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Climate change spells trouble for orangutans



Editor’s note: August 19 is World Orangutan Day.

The world’s orangutan population is dwindling. Native to only two islands — Sumatra and Borneo — orangutans are threatened by deforestation, fire and climate change. In Borneo, their numbers have fallen by 60 percent since 1950 — and experts project there will be fewer than 50,000 in less than a decade.

As this species faces the effects of climate change and encroaching humans, protecting them — and their habitats — has never been more important. Here are three of the greatest threats they face.

1. Shifting temperatures

Changing temperatures and rainfall patterns as a result of climate change affect where orangutans can find the tree fruits and leaves they eat. Orangutans are also less likely to reproduce when food is scarce.

Roaming into new territory in search of food can also spur human-orangutan conflict. Orangutan babies are illegally sold as pets, while an estimated 2,500 orangutans in Borneo alone are killed for their meat each year.

2. Deforestation

Orangutans spend 90 percent of their lives in trees. Cutting down…

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