The Tapanuli orangutan, a new species known to science

Yesterday brought the extraordinary news that a new orangutan species in Sumatra has been officially recognised by a group of scientists (for full paper, click here). The Tapanuli orangutan. ©Andrew Whalmsley

The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) has been found in the Batang Toru Ecosystem of North Sumatra, Indonesia. Until recently these orangutans were thought to belong to the genus Pongo abelii, also known as the Sumatran orangutan. However, research has revealed that genetically, these orangutans are more closely related to Pongo pygmaeus, the Bornean orangutan, but remain distinct enough to be classed as an entirely new species.

The Tapanuli orangutan. ©Andrew Whalmsley

There are a number of genetic, morphological and behavioural differences between the Tapanuli orangutan and its cousins. Interestingly, the Tapanuli male's long call is just one of these differences...

A Tapanuli male orangutan's long call (credit SOCP):

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A Bornean male orangutan's long call:

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Other differences which have been recorded include their diet, skeletal structure, and hair, which is thicker and frizzier than that of the Bornean or Sumatran orangutan.

Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Sadly, despite being the newest species of great ape known to science, they have immediately been classified as critically endangered, with only 800 individuals thought to exist in the wild. Their only threat is habitat loss. The Tapanuli orangutan’s range is already fragmented across three areas of forest. Additionally the area is threatened with the proposal for construction of a new hydrodam.

Map of Batang Toru Ecosystem, fragmented forest sections shown in orange.

Therefore, we must ensure further loss of their forest habitat is prevented. Visit for further information and to help this new species.

Thank you,

Orangutan Foundation


Go Body Shop Trekkers!

Follow the second week of adventure at as Body Shop staff and volunteers trek through the Sumatran jungle in aid of our work. All money raised from the trek will go towards our work, conserving the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve and its precious orangutan population. Why not show your support of the trek and adopt Sumatran orangutan, Wenda. She is being cared for by our partners, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP).  Eventually Wenda will be returned to the wild. You can read more about the rehabilitation process on SOCP's website.

Thank you Body Shop trekkers for your determination to raise funds and awareness for orangutans!

Orangutan Foundation





Indonesian court cancels oil palm plantation permit

We heard this morning that the High Court in Medan has ordered the Aceh Governor, Zaini Abdullah, to revoke a permit for an oil palm plantation in the Tripa peat swamps in Aceh province in the north of the island of Sumatra. The appeal was filed by the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi). This ruling is very good news for the future of the remaining orangutans in Tripa. It also demonstrates a commitment by the Indonesian government to enforce the laws protecting carbon-rich forests and endangered species. Read the full article in the Jakarta Post and keep up to date with the campaign to save Tripa at End of the Icons

Thank you,

Orangutan Foundation


Orangutan population declining faster than previously thought…

A very quick post. I'm off to Tanjung Puting National Park and will be back on Thursday. At some point I'll hopefully be tracked down by Brigitta who has her goody bag for the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine. At the end of last week the scientific paper, “Distribution and conservation status of the orangutan (Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: How many remain?” was published in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation. Dr. Serge Wich, Togu Simorangkir from Yayorin (our Indonesian partner organisation) and other orangutan conservation experts, published new findings that reveal endangered wild orangutan (Pongo spp.) populations are declining more sharply in Sumatra and Borneo than previously estimated.

It isn't all doom and gloom so have a read of the full press release from the Great Ape Trust website.

Many thanks.

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