Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cardiff scientist is protecting Borneo's endangered orangutans from being exposed to hunters and losing their habitat

Researchers from Cardiff University are finding new ways to protect Borneo’s endangered orangutans from being exposed to hunters and losing their precious forest habitat.

More than 80% of the orangutan’s natural habitat has been destroyed over the last 20 years due to agricultural conversion.

The main threat to orangutans is habitat loss. Land clearing exposes wild orangutans – who can be considered pests by locals – and some are shot.

If infant orangutans survive the death of their mothers they either end up as orphans in one of the rehabilitation centres or they enter the pet trade.

Their preferred habitat is low-lying peat-swamp forest and they are rarely found in habitats above an altitude of 800 metres.

Scientists said forest fragmentation is a major threat to their survival.

So pioneering research by a global team, including Cardiff academics, has found opportunities to improve wildlife corridors in their rapidly-changing environment in a bid to help them to move with ease under cover and to thrive once again.

Dr Benoit Goossens, from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, is director of the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on Borneo.

He said orangutans depend on the forest for both food and shelter.

Dr Goossens said: “Small, isolated and exposed territories of the forest present increasing threats to the orangutan population. Those threats are likely to be worsened by environmental changes such as climate change.