There’s are countless species of animals in the world that we’ve yet to discover, and there’s a good chance that there are even more that will be extinct before we get the chance. One huge example is the recently discovered Tapanuli orangutan. Until six months ago, humans didn’t even know that this great ape existed and now we are finding out that there’s only 800 of them left in the wild.
If those small numbers weren’t bad enough, now the orangutans must deal with the construction of a new damn in their habitat in northern Sumatra. If the dam is completed, it could result in the deforestation of their homes, and potentially wipe them out.
Researchers like orangutan expert Erik Meijaard are leading the charge on stopping the 510 megawatt dam in the fragile Batang Toru ecosystem. “Building the dam means chopping the orangutan population in half. You end up with two smaller populations, and these will have much-reduced chances of survival, because a small population is more likely to go extinct than a large one.”
When the Chinese dam building company, Sinohydro proposed the new dam to the Indonesian government they didn’t include an environmental management plan for the Tapanuli Orangutan. Still, the plan was approved and experts are concerned that “it will cause the extinction of two of the three sub-populations, and in addition, create access and destroy the most important habitat of the only viable population left.”