Introduction | Threats | Solutions | What
can You do?
Umbrella species for rainforest conservation
An organism is considered an umbrella species when its existential requirements
are believed to encapsulate the needs of the largest numbers of species
in the particular ecosystem type under consideration.
Orangutans are extraordinary sensitive with regard to habitat disturbance.
They’re specialized in feeding from particular communities of tree
species that occur in patches which may take up no more than 50% of larger
forests’ expanse (usually 35%). As a consequence of this sensitivity
the Orangutan can be considered a major representative of the biodiversity
of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The relationship between orangutans and their habitats is one of interdependence.
Orangutans act as seed dispersers and predators that help maintain the
species diversity of the forests they inhabit. For this reason, the presence
of orangutans is a good indicator of the biological diversity of Southeast
Asian rainforests. If orangutans are present at normal densities, then
the area is likely also to contain at least five other species of primates,
at least five species of hornbills, at least 50 different fruit-tree
species, and 15 liana species. Thus, orangutans are an excellent umbrella
species for rainforest conservation. This species’ requirements
with regard to area and habitat are wide enough that if orangutans were
made a focus of protective management, the biodiversity of species within
its range would also automatically be preserved.
The Sumatran and the
Bornean Orangutan were classified as being Critically Endangered and
Endangered respectively in 2008 (in The IUCN Red List
of Threatened Species, www.iucnredlist.org).
A taxon is Critically Endangered/Endangered
when it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in
by any of the following criteria:
1. Population reduction in the form of
an observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction of at least 80%/50%
over the last 10 years or three generations. A reduction of at least
80% projected or suspected
to be met within the next 10 years or three generations
2. Extent of occurrence estimated to be less than 100 km2/5000 km2,
area of occupancy estimated to be less than 10 km2/500 km2, estimates
area of occupancy severely fragmented or known to exist at only a single
3. Population estimated to number less than 250/2500 mature individuals
4. Quantitative analysis showing the probability of extinction in the
wild is at least 50%/20% within 10/20 years or three/five generations,
whichever is the longer.
Travel advice for tourists
Orangutan sites play a major role in the conservation of the species
in Sumatra and Borneo. Travellers can visit orangutans
in these sites and their visit helps maintain local
jobs and the enhancement of environmental values across locals. Some of
the orangutan sites that can be visited in Indonesia and Malaysia
> Ketambe Village (Kutacane, Aceh, Sumatra); a rustic place where you can
see wild orangutans in their natural habitat.
> Bukit Lawang (Medan, North Sumatra, Sumatra); a touristic place with
wild, semi-wild and rehabilitant orangutans. Be aware and well informed,
many guides fail the rules
> Tanjung Puting (Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, Borneo); with wild,
semi-wild and rehabilitant orangutans.
> BOS Samboja Lestari Project (Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Borneo);
a remarkable reintroduction programme.
(Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo).
Please follow the rules below when visiting one of the sites:
1. Take only local guides (stimulate the local economy).
2. Do not disturb the orangutans by banging trees or yelling (next time you still
see them, right?).
3. Do not feed the orangutans (they have to find their own food in their habitat
in order to survive independently).
4. Do not come closer than 10 meters from the orangutans (disease transmission!).
5. Do not make pictures of the orangutans with flash.
6. If you see your guide failing one of these above mentioned rules please let
7. Do enjoy seeing the orangutans moving, playing,
feeding and building nests.