Newly-Discovered Orangutan Species ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ By Company’s Goldmine

by : Lucy Connolly on : 06 Sep 2020 18:42
Newly-Discovered Orangutan Species 'Being Driven To Extinction' By Company's GoldmineWikimedia/Needpix

An orangutan species that was only discovered three years ago is already being driven to extinction by a British company’s goldmine, a wildlife charity has warned.

The Tapanuli orangutan is the rarest great ape in the world, with only an estimated 800 of the primates remaining. The discovery of the animal in 2017 made it the first new great ape species to be discovered for almost a century.


Despite its rarity and the fact that environmentalists are doing everything in their power to protect the ape, its very existence is being threatened by Jardine Matheson – a multinational conglomerate that comprises a group of companies with extensive operations across Asia and the world, and which owns the Mandarin Oriental hotel chain.

Rally to save the Tapanuli Orangutan in ChinaPA Images

As the Tapanuli orangutan is found only in the Batang Toru Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, which just so happens to sit on top of a gold mine being mined by Jardine Matheson, environmentalists are warning the animal is in grave danger.

Jardine Matheson bought the Martabe goldmine in 2018, and in the two years since has expanded it further and further into the habitat of the orangutan. As a result, the company has destroyed 8.67 hectares of the forest since purchasing the mine in 2018 – just months after the discovery of the rare orangutan.


Even before then, the Martabe mine was having a detrimental effect on the area, having already destroyed at least 27.38 hectares of Tapanuli orangutan forest habitat.

Tapanuli orangutanWikimedia

The damage is so bad scientists have predicted that if just eight of the great apes are killed each year, the genetic diversity of the primate will decline over the next decade to the point that it dies out.

Non-governmental organisation Mighty Earth, which has been investigating the destruction the Martabe mine in recent months, is now calling on Jardine Matheson to stop any further destruction of the forest.


‘I think this is an issue of corporate responsibility,’ campaign director Amanta Hurotwitz told The Telegraph. ‘You have a mine in the habitat of the most endangered species of great ape… If you are going to profit off this species you have a responsibility to take action to protect the species.’

Tapanuli orangutanWikimedia

International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith agrees, saying the company has a ‘moral obligation’ to stop degrading the environment in such a manner.

He explained:


The UK is taking real action to combat climate change, from our new proposed law to clamp down on illegal deforestation to doubling the UK’s International Climate Finance spend to help developing countries.

British companies are success stories across the world, but with this comes a clear moral obligation to help protect the environment wherever they leave a footprint.

Lord GoldsmithPA Images

A spokesperson for Jardine Matheson disputed these claims, saying the mine is operated in accordance with government guidelines and local environmental laws. ‘The mine has not encroached on areas categorised as protected forest and has been clear on its commitment to protecting biodiversity,’ the spokesperson said.

They added that the 8.67 hectares of the forest the company has destroyed since purchasing the mine equates to less than half of 1% of the area covered by the protected forest of Batang Toru.


However, Hurotwitz doesn’t believe the company is doing enough, saying it needs to ‘work with scientists to mitigate the damage that has been done’.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, Extinction, Indonesia, Now, orangutan, Science


Mighty Earth and 1 other
  1. Mighty Earth


  2. The Telegraph

    Revealed: Newly-discovered orangutan species is 'being driven to extinction' by British firm’s goldmine