A detailed survey found more than 14,000 orangs in the wild - 8,000 more than previously estimated.
The Sumatran orangutan is one of the two species of orangutans, which is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. This great ape is critically endangered since its population has declined over 80% in the past six decades or so.
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The animal was once distributed over the entire island of Sumatera but is now restricted to only north of the island. This is mainly due to illegal hunting and habitat loss.
Orangs live among the trees of tropical rainforests. Deforestation or conversion of forest to agricultural land has immensly contributed to the decline of this primate.
Recently an international team of researchers has conducted an extensive survey to estimate the population of Sumatran orangutans and they were stunned to find more numbers of orangutans than previously estimated. There are 14,600 of these animals are living in the wild today, which is 8,000 more than previously thought. However, the future of the ape remains uncertain.
The uptick in population is not the result of conservation efforts but due to more wide-ranging survey. Researchers fear if effective and far-reaching conservation strategies are not crafted and utilized, half of orangutans population could vanish by 2030.
An accurate estimation of population is necessary for building up future conservation efforts. For providing comprehensive baseline data, researchers carried out a survey that covered 300 kilometers across Sumatra and found more than 3,000 orangs nests, equaling to more than 14,000 Sumatran orangutans.
A previous study counted more than 6,000 orangs in Northern Sumatra. But it did not include orangs living in high altitudes and in some other areas of the region.
"It was very exciting to find out that there are more Sumatran orangutans than we thought, but this does not mean that we can be complacent,” said researcher Serge Wich from Liverpool John Moores University. "Numerous development projects are planned in the area that - if they are not stopped - could sharply reduce the number of orangutans over the coming years.”
“We would like to see appropriate environmental impact assessments conducted for all developmental planning that concerns forests in orangutan range so that disruption to their habitat may be avoided or reduced to a minimum.”
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