Scientists have just discovered a new species of orangutan, and as quickly as they’ve been found, they could just as quickly become extinct.
Scientists have just added a new species of orangutan, Pongo tapanuliensis, to the great ape family. But this eighth great ape species in existence could go out of existence pretty fast if measures aren’t taken to protect them, as there are believed to be just 800 individuals alive today.
In the great ape family, there are two other orangutan species, Sumatran and Bornean, as well as two gorilla species, and then chimpanzees and bonobos, followed by humans. P. tapanuliensis lives in Indonesia, where they face tremendous threats from habitat loss and interbreeding.
The discovery happened thanks to an encounter in Novemebr 2013, when a male orangutan faced off with villagers in North Sumatra. The orangutan had mortal injuries, and afterwards scientists studied its skull and compared with with 34 other adult mamle orangutans. They found enough differences to suggest that it was a new species.
“Scientists have long recognized six living species of great ape aside from humans: Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos,” the statement from Cell Press reads. “But researchers reporting in Current Biology on November 2 have now made it seven, based on a collection of evidence showing that an isolated population of orangutans living in Sumatra is actually its own unique species. They’ve named the new species the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis).”