Orangutans are great apes that inhabit the dense rainforests of Borneo (in Malaysia) and Sumatra (in Indonesia). The name orangutan is derived from an Indonesian word that literally means ‘people of the forest’. Orangutans share 96.4% of their DNA with humans, which makes them very intelligent. With strong hands and feet that function like hands, long arms and flexible hips, they are suited to a life in the canopy of the rainforests. Sadly, the future of these amazing animals is bleak, and they face certain extinction if nothing is done to arrest the drastic reduction in their numbers. From a population of about 230,000 just one hundred years ago, today there are approximately 7,500 orangutans in Sumatra and 41,000 orangutans in Borneo left in the wild. According to some researchers, we are losing more than 2000 orangutans every year.
Habitat loss is the single biggest threat to the orangutans. The rainforest continues to be cleared at an alarming rate for timber and pulp which is used in the paper industry. There are laws to protect orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia and also internationally, but the destructive human activities of illegal logging, farming (especially palm oil plantations) and mining continue unabated. Other factors that are contributing to their precarious situation include forest fires, illegal pet trade and diseases like Hepatitis B. Here are 5 things you can do to help save the Orangutan:
Educate your family friends and the community about the plight of the orangutans and what can be done to preserve their habitat
It is important to educate your family and friends about the serious situation that faces the orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo. There are numerous educational documentaries and videos on the subject that you can show them. You can also join other animal activists in the campaign against destruction of the rainforests. There are also conservation websites which detail various ways that you can chip in to help the orangutans.
Boycott foods, cosmetics and other products made using palm oil
When people buy food and the many cosmetic products that are manufactured using palm oil, they are directly affecting the lives of orangutans and other endangered animals that live in Sumatra and Borneo. Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, and the increasing demand for the oil has accelerated the destruction of the rain forests throughout the world in order to make way for the profitable palm tree plantations. Malaysia and Indonesia, which together account for up to eighty five percent of the world’s palm oil production, have been most affected by this.
Adopt an orangutan virtually
There are conservancies that offer innovative ways of learning about orangutans and how you can support the conservation initiative. For instance, with only 120 dollars a year, you can virtually adopt a wild orangutan in Borneo’s Kutai National Park. You can give a virtual adoption packet to an animal-loving family member or friend. This is a fun way of fundraising while at the same time learning about orangutan conservation.
By recycling or purchasing recycled products, you reduce your overall carbon footprint and contribute in conserving the rainforests and our planet as a whole. Other important lifestyle changes that you can make to help conserve the environment include driving less, buying products with less packaging and generally throwing away less waste.
Use the social media to post and share information
Many, if not all, of the organizations that engage in orangutan advocacy have Twitter and Facebook accounts. By following their pages and sharing the posts and photos in their pages, you will stay abreast of the latest important issues and news relating to orangutan advocacy and conservation efforts.