How can we save orangutans from extinction?
Orangutans sadly face the threat of extinction for various reasons. Their population has drastically declined over the past decades. The World Wildlife Fund reports that 100 years ago more than 230,000 orangutans were living throughout Southeast Asia.
Those numbers have dwindled to around 41,000 Bornean orangutans and 7,500 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild. Our everyday actions can directly affect them, be it positively or negatively.
But how? How can we save orangutans from extinction, and why? Today we are going to present to you some incredible facts about orangutans and how we can save them(1).
Why save orangutans?
Among the arboreal animals (tree-dwelling), orangutans are the largest. Their fruit-eating and seed-dispersing behavior are of great ecological significance, helping to shape and preserve tropical rainforests.
They are a keystone species. If orangutans disappear, this signals the disappearance of thousands of other animals and plant species in fragile tropical rain forest habitats.
Conversely, by saving orangutans and their habitats, we save those same species that co-exist with them. Orangutans, among other great apes and humans, are among the most intelligent beings to have ever evolved on land.
As individuals, they display unique and rich personalities. They provide models for human behavior, in terms of physiology, cognition, and evolution.
They are among the closest primate relatives to us, sentient beings that deserve respect and life.
Will orangutans go extinct?
Unless action is taken to preserve forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans will be extinct from the face of the world within 10 years, a conservation charity has warned(2).
The Bornean orangutan was officially listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) last month.
This means that the Bornean orangutan has joined the only other kind, the Sumatran orangutan, in this dire classification. According to the IUCN’S Red List of species, the Bornean orangutan population fell by more than 60% between 1950 and 2010, and it is expected to fall by a further 22% by 2025.
What can we do to help?
Through donations, you can support organizations such as the Health in Harmony, which is an institute that works towards protecting orangutans and their habitats.
These donations help them in protecting and reforesting certain areas such as the Gunung Palung National Park, which is the home to one of the last remaining viable orangutan populations.
Buy FSC-certified products since the FSC monitors sustainable forestry practices. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council certified label (FSC) on wood products such as furniture and paper products.
Avoid products made with unsustainable palm oil. Rainforests, sadly, are often cut down to make room for palm oil plantations, causing orangutans to lose their homes.
Palm oil is used in a myriad of products, however, your choices can make a difference. Choose products made from deforestation-free palm oil, and put pressure on companies that aren’t responsible for sourcing their materials(3).
There are many alternatives to products that contain palm oil but it can be hard to tell if these items truly contain palm oil. It can appear on labels under the following terms:
Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hydrated Palm Glycerides, Ethyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmitoyl Alcohol.
Making small changes in your life can conserve natural resources. You can do so by recycling, less driving, purchasing products with less packaging, and throwing away less waste in general. All of these practices can help in reducing the world’s load on its limited resources.
One last important thing is to talk with your friends and family and make them aware of such things. Explain to them why those simple everyday actions can make the world a better place, especially for endangered species such as the orangutans.
Did you know?
– Orangutans share nearly 97% of our DNA. The word orangutan comes from the Malay words “orang hutan“, meaning “human of the forest“.
– Female orangutans give birth about once every eight years. The babies stay with their mother for six to seven years, until they’ve learned the necessary skills to survive on their own. Like us, the babies form a very special bond with their mothers.
– Orangutans generally have long lives – in captivity they can live for 50-60 years, and in the wild, 30-40 years.