Did you know that we share about 97 percent of the same DNA with orangutans? That’s pretty darn similar. Just like us, orangutans share deep bonds with their babies and, with the exception of bachelor males who leave to find mates, orangutan families stay together for most of their lives. Orangutans can learn sign language, and can even use tools. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, both humans and orangutans are capable of empathy. However, it seems like our empathy is currently up for debate, considering the fact that we’ve nearly decimated the entire population of these amazing animals.

Just why do we need to amp up our empathy? Because orangutans are the innocent victims of high consumer demand for palm oil and the products that use it. As such, they’re losing their homes and their lives at an unprecedented rate. In fact, around 300 football fields of rainforest are leveled to make way for palm oil plantations every hour. As arboreal species, orangutans dependent on the lush rainforest environment for their livelihood. Without trees for sustenance, orangutans are forced onto palm oil plantations where they are viewed as “pests.” They’re often shot point blank or captured and sold into the illegal wildlife trade.

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But not all hope is lost. Many organizations are working to save the endangered orangutans. For example, this photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin captures a vet checking a five-year-old orangutan, who was rescued by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.

How We've Created A Living Hell for Orangutans – But How We Can Help

This photo reminds us that just as we can harm this species, we have the power to help them. And it’s imperative that we do; after all, if we continue at our current rate of palm oil production, scientists estimate they could be extinct from the wild in the next 20 years. We cannot let that happen. Let’s tap into our empathy and fight with everything we’ve got to save this magnificent species!

How You Can Help

Image Source: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images