More than 100,000 Critically Endangered orangutans have been killed in Borneo since 1999, research has revealed. Scientists who carried out a 16-year survey on the island described the figure as "mind-boggling".
Deforestation, driven by logging, oil palm, mining and paper mills, continues to be the main culprit. But the research also revealed that animals were "disappearing" from areas that remained forested. This implied large numbers of orangutans were simply being slaughtered.
Dr Voigt and her colleagues say the animals are being targeted by hunters and are being killed in retaliation for crop-raiding - a threat that has been previously underestimated. "When these animals come into conflict with people on the edge of a plantation, they are always on the losing end. People will kill them. It's shocking and it's unnecessary. Orangutans might eat farmers' fruit, but they are not dangerous."
Research also showed that natural resources were still being exploited in Borneo "at an unsustainable rate". Deforestation alone, the researchers predict, could wipe out a further 45,000 orangutans over the next 35 years. The cultivation of oil palm, found in a wide variety of food products, is a well-known cause of that habitat loss.