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Borneo will probably lose 50% of its orang-utans

20/11/2012 23:17:16 According to new research led by a Liverpool John Moores University conservation scientist, one of our closest cousins, the Bornean orang-utan, is facing extinction.

November 2012. Sharing 97% of human DNA, orang-utans are close to humans in evolutionary terms but scientist Professor Serge Wich and others have found that only 22% of the already endangered species are actually living in protected areas.

Logging, oil palm plantation and tree plantation land
The research also shows that the rest of the orang-utans are inhabiting areas used for logging (29%), oil palm plantations (19%), industrial tree plantations (6%) or are in land that is not allocated for any specific use (24%).

Recent studies show that orang-utans could possibly survive in well-managed logging areas so a very optimistic outcome would be that half of the current population could continue to exist. Unfortunately, it is more likely that far less than half of the population will survive as not all protected areas and logging areas will continue to be well-managed. Improving such management is therefore a high priority.

Commenting about the research, Professor Wich said: "This research paints a bleak future for the Bornean orang-utan. To avoid this potential decline, plantation development in orang-utan habitats must be halted because it infringes national laws on orang-utan protection.

Further growth of the oil palm plantation sector should be achieved through increasing the productivity of trees in existing plantations and expansion of new plantations into areas that have already been deforested.

Island-wide land-use masterplan
"To reach this goal a large scale, island-wide land-use masterplan is needed that clarifies which possible land uses and management systems are compatible with orang-utan conservation. Such a plan should make much better use of values of ecosystem services of forests such as water provision, flood control, carbon sequestration, and sources of livelihood for rural communities.

"Presently land use planning is more driven by vested interests and direct and immediate economic gains, rather than by approaches that take into consideration social equity and environmental sustainability."

The research appears in the scientific journal 'PLOS ONE'.

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