Orang-utans are disappearing

Date: 2015/12/09


WAZA stresses the effects of Climate Change on species extinction


Gland, Switzerland (09/12/2015): The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums urges leaders at COP 21 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to take immediate action on reducing carbon emissions that seriously affect not only humans but species at large.


"We are currently facing the biggest species extinction crisis which is caused by human activities. Climate change impact is possibly the biggest threat to animals and plants,  therefore immediate action is required in order not to lose more species like the charismatic orang-utan; the zoo and aquarium community is ready to assist wherever possible.", says Dr Gerald Dick, WAZA Executive Director.


One of the most urgent and imminent examples is the plight of the orang-utan. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the charismatic orang-utan is currently listed as endangered. They are a species of great apes that are endemic only to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Over 100 years ago, there were well over 200,000 orang-utans in the wild. Today, there are only ¼ left of these magnificent animals in the wild.[1]


Major Threats

The major threats facing orang-utans include; habitat loss due to the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations;  forest fires which are linked to the El Niño climatic event that has been occurring repeatedly in the last few decades, and is associated with severe droughts and forest fires: and thirdly, habitat exploitation. [2]


It was recently determined that the disastrous fires in Indonesia were proliferated by the El Niño event. According to recent reports, one third of the world's population of orang-utans is at risk from the current fires in Sumatra & Borneo. El Niño's heightened intensity might directly be linked to global warming. These facts are even more disturbing due to the fact that the fires are in peatlands.  Not only are tropical peatlands significant carbon storage areas, but when they burn they emit up to 10 times more methane than fires in non-peatlands.[3] Additionally, the fires on peatland will continue to smoulder for months. A rise in the number of forest fires that break out in Indonesia is a result of the El Niño event bringing drier weather to these peatlands that are already at risk.

The El Niño - Climate Change Connection

It has been determined that the current extreme El Niño is now the strongest ever recorded, smashing the previous record from 1997-8. These latest figures were released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). El Niño occurs when warm water that has piled up around Australia and Indonesia spills out east across the Pacific Ocean towards the Americas, taking the rain with it.[4] Studies done by researchers at the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, have shown in their research that extreme impacts from El Niño will amplify in frequency this century as a result of climate change. [5]


Changing weather patterns and rising sea levels are clearly affecting species globally with some regions and species affected more by climate change than others. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is greatly concerned about the effects of such destructive occurrences.  WAZA members are presently engaged in conservation work in this region and therefore implore our world leaders to examine the research available to us and endeavor to keep the global warming level to under 2° C to make the world a safer place for species, and humans alike. WAZA encourages all parties to confront climate challenge ambitiously and with urgency.


Share our infographic: Orang-utans are disappearing: Climate change is speeding up the process




The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is a global organisation that strives to harmonise the principles, policies, practices and strategy for zoos and aquariums worldwide. WAZA is the unifying representative of the global zoos and aquarium community and works in partnership with international conservation organisations such as IUCN and other non-government organisations to advocate for high standards of animal welfare and to achieve conservation in Zoos and Aquariums and in nature www.waza.org


WAZA Facts and Figures

Attracting more than 700 million visitors a year, the world zoo and aquarium community has the unique potential to attract, inspire and mobilise public engagement for species and habitat conservation. The Biodiversity is Us campaign allows visitors to make a direct connection between people and wildlife. Zoos and aquariums educate the public on biodiversity conservation, and hence promote environmentally sustainable development and social and political change. Some of the revenue produced by the zoos and aquariums is dedicated to field conservation projects around the world. Collectively, the amount contributed to these efforts by zoos and aquariums matches or surpasses the contributions of other leading global conservation organisations.


With 70% of the world's population living in cities by 2030, zoos and aquariums offer a vital connection to the importance of biodiversity in our lives.



Committing to Conservation
The World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy, Committing to Conservation, underlines the importance of the role zoos and aquariums have to instill in visitors a strong sense of excitement and a desire to care for life on earth which in return would create a solid platform for fulfilling the promise to care for and conserve wildlife. The 2015 World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy is integrated more effectively with other global conservation strategies and initiatives, motivating zoos and aquariums to collaborate, rather than compete with other like-minded organisations and agencies.

Download the Strategy: http://bit.ly/1LFl3R5

Caring for Wildlife

Caring for Wildlife - The World Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare Strategy, provides guidance on how to establish and maintain acceptable animal welfare standards and related best practice within this framework. The strategy provides a structured approach for assessing and managing animal welfare through accreditation, staff awareness, exhibit design and environmental enrichment. The strategy incorporates animal welfare into the conservation activities of zoos and aquariums, such as breeding programmes and programmes for the reintroduction of animals into the wild.


Download the Strategy:  http://bit.ly/1OO3gby




Hyatt Antognini Amin, Communications Executive for WAZA


(0041) 22 999 07 93




[1] www.worldwildlife.org/species/orang-utan

[2] www.iucnredlist.org/details/17975/0

[3] ecowatch.com/2015/11/01/orang-utans-fires-sumatra-borneo/

[4] newscientist.com/article/dn28595-massive-el-Niño-sweeping-globe-is-now-the-biggest-ever-recorded/

[5] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v502/n7472/full/nature12580.html


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  • Notes to Editors

    WAZA is the unifying organisation for the world zoo and aquarium community  The world zoo and aquarium community welcomes over 700 million visitors annually. WAZA members are leading zoos, aquariums,  associations, affiliate organisations  and corporate partners from around the world; together, we are 'United for Conservation'.