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Gigantopithecus blacki extinction and human threats to Tapanuli orangutans: lessons from past and present challenges



This letter explores the historical challenges faced by Gigantopithecus blacki, a colossal ape, during the Pleistocene period in southern China, emphasizing its extinction approximately 300,000 years ago due to climate change. Main body: Drawing parallels, the research sheds light on the imminent threat to Tapanuli orangutans in Southeast Asia, underscoring the role of human intervention. The paradox emerges as Homo sapiens, despite claiming wisdom, becomes a significant threat through climate change and deforestation, exacerbated by the dissemination of scientific misinformation. Conclusion: The text urges humanity to reorient its development, emphasizing the need for responsible environmental stewardship to ensure a sustainable and balanced future for both Earth and its primate inhabitants.


Gigantopithecus blacki, a colossal ape measuring 3 m and weighing up to 300 kg, defied the challenges of the Ice Age (Pleistocene period) for more than 2 million years in southern China, feeding exclusively on plants. However, approximately 300,000 years ago, it faced extinction due to climate change, as recorded in the journal Nature, which may offer us important lessons (Basin and Provinces 2023). Simultaneously, the orangutan survived the same events but now faces an imminent threat due to human intervention. The Tapanuli orangutan, being the most endangered species of large primates, is at an even greater risk than anticipated, according to a recent study (Meijaard et al. 2021).

Main body

These events in Southeast Asia highlight that even robust and adaptable primates are not invulnerable in the face of climate change and habitat degradation. The paradox emerges when we observe that Homo sapiens, the self-styled wise man, is the main agent of these threats, contributing significantly to climate change and deforestation. The dissemination of scientific fake news by some incautious 'sapiens' denying the serious climate phenomena aggravates the understanding of the challenges faced, as is currently the case with the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest (Silva 2023). To avoid a fate like that of its Asian cousins, humanity urgently needs to reorient its development. Scientists have long been warning about the limits of natural resources and the potentially irreversible consequences of climate change.


It is imperative that we give credence to these warnings by fundamentally changing our relationship with natural resources and with nature itself. Only in this way will we be able to avoid irreversibility that could culminate in our own extinction, guaranteeing a sustainable and balanced future for the Earth and avoiding the fate of our cousins.

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  • Basin B, Provinces H (2023) The demise of the giant ape Gigantopithecus blacki. Nature.

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  • Meijaard E, Nimatullah S, Dennis R, Sherman J, Onrizal, Wich SA (2021) The historical range and drivers of decline of the Tapanuli orangutan. PLoS One 16:1–23

  • Silva HM (2023) Brazilian amazon: environmental and economic tragedy. Rev Sertão Sustentável 5:90–99

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HMS participated of all the letter’s elaboration.

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Correspondence to Heslley Machado Silva.

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Silva, H.M. Gigantopithecus blacki extinction and human threats to Tapanuli orangutans: lessons from past and present challenges. Bull Natl Res Cent 48, 39 (2024).

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