Orangutans are a critically endangered species – unfortunately, most of us are in part responsible for this fact, although very few recognize it. The rainforest across the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, the native habitat of orangutans, has declined by over 80 percent in the past two decades. This loss of habitat is a massive blow to the species and the cause is an ingredient that can be found in around 50 percent of consumer goods, such as beauty products and snacks – palm oil.
It is estimated that around 300 football fields of rainforest are leveled to make room for palm oil plantations every hour. Once their home is destroyed, orangutans are forced onto palm plantations where they are seen as “pests” and are either shot point blank or captured and sold into the illegal wildlife trade.
Scientists estimate that these wonderful animals, who share around 97 percent of the same DNA as humans, could be fully extinct from the wild in the next 20 years – that is, if their habitat continues to be senselessly destroyed at such shocking rate.
Conservation photojournalist Paul Hilton shared a touching photo of little rescued orangutans who just got a second chance at life after being orphaned. These are just a few of the countless baby orangutans who lose their mothers and home every day because of the palm oil industry.
The mothers of these beautiful animals have been killed by poachers or plantation workers. Thankfully, their dedicated caretakers at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program quarantine center in Medan are helping them on their road to recovery. Once they are in a good shape, strong, and capable of being independent, they will begin their new life within the Leuser Ecosystem.
The Leuser Ecosystem, a forest area on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, covers more than 2.6 million hectares and is, as Hilton emphasizes, “the last place on Earth where elephants, tigers, rhino, and orangutans still run wild”.
The young orangutans, their expressions amazingly human-like, got the invaluable chance to have something which should be granted to every wild animal – freedom. But the efforts to keep the species out of danger and prevent a further disaster to their habitat is only beginning.
Click here to learn how to cut palm oil out of your everyday life and make conscious choices that will help the rainforest and orangutans.
Image source: Paul Hilton/Instagram