Orang-utans were hunted relentlessly throughout the majority of their South East Asian range, their large size and slow movements making them easy targets for hunters (8). However, the main threat to orang-utans today is loss of habitat (7). In the past twenty years 80 percent of orang-utan habitat has been lost to illegal logging, gold mining and conversion to permanent agriculture, in particular, palm oil plantations. What is special about these animals is their unique vulnerability to exploitation. Much of this may be attributed to their extremely long inter-birth interval, typically eight years, making them the slowest breeding primates on earth (7). Forest fires raged through much of Borneo in 1997 and 1998 and it is estimated that around one third of the island's orang-utan population was lost at this time (8). Orang-utans that wander into palm oil plantations and other human-inhabited areas may also be captured for the illegal pet trade, although this is a by-product of shrinking habitat and not a main issue (7). Recent political instability in the region has caused an increase in illegal logging in protected areas, and an increase in the capture of infants for the illegal pet trade. The population of Sumatran orang-utans was reported to have fallen by 46 percent from 1992 to 1999 (1)
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