No more than 800 orangutans from this newly identified species remain


Outwardly, the Tapanuli orang utan bears a closer resemblance to its Bornean counterpart, with cinnamon-coloured fur that is frizzier than its Sumatran relative. "I am sure that they will be conserved", Wiratno said at a media gathering in Jakarta on Friday (03/11).

Scholars have identified a third orangutan species, the Tapanuli orangutan, that sits alongside the Pongo abelii, living on the island of Sumatra, and the Pongo pygmeaeus, endemic to Borneo, on the evolutionary tree. Orangutans typically do not live in high altitude areas.

Researchers named the Tapanuli orangutan Pongo tapanuliensis and described the new species in a paper published this week in the journal Current Biology.

Orangutan from Batang Toru, which scientists now say belongs to a new species. Scientists from the University of Zurich compared the skull to those of 33 adult males, and found consistent differences in the teeth and other parts of the face.

Prof Michael Krützen from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who is one of the lead researchers of the study told BBC News. Previously, scientists have recognized six great ape species: Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos.

Spread in an area of approximately 110,000 hectares, they are only found in the high-elevation Batang Toru forests in North Sumatra province.

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They found that the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans separated only much later, less than 700,000 years ago.

"The Batang Toru orangutans appear to be direct descendants of the initial orangutans that had migrated from mainland Asia, and thus constitute the oldest evolutionary line within the genus Pongo", Alexander Nater, also of UZH, said in another statement. Forests in the Batan Toru ecosystem are now being logged to make way for palm oil plantations, and there's even a plan to raise a new hydroelectric dam which could also impact the habitat of Tapanuli orangutans.

Erik Meijaard of the Australian National University said: "Great apes are among the best-studied species in the world". There is also a new species that needs protection. A recent survey suggests there are no more than 800 of the animals left, which means that the Tapanuli orangutan is the most endangered species of the great apes.

The analysis revealed that the new species split away from the others around 3.3 million years ago.

The team notes that we will need to quickly implement conservation measures to ensure that illegal logging, road construction, and other human threats don't impact the long-term survival of the species. That makes the Tapanuli population extremely vulnerable and the great ape species at the greatest risk of extinction. Scientists were able to study the remains of an ape killed by humans.