International Orangutan Day: Meet the Most Endangered Great Ape

Happy International Orangutan Day! Did you know that the rarest, most recently discovered great ape – the Tapanuli orangutan – is in danger of extinction?

Deep in the forested mountains of Sumatra, scientists identified a new species of great ape in 2017 – the Tapanuli orangutan. It was the first time since 1929 that a new species of great ape had been identified. But from the moment of discovery, the Tapanuli became the most endangered great ape in the world, with only 800 individuals left. The primary threat to their survival comes from a planned $1.6 billion hydroelectric power plant and dam project that will irreparably fragment their habitat.

Mighty Earth and our allies in Indonesia are fighting to protect the Tapanuli. We are asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo to cancel the dam project and explore alternative sources of renewable energy in the area.

We must act before the dam project permanently disrupts the habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan and contributes to the first extinction of a great ape – our closest cousins in the animal kingdom – in all our recorded history.

This International Orangutan Day, join Mighty Earth in our fight to protect the Tapanuli orangutan and sign the petition to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

5 Facts about the Tapanuli orangutan:

  1. The Tapanuli orangutan was discovered in 2017, and is the third species of orangutan, having been separated from Bornean and Sumatran orangutans for 10,000-20,000 years.
  2. Only 800 individuals remain, making the Tapanuli the most endangered great ape.
  3. The remaining Tapanuli orangutans are divided into three populations in the Batang Toru forest; only the largest of these populations (~500 individuals) is still considered viable.
  4. The Tapanuli orangutan has a smaller head than other orangutan species
  5. The long, high-pitch call of the male Tapanuli orangutan is a mix between the calls of the males in Borneo (short, high-pitched) and Sumatra (long, low-pitched). It also lasts longer and is delivered with more pulses at a higher rate.
Male orangutans of each species: 1. Bornean, 2. Sumatran, 3. Tapanuli. Photo credit: Tim Laman/Creative Commons, via New England Primate Conservancy