Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

New Dam Could Be 'Ecological Armageddon' for Rare Orangutan

Animals
Tapanuli orangutan. Tim Laman / CC BY 4.0

Less than a year ago, scientists announced an exciting discovery—a new species of orangutan, called the Tapanuli orangutan, living in Batang Toru in Sumatra, Indonesia, The Conversation reported.


But an article published in Current Biology Thursday has some sobering news for the newly discovered ape: The "critically-endangered species" is at serious risk for extinction.

"This is just the seventh species of Great Ape ever discovered, and it could go extinct right before our eyes," study co-author and University of Indonesia Prof. Jatna Supriatna said in a James Cook University press release about the new study.

There are fewer than 800 of the rare apes squeezed into a habitat less than a tenth the size of Sydney, the release noted.

"In forty years of research, I don't think I've ever seen anything this dramatic," James Cook University professor and research team leader William Laurance said in the press release.

The Tapanuli orangutan is under threat for many reasons, including deforestation, poaching and road-building, but researchers said the most immediate threat is a large dam being built by China called the Batang Toru project, which will flood large parts of their habitat and disrupt others with roads and powerlines.

"This is a critical test for China and Indonesia. They say they want sustainable development—but words are cheap," Laurance said in the press release.

"Without urgent action, this could be ecological Armageddon for one of our closest living relatives," he continued.

In another article for The Conversation, Laurance explained the dam was part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that seeks to build roads, ports, railways and energy projects in 70 countries. Laurance said that, while the BRI projects were reviewed by China's National Development and Reform Commission until 2015, that body really only had direct control over projects funded by the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China. But most projects will have multiple, international funding sources.

"It will bring sizeable economic gains for some, but in nearly 40 years of working internationally, I have never seen a program that raises more red flags," Laurance wrote.

He mentioned working with Chinese colleagues who had withdrawn their authorship of scientific papers that criticized the BRI.

There is currently a debate in Beijing about environmental standards for the BRI, with larger corporations that face more liability demanding tougher standards and smaller companies lobbying for looser ones.

The Tapanuli orangutans threatened by the project are one of three orangutan species. Compared to the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, they have larger canines and smaller skulls, scientists reported in the 2017 Conversation article.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Dominion Resources' coal-fired power plant located in central Virginia beside the James River. Edbrown05 / CC BY-SA 2.5

Corporations that flouted environmental regulations and spewed pollutants into the air and dumped them into waterways will not be required to pay the fines they agreed to during the pandemic, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
The Ministry of Trade issued a regulation revoking its decision from February to no longer require Indonesian timber companies to obtain export licenses that certify the wood comes from legal sources. BAY ISMOYO / AFP / Getty Images

By Hans Nicholas Jong

The Indonesian government has backed down from a decision to scrap its timber legality verification process for wood export, amid criticism from activists and the prospect of being shut out of the lucrative European market.

Read More Show Less

Viruses, pollution and warming ocean temperatures have plagued corals in recent years. The onslaught of abuse has caused mass bleaching events and threatened the long-term survival of many ocean species. While corals have little chance of surviving through a mass bleaching, a new study found that when corals turn a vibrant neon color, it's in a last-ditch effort to survive, as CBS News reported.

Read More Show Less
Harmful algal blooms, seen here at Ferril Lake in Denver, Colorado on June 30, 2016, are increasing in lakes and rivers across the U.S. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

During summer in central New York, residents often enjoy a refreshing dip in the region's peaceful lakes.

But sometimes swimming is off-limits because of algae blooms that can make people sick.

Read More Show Less
A group of doctors prepared to treat coronavirus patients in Brazil. SILVIO AVILA / AFP via Getty Images

More than 40 million doctors and nurses are in, and they are prescribing a green recovery from the economic devastation caused by the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shake hands during an event to launch the United Nations' Climate Change conference, COP26, in central London on February 4, 2020. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE / POOL / AFP / Getty Images

The U.K. government has proposed delaying the annual international climate negotiations for a full year after its original date to November 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Upcycled Food Association announced on May 19 that they define upcycled foods as ones that "use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment." Minerva Studio / Getty Images

By Jared Kaufman

Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.

Read More Show Less