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HOW DID IT ALL START A Tapanuli orangutan and his mother in the Batang Toru rainforest. Full view

HOW DID IT ALL START

At least the sad death of the male orangutan «Raya» in November 2013 was not completely in vain. «Raya» provided the clue for the discovery of his conspecifics – the Tapanuli orangutans.

At the end of 2013 a seriously injured orangutan was taken to the rescue and rehabilitation station of our Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme SOCP. Our veterinarians noticed straightaway that he was fighting with death and tended to him immediately. Unfortunately they could not help him as the injuries and infections all over his body were to grave. We assumed that he was harmed by humans because he has been evacuated form a palm oil plantation. Later airgun projectiles were found in the body of the orangutan. Our suspicion was confirmed. Unfortunately it is a common case in Indonesia that humans use stark violence against hungry animals to protect their harvest.

Sadly we could not save «Raya» in the end. Nevertheless his death at least served science. For years there was an assumption that the orangutans in Batang Toru significantly differ from the other two known orangutan species. Only the scientific evidence was missing. But now «Rayas» skull and mandible gave valuable information. And finally: Comparisons with other orangutan skeletons proved the uniqueness of the Tapanuli orangutans.

The Tapanuli orangutan is now the most endangered great ape on earth. Now the animals live in Batang Toru, a rainforest in the north of the island of Sumatra. Together with an international research team we succeeded in scientifically describing a new orangutan species in November 2017. According to that the Tapanuli orangutan significantly differs in behaviour, genetics and anatomy from the Sumatran and Bornean orangutans.

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