Measures to conserve orangutans are failing, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN reports that the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is now critically endangered and is at extremely high risk of extinction.

Any positive benefits that resulted from previous conservation strategies did not achieve their goal of increasing the species’ population. Experts from the organization blame habitat destruction degradation and fragmentation as well as hunting as the primary reasons for the animals ‘current status.

Apparently, only 59.6 percent of forests in Borneo were left suitable for orangutans in 2010. Although authorities from Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia have tried really hard to protect these animals, illegal logging and burning still remain to decrease their population.

Bornean orangutan

Male Bornean orangutan. Credit: Eric Kilby/Wikimedia

The tiny forests left cannot even sustain the remaining Bornean orangutan groups. Even if these animals are capable of surviving in isolated habitats, the current state of the remaining forests may prevent the animals from reproducing.

“The problem with assessing a species like orangutans is there is such a long time-lag effect,” the study’s co-author Andrew Marshall told Mongabay.

He added, “Many populations in these forest fragments may be heading toward extinction already, and the grim reality is there is little we can do to alter this trajectory. We could remove every threat right now, and many populations would continue to decline for several generations.”

It does not help that female orangutans can only reproduce once every six to eight years, slowing down their population increase. Overall, all of these result to the animals’ population loss of up to 86 percent  between 1973 and 2025.

However, this does not mean that saving  the orangutans from extinction is a lost cause. Previous research found that these animals thrive in damaged forests more successfully than thought.  The researchers also recommend new commitments by the government in the area to add more protection to the orangutans.