Getting Wild With… Orangutans!

By Kaylany Minaya, age 10 and IndyKids staff

Orangutans are apes which are found deep in the forests of Indonesia. Orangutans only live on two islands, Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia; however, 100 years ago, they could be found all around Southeast Asia. With an arm span of up to seven feet, they have no problem moving through trees. They can weigh more than 90 kilograms, making them the heaviest tree-dwelling animal. Orangutans spend 80% of their time in trees and can live up to 40 years. There are three species of orangutan: the Bornean, the Sumatran and the newly confirmed species (as of 2017), the Tapanuli. However, there are just 104,700 orangutans left in total.

These beautiful orange creatures are threatened by deforestation, where trees are cleared usually for agriculture or infrastructure purposes. Many forests are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is often used in the food industry and can be found in chips, peanut butter and pastries, as well as thousands of other items. 

Orangutans are also often killed by hunters. They are big and slow and are easy targets. Many are killed for food or because they have destroyed a farmer’s crops. Sometimes, orangutans will eat crops because they can’t find any food in the forest.

If nothing is done to save these friendly giants, they will soon go extinct forever. The World Wildlife Fund has been working on the conservation of orangutans since the 1970s. It attempts to conserve orangutan’s habitats, prevent poaching and promote sustainable agriculture. The Orangutan Project has also been working to safeguard the remaining rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

We can all try to help orangutans by seeking eco-friendly replacements for palm oil, such as olive and grape seed oils. These animals need our help if they are going to survive and not meet the same fate as the Tasmanian tiger and the dodo.

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