Scientists have identified an isolated population of orangutans living in Sumatra in Indonesia, which according to them are “among the most threatened great apes in the world”.
Scientists have long recognized six living species of great ape aside from humans: Sumatran and Bornean orangutan species, eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos.
Researchers say, there are only about 800 Tapanuli orangutans left.
Those that remain are also under threat from loss of lowland habitat and hunting, which makes this newly discovered species among the most threatened great ape species in the world.
“It isn’t an everyday event that we find a new species of great ape, so indeed the discovery is very exciting,” said Michael Krutzen of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, senior author of the study.
However, severely threatened by loss of habitat, hunting and other man-made developments, there are now 800 fewer Sumatran orangutans than previously thought, making them among the most threatened great ape species in the world, the researchers rued.
The orangutans, which were long considered as single species, were first identified in 1997 as two — one living in Sumatra and the other in Borneo — in 1997.
The new orangutan species lives in the Batang Toru area in North Sumatra, Indonesia.
While there had been rumors, no one was sure that this population of orangutans existed until 1997.
They live south of what had been the known range for Sumatran orangutans species.