This post is about our joyfully named cousin in the genus Pongo. I mean, of course, orangutans. The rest of the story is far less joyful. The intention of this post is not to depress, though it is indeed upsetting writing about it. Did you know that orangutan mothers and their young stay together for as long as six to seven years, and that they use tools and have opposable fingers and toes, like humans do? Orangutan babies that come to rescue centres are often severely depressed and most have lost their mothers to traumatic causes. They require lots of love and care before they recover.
The reason these gentle foragers are already endangered and are dying in gruesome ways- directly as well as indirectly- at human hands- is deforestation of their natural habitat, and of course, the illegal pet trade, bounties being set on their heads, and people killing them to eat them.
The pictures in the links below are upsetting. But they are part of the reality.
- This orangutan in East Borneo died after he was tied to a post. He was tied to it with a rope round his neck in December 2010. He died in February 2011, just a few days before this blog post. Look at his sad eyes as he sits there as if he is nothing, as if he is just a piece of rubbish discarded to die.
- This baby orangutan in Indonesia lost his mother to a severe beating. The pitiful thing is how he clings to her half-dead (dead?) body. Another tiny baby orangutan huddles in a cardboard box- his mother was beaten to death with iron rods and hacked with machetes in order to kidnap him.
- Rescue teams have found orang utans beaten unconcious and buried alive, butchered with machetes, bludgeoned to death with iron bars and wooden planks, and doused with petrol and burnt alive.
- Each day, the killing continues.
What can you do? So please, if you can do something- a fundraiser, a charity walk or run, or can sponsor an animal, anything, please consider a conservation charity or an orangutan rescue. Here are a few organisations doing a fantastic job. Oh, and please be alive to the dangers of palm oil.
- The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, which has done remarkable work for rainforest regeneration. If you do one thing today, please watch Willie Smits‘ brilliant speech on reforestation and working with the local community to ensure that they benefit from and are invested in the reforestation. You can follow this modern-day hero on Twitter at @williesmits and on Facebook.
- The Orangutan Land Trust. You can watch the equally heroic and inspiring Lone Drøscher Nielsen at the Youtube page here and follow her here on Twitter at @Orangutanland.
- Orangutan Outreach.
- Make an orangutan’s day! Adopt an orangutan at Primates Helping Primates.
- The WSPA Orangutan Rescue.
And here, in a shameless attempt to tug at your heartstrings, are some terribly cute orangutan babies. I would say 1:50 minutes in is the cutest scene, but that’s not true because the rest of it is equally cute.