On the Edge
On the Edge
Conservation and the Threat of Extinction
This chapter focuses on orangutans' decline toward extinction. The red apes' dwindling in numbers is underpinned by basic features of animals' biology. As with all apes, the natural reproduction rate of orangutans is slow. Females do not normally give birth before they are fifteen years old, and they typically have no more than four offspring in a lifetime, with intervals of several years between births. For tree dwellers with few natural predators, this basic biology is unproblematic and allows for the investment of time and energy in the socialization of a small number of children. Orangutans in the wild seem to have life spans of more than fifty years. The slow pace of reproduction, however, means that the loss of individuals through hunting or other catastrophes cannot quickly be made up for.
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