Orangutan Threats & Plight

orangutan mother and baby

Like many of the world's beautiful creatures orangutans face many problems none more important than the fact that orangutans are endangered. Here we take a look at the detail surrounding why orangutans are endangered plus what efforts are being made to counteract this happening.

Why are Orangutans Endangered?

Orangutans live in the rainforests of Borneo and Malaysia and rely on their habitat for their survival as they live in the trees spending very little time on the ground at all. So, what is spoiling their habitat and threatening their survival?

  • Unfortunately for the orangutan Malaysia and Borneo are heavily into deforestation which is destroying the habitat of the orangutan.
  • Logging is also another pursuit that affects the habitat of the orangutan with over logging being unlawful. These factors heavily influence whether the orangutan is to survive.
  • Pulp, paper and palm oil companies are also converting the forests into plantations that pose as great a threat as any to the orangutans survival
  • Many orangutans, up to one thousand per year, are also killed for consumption
  • They are considered pests and are caught for the pet trade.
  • Deforestation and poaching in Borneo now restricts the orangutan to the island of Borneo only, while they are listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list as endangered with fifty thousand of this species remaining.
  • The Sumatran orangutan is listed as critically endangered with only seven thousand of these beautiful creatures left. Numbers are dwindling fast, while there is much to do if we are to not see the demise of the orangutan.

The Illegal Pet Trade

It is illegal to capture baby orangutans to sell on as pets but this trade is none the less thriving in the area. Hundreds of baby orangutans are taken from their mothers every year which is an absolute tragedy! Many of these babies don't reach their destinations and die during the trip as they are not cared for properly by their captors.

Baby orangutans die from falling and hitting the ground hard when poachers kill their mothers. Some die from shock as they watch their mothers killed in an inhumane way by the poachers who seem to forget that these creatures are as close to humans as can be.

Many babies die from diseases they have caught from humans. Orangutans are vulnerable to human diseases which can be fatal for them, while many are kept in such terrible conditions while being transported that they simply do not make it. Like most wild animals orangutans are better left in the wild and make terrible pets as this mode of life is totally unnatural for them.

Palm Oil

The production of palm oil is one of the biggest threats to orangutan survival, while as it is in demand due to its use in many household products there seems to be no end to companies creating these plantations. Traded globally the demand for palm oil has tripled in recent years.

85% of palm oil growth takes place in areas such as Indonesia and Malaysia with production affecting not only orangutan survival but the people of the rain forests and the climate too. We can all help in our small way by avoiding buying products that contain palm oil. Learn more about the threats to Orangutan and other vital species in Malaysia and Indonesia due to the Palm Oil Industry at Say No to Palm Oil.


Orangutans may be hunted for food, while those of us in the western world cannot imagine what it is like to feel so hungry that we would kill a beautiful animal. That said orangutans are often killed as they are considered pests that sometimes steal fruit grown for humans in the area.


deforestation in borneo malaysia

A forest being cleared in Borneo Malaysia to make way for a Palm Oil plantation.

Much of the rainforests are destroyed by illegal logging, burning and clearance by those who wish to replace the rainforest with plantations in order to receive financial gain. Many forests were cleared in order for locals to grow crops, while forest fires lit in the 1990's by locals who wanted to clear the land destroyed huge areas.

These fires raged on as the El Nino season that year was unusually dry adding to the problem. Logging in the 1980's and 90's was really intensive so destroying huge amounts of the forests at any one time. Over logging was and still is a problem in this area with supply far outstripping demand.

Conservation Efforts

Many charities and organisations are involved in conservation projects in the area in the hope of saving the orangutan from extinction. They hope to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce orangutans to their natural environment. One such organisation is the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation or BOS.

Conservation of the areas eco system is one of conservationist's aims, while supporting projects to protect orangutans is paramount. Conservationist combine education with getting the locals involved with awareness campaigns and development projects. Many zoos have become involved in projects to rear orangutans in order to keep the species going.

Other efforts made include

  • Attempting habitat protection
  • Reintroduction of stolen orangutans that have been sold as pets back into the wild
  • Education
  • Scientific research
  • Caring for orphaned babies until they are ready to go back into the wild
  • Raising awareness of the importance of protecting endangered species
  • Work to encourage policy makers to develop and implement strong policies and laws surrounding orangutan survival

We can only hope that by education plus spreading the word about conservation and how important it is means that the orangutan will be saved from extinction. The problem is being tackled locally by many organisations that cooperate with each other as they have one in the same aim. Working together hopefully will result in this intelligent primate's survival.

More on Orangutans