A new species of orangutan has been discovered in the remote jungles of Indonesia, immediately becoming the world’s most endangered great ape, researchers have said.
“It’s the first declaration of a new great ape species in about 100 years,” Ian Singleton, co-author of the study and director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.
The species, called Tapanuli orangutan, lives in the Batang Toru forest on Sumatra island, and numbers only about 800 in total, making it the most endangered great ape in the world, Singleton added.
Until recently, scientists thought there were only two genetically distinct types of orangutan, Bornean and Sumatran.
But in 1997, researchers at the Australian National University discovered an isolated population of the great apes in Batang Toru, south of the known habitat for Sumatran orangutans, and scientists began to study the group to see if it was a unique species.
Researchers studied the DNA, skulls and teeth of 33 orangutans killed in human-animal conflict before concluding that they had indeed discovered a new species, giving it the scientific name Pongo tapanuliensis.