Scientists found “Half-Earth” vision for better orangutan management

KOTA KINABALU: Scientists have found better strategies to reduce the decline in the orangutan population by 2032 by at least half compared to current management.

The Half-Earth vision, a concept launched by E.O. Wilson in which half of the land and sea would be protected to manage sufficient habitat to reverse the species extinction crisis and ensure the long-term health of the earth.

It was published in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation assesses what would happen to Bornean orangutans in the next decade under different management assumptions.

The study looks at three scenarios: Business As Usual (BAU), which is the continuation of on-going management practices; the Whole-Earth approach, also known as “Sharing the Planet” vision, which advocates the global integration of conservation agenda with other societal goals; as well as Half-Earth.

Twenty experts from Malaysia, Indonesia and overseas participating in the study concluded that under current management practices orangutan populations may decline by around 27 per cent between now and 2032 in Borneo.

For Sabah, it represents several hundreds of orangutans. Danau Girang Field Centre director professor Benoit Goosens said that “business-as-usual in orangutan conservation is clearly insufficient to support the protection of the species.

“Indeed, 65 per cent of Sabah’s landmass is forested, and Sabah is committed to ensuring that at least 50 per cent of its landmass is designated and protected for sustainable forest exploitation, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, and socio-economic well-being,” added Goossens.

HUTAN Scientific director Dr Marc Ancrenaz said: “The good news is that this analysis predicts that, if orangutan killing and habitat loss were stopped, orangutan populations could rebound and reach 148 per cent of their current size by 2122.

“The recent surveys by the Sabah Wildlife Department and their partners show that the size of most orangutan populations is stabilising in the State.

“Despite large population declines over the past 20 years, we start to see glimmers of hope for orangutans. Indonesian and Malaysian deforestation rates are down, as are expansion rates of oil palm and other crops.”

The authors of the publication have also encouraged both the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to build on their commitments to setting aside at least half the land area of their countries for conservation, while enforcing the policies that ensure forests are conserved and orangutan killing is halted and the degradation of its habitat is halted and reversed.

They also call on the Global North to match these commitments from the tropics by restoring natural areas.

At the same time, they highlight the importance of adopting more holistic, equitable Whole-Earth style approaches when designing long-term strategies for orangutan conservation. The article Restoring the red ape in a whole- or half-earth context is available in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation.

Publication of this article was sponsored by the SSC–Oryx Partnership Fund.

The paper is available at



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