Achievement well and truly unlocked. The palm oil industry can now add another badge to its Brownie sash, because the orangutan is now critically endangered.
At the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress this week, it was revealed that the gentlest of the great apes, the Bornean orangutan, has been relegated to ‘critically endangered’ status. Merely one step away from ‘extinct in the wild’, and two from the dodo.
According to the IUCN Red List, ‘critically endangered’ is wildlife speak for ‘presumed dead’. Species that are marked thus are in all probability already extinct, but require further confirmation before it can be officially declared extinct.
Hand-in-hand with conventional deforestation—for both timber extraction and land clearing for plantations—orangutan populations take a nosedive every now and again due to forest fires, which, or course, arise from deforestation in the first place. Illegal hunting, with over 3,000 orangutan killed every year on average, accounts for about 12 percent of overall population decrease.
The Bornean orangutan isn’t the only great ape on the verge of extinction. It joins another three of its great ape brethren on the critically endangered list, the Eastern gorilla, Western gorilla, and the Sumatran orangutan. The remaining two great ape species, the chimpanzee and bonobo, are listed as endangered.
Imagine how angry they’d be if karma was a thing.
Things aren’t faring so well with the helmeted hornbill, either. From the same Bucerotidae family as Sarawak’s rhinoceros hornbill, the Ultraman villain-looking bird is also on the critically endangered list
Its solid casque—unironically referred to as ‘ivory’—has been a precious commodity for centuries, being considered to be more valuable than jade during the height of the Ming Dynasty.
Sadly, it still is. Per kilogramme, it’s worth about three times as much as elephant ivory, and is still used for decorations and traditional medicine (the latter term increasingly becoming synonymous with a blatant refusal to acknowledge that Viagra exists).
Thankfully, the Malaysian Nature Society’s proposal to conserve the helmeted hornbill was approved by IUCN. Meaning that countries wherein the bird is native are now morally obligated to protect and conserve it.