Only around 800 Tapanuli orangutans remain, but their continued survival is now at risk as building work for the Batang Toru destroys their habitat in the forests of Sumatra.
The developer behind the project is China's State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC), parent company of Edinburgh-headquartered renewables firm Red Rock Power, which owns wind farms across Scotland.
International environmental charity Mighty Earth has launched a petition calling for construction work to be suspended until a full assessment of the environmental impacts can be carried out and a plan put in place to safeguard the orangutans.
Now – as Scotland's new biodiversity strategy has been unveiled at the UN’s COP15 summit on biodiversity, being hosted by China in Canada – campaigners want Ms Sturgeon to step in.
“It’s clear Scotland’s First Minister cares deeply about protecting wildlife both at home and overseas,” said Amanda Hurowitz, senior director for Asia at Mighty Earth. “Now she needs to take the lead on saving the world's rarest ape, the Tapanuli orangutan.
“She brought Red Rock Power and SDIC to Scotland and must be aware of the damage the Batang Toru dam is doing to Tapanuli habitat. It’s slicing through the middle of their forest home in Sumatra, dividing populations and heightening the risk of extinction.
“With China as host of the biodiversity COP, the time is now for the First Minister to use her influence and intervene to stop the dam. Does she want her administration to be forever linked to a project that wiped a great ape species, some of our closest relations, off the face of the earth?”
Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth, shadow secretary for net zero, energy and rural affairs, has backed the calls.
“Red Rock Power is providing much-needed renewable energy for Scotland,” he said. “But at the same time, it's Chinese parent company SDIC is pressing ahead with a hydroelectric dam in a fragile ecosystem in Sumatra, threatening not just orangutan lives, but those of thousands of local people.”
Mr Smyth added: “The Batang Toru dam project is dangerous, toxic and needs to be stopped.”