.

Although these findings don’t mean the orangutan population increased in numbers but it was rather miscalculated, it’s a positive news considering the recent survey doubles the previously recorded orangutan population. Since 2014, many animal species have gone extinct due to climate change implications for their survival on Earth’s or a human-made extinction due to massive hunting of a particular species.

Photo: World Wildlife Organization
Photo: World Wildlife Organization

The orangutan species is critically endangered currently due to massive deforestation by wood companies, without any type of regard for the impact these actions have on animal wildlife and what it could mean to the animal kingdom’s affluence. The results of the study led by an international team of scientists had previously overlooked orangutan habitats, as they didn’t seem to be habitable because they were found at 1,500 meters above the sea.

Surveyors’ mistake

Considering that tracking populations of orangutans are an exhaustive challenge as this ape species is both elusive and shy, it comes as no big bolt from the blue that the apes had found a way to remain isolated from scientists.

“These are really remote areas,” said Serge Wich, lead author of the study from Liverpool John Moores University. “We never had the funding to survey these areas so extensively, and we just didn’t think they occurred there.”

Orangutans are very intelligent and social mammals, yet recent hunting of the species and forest loss has obligated orangutans to be less social and more intelligent. The species is known to create sleeping nests at night that serve as bread crumbs for researchers to follow as they can be located even after they move on.

Thanks to this nighttime custom from orangutans, scientists were able to discover ape groups at higher elevations than expected as well as in degraded forests that had not been included in previous surveys. Even when the numbers of orangutan population have increased, or more accurately, surveyors perception of their population has changed, the threat to this endangered species still exists.

It’s valuable to remember that there are only two species of orangutan remaining, one of them being Sumatran orangutans with a population of only 14,600 apes. While the Bornean orangutan living on the island of Borneo has a record of up to 60,000 populations.

Source: Science Advances Magazine