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Endangered Orangutans May Have Hope Yet: Study

Jan 07, 2015 04:57 PM EST
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A new study offers hope for endangered orangutans in Borneo, who are suffering due to deforestation and climate change.

"In order to identify eventual environmental refuges for the animals, we applied bioclimatic model simulations. Therefore, we used satellite images to map deforestation and estimate the changes in forest areas expected in the future. To predict the climate, the projections from four model and emission scenarios were combined. Additionally the land has to be unsuitable for oil palms, a major thread to orangutans," David Gaveau, a scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia, said in a statement.

Through these projections - made for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s - scientists hope that they can save this endangered species.

A century ago there were approximately more than 230,000 orangutans worldwide, the World Wildlife Fund says, but now the Bornean orangutan is estimated to number about 41,000 (and the Sumatran about 7,500).

And as lush tropical forests make way for oil palm plantations and other agricultural uses, their populations are only expected to keep dwindling. About 50 percent of orangutans are found outside of protected areas where they are most vulnerable.

"The study highlights the importance of conserving Borneo's peat swamps, which are a home to large number of orangutans and are vital for climate change mitigation," added researcher Serge Wich, who was involved in the study.

But hopefully through the methods these researchers used, they can better identify important ways of conserving this valuable species.

"Our main goal was to identify forests with the most stable climates that are also likely to be safe from land use changes," said researcher Stephanie Kramer-Schadt. "Focusing conservation actions on these remote areas now would help to minimize orangutan losses in the future."

The findings were published in the journal Global Change Biology.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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