JAKARTA — Onrizal Onrizal remembers hearing stories of human-like creatures living in the forest when he was growing up in Sungai Dareh, a town in western Sumatra, Indonesia. Legend had it that the creatures, called orang pendek, or “short people,” by the locals, disappeared from the forest in the 1970s. Today, Onrizal is a forestry researcher at North Sumatra University, where he studies the biodiversity of his native island, including the orangutans that likely inspired the stories of the orang pendek. And while the stories may just be stories, there’s still an element of truth to them: the creatures are indeed disappearing from the forest. In their latest study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, Onrizal and other researchers scoured the historical record for any references to the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), the most recently described orangutan species and also the most endangered great ape in the world. Today, fewer than 800 of the apes are known to inhabit a single site, the Batang Toru forest in North Sumatra. Their current habitat likely accounts for just 2.5% of the total range across which they were found up to 130 years ago, the researchers found. They estimate this range shrank from nearly 41,000 square kilometers (15,800 square miles) in the 1890s, to just 1,000 km2 (400 mi2) in 2016. To arrive at these figures, the researchers looked at rarely referenced colonial-era literature, such as newspapers, journals, books and museum records, from the early 1800s to 2009. They found these…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer