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Orangutans are a type of ape found only on the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. These animals are one of humankind’s closest relatives, sharing almost 97 percent of our DNA. In their natural forest homes, they spend nearly all of their time in the trees: exploring their environment, caring for their loved ones, and foraging for food, which can include tree bark, leaves, insects, and over 300 types of fruit. Orangutans are very well-adapted to their arboreal lifestyle and have demonstrated an impressive level of problem-solving ability. In times of water scarcity, they will frequently chew up leaves to make a sponge that will soak up water from tree cavities. When it rains, they have been seen making umbrellas for themselves out of large leaves. They are also known to have fashioned a variety of tools to aid them in their search for food.
According to The Orangutan Conservancy, these amazing animals could be described as having “four hands instead of two hands and two feet.” The organization cautions that this “makes them graceful and agile while climbing through the trees but it makes walking on the ground somewhat slow and awkward. That is why the orangutan is at a great disadvantage on the ground and why the orangutan rarely comes down from the treetops. Their food is there, their home is there, and they are safer there.”
Sadly, the orangutans’ natural way of life is under severe threat because of human activity: namely, deforestation caused by illegal logging and the world’s relentless demand for palm oil.
How Human Demand for Palm Oil is Changing Life for Orangutans
Palm oil is found in approximately half of consumer products, from snack foods to cosmetics to cleaning products, and few everyday consumers truly understand exactly why it is such a problem. As acres upon acres of Sumatran and Bornean rainforest are cleared to make way for palm oil plantation (approximately three hundred football fields’ worth every hour!), orangutans and other animals who depend on these forests for their very existence are faced with the very real prospect of extinction. In fact, it is estimated that at least 1,000 orangutans are directly killed for their presence on palm plantations every year.
Unless we make an effort to curb our demand for palm oil NOW, this is how orangutans may be forced to live in the future.
With their natural rainforest habitat being systematically destroyed, those orangutans who are rescued from death by well-meaning humans have become increasingly dependent on our assistance, rather than living as nature intended. A number of incredible organizations have stepped up to care for orphaned and injured orangutans, and their dedication is awe-inspiring … but as the above picture demonstrates, many other orangutans are being forced to live as pets.
It is truly heartbreaking to think that unless we wake up and take action to save their homes, these intelligent and cognitively sophisticated animals could end up living a sad, restricted kind of life to which their species is ill-adapted.
Here is how you can help orangutans today:
- Share this post to raise awareness of the problem with palm oil.
- Read up on some of our previous articles to gain more information about the problem, and find out how you can stop contributing to the demand:
- Deforestation, Human Rights Abuse, Animal Extinction and the One Industry That Unites Them All
- Why You Should Avoid Palm Oil, and How to Do It
- Put Down the Palm Oil: Planet-Friendly Alternatives For Your Home
- Snacking Smarter: How Rethinking Palm Oil Can Save Animals and the Environment
- How to Wean Yourself Off Palm Oil
- Support some of these fantastic organizations who work day in and day out to rescue and rehabilitate the orangutans whose lives have been devastated by palm oil production:
Image source: Paul Hilton/Instagram