Deforestation, Poaching & Wildfires

a recently rescued orangutan baby clings to its cage (source: Taiwan News, 16 November 2017)

Orangutans are (critically) endangered, with current populations estimated to be >>INSERT TEXT<<. Three main human activities threaten – roughly equally – the remaining wild orangutan are deforestation, poaching and wildfires.



Deforestation has a significant impact on orangutan populations. Orangutans are arboreal primates that depend on forests for their survival, and their habitat is rapidly being destroyed by deforestation.

The loss of forests due to deforestation destroys the natural habitat of orangutans and leads to a decline in their population. Orangutans rely on forests for food, shelter, and breeding, and the destruction of their habitat affects their ability to find food, mate, and raise their young.

As forests are cleared for logging, mining, agriculture, and human settlements, orangutans are forced to move to new areas or become isolated in small fragments of forests. This isolation can lead to inbreeding and genetic problems that can further reduce the population’s fitness and adaptability.

timber extraction in Kalimantan (source: KAYON, 2016)

In addition, orangutans are also threatened by hunting and poaching, which are often associated with deforestation. As their habitat shrinks, they become more vulnerable to poaching for their meat, bones, and other body parts, which are highly valued in traditional medicine.

Overall, deforestation poses a significant threat to orangutan populations, and conservation efforts are essential to protect their habitat and ensure their long-term survival.

Over the decades, the Bornean and Sumatran rainforests have steadily degraded and perished, resulting in the serious loss of orangutan habitat. Around the 1960s and the 1970s, these tropical rainforests were logged during the plywood boom (see image right) and many were then converted into paper&pulp plantations and transmigration areas during the 1980s and 1990s. Since the turn of the century, the remaining rainforests are further threatened by the oil palm cultivation boom. Currently, timber extraction and agribusiness – both legal and illegal – are the main causes of deforestation and orangutan habitat loss.


Orangutans are hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some parts of Indonesia and Malaysia. Their infants are also captured and sold as pets or for use in the entertainment industry. In addition, some orangutans are killed by poachers to protect crops, as the animals are known to raid agricultural fields in search of food.

The removal of adult orangutans from the population can have a significant impact on the reproductive success of the species. Orangutans have a slow reproductive rate, with females only giving birth once every 7-9 years, and the loss of adult females can have a particularly significant impact on the population.

a recently rescued orangutan baby clings to its cage (source: Taiwan News, 16 November 2017)

Overall, poaching is a major threat to the survival of orangutans and has contributed to a significant decline in their populations over the past few decades. Conservation efforts aimed at reducing poaching, as well as protecting and restoring orangutan habitat, are critical to ensuring the survival of this iconic species.


Wildfires can have a significant impact on orangutan populations. Orangutans primarily live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, which are increasingly subject to fires due to a combination of natural and human causes.

The direct impact of fires on orangutans can include injury or death from burns, smoke inhalation, or being trapped in trees or on the ground. In addition, fires can destroy the forests that orangutans depend on for food and shelter, leading to long-term habitat loss and fragmentation.

Furthermore, the smoke and haze produced by fires can have significant health impacts on orangutans, particularly young and vulnerable individuals. The smoke can cause respiratory problems, eye irritation, and other health issues, which can be particularly dangerous for infants and juveniles.

Overall, wildfires pose a significant threat to orangutan populations, both directly through injury and death, and indirectly through the destruction of their habitat and the effects of smoke and haze. To protect orangutans from the impacts of wildfires, it is essential to prevent and manage fires, as well as to protect and restore their habitat.

Learn more about the threats to orangutans

  • Drivers of Deforestation in Borneo and Kalimantan - Historically, forest exploitation (for timber) and forest conversion (for coffee, paper & pulp, rubber, tea, etc) have been the leading causes of orangutan habitat loss in Borneo and Sumatra. For instance, the habitat of the Bornean Orangutan was mainly replaced by grassland/shrubland or oil palm – both commercial and smallholder plantations – between 2001-2016 (see...
  • Can palm oil save orangutans? - Millions of people around the world have seen the footage of the lone wild orangutan in an apocalyptic landscape of destroyed forest desperately trying to fight off a bulldozer; it has become symbolic of the catastrophic devastation wrought upon rainforests and wildlife by the palm oil industry.  So, it comes as no surprise that caring...