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Researchers say orangutans are declining, despite Indonesian government’s claims

07 / 11 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

Researchers say a recent Indonesian government report inaccurately claims that the orangutan population in the country is increasing, which could have significant implications for future conservation plans. The report, issued by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry with support from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, states that the populations of 19 priority species, including orangutans, “increased by more than 10 percent” between 2015 and 2017. But, in a letter published in the journal Current Biology on Monday, researchers say that that assertion “is in strong contrast” to many recently published and peer-reviewed scientific studies on the status of the three orangutan species: the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), and the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), which was just confirmed as a separate species last year. All three species are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to Erik Meijaard, who coordinates the Borneo Futures initiative and is the lead author of the letter, orangutan numbers are in decline, not increasing as the Indonesian government report contends. “The government monitoring data do indeed support such an increase, so that would justify the government’s claim. But, as we point out, the monitoring methods are flawed for a variety of reasons,” Meijaard told Mongabay. “Also, I find it strange that the government authorities and the NGO groups working with the government simply ignore a number of peer reviewed papers that document high rates of population decline,…

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