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The Life of Orphaned Apes

Updated on June 13, 2019
Marma profile image

Marma has been a teacher for over seven years. She holds degrees from San Jose State, Santa Clara University, and Stanford University.

The Plight of the Orangutan

I was shocked to learn that orangutans are not only sweet but wildly in danger of extinction, probably within the next ten years. The threat of extinction of various animal species is not a new issue to me but I was particularly devastated by the brutality many of these orangutans and their small babies endure in the process of their near elimination. Therefore I felt quite compelled to write about it and increase awareness on the plight of these adorable and vulnerable creatures.

A rescued baby orangutan.

The Assault on Orangutans

Orangutans are an ape species and are very similar to humans, sharing 97% of our DNA. Many of the remaining orangutans today live in parts of Africa and Indonesia (Sumatra and Borneo).

I learned all this after casually browsing videos of cute animals on YouTube. I later landed on a few orangutan video clips and was shocked to learn that many orangutan mothers in Indonesia are being beaten or shot for their meat and for their babies (known as poaching). These adorable orangutan babies, who are quite dependent on their mothers for years, are then kept in horrible conditions as pets or sold on the black market for a considerable price.

Aside from being shot by poachers, the habitat of these endangered primates is being decimated at an alarming rate. As orangutans are mainly arboreal, they make their home in the rain forests, which are being burned or logged down.

What was even more disheartening was watching videos of rescuers in Sumatra and Borneo rescuing baby orangutans from homes where they were kept as pets. Often, these orangutans were chained outside, kept in boxes or trapped in small cages. This affects their ability to grow properly and develop their necessary forest skills. They were not coddled and care for as dogs usually are in the U.S. It was very painful for me to see the way these creatures are treated as though they have no feelings or worth.

Rescuing These Precious Orphans

Fortunately, there are still humane people out in the world and some are forming rescue organizations. These organizations send out volunteers and rangers to remove orangutans being (illegally) held as pets. In one video I watched a group of volunteers drive to an Indonesian farmer's hut. As they got out of the car you could hear the cries of the orangutan from his wooden cage next to the hut. They removed him immediately and drove him to their rescue site. I could hardly stop crying.

Rehabilitating These Beauties

The rescue of orangutans and orphaned baby orangutans is quite a multi-faceted process. They are quarantined for weeks or months to prevent the spread of disease. Then they begin what is known as 'forest school.' This was quite amazing to me as I didn't realize how educational and structured their rehabilitation back into the forest needed to be.

As many of these orphaned orangutans are babies, they will not able to spend the years needed with their mothers (6-8 years) to learn the necessary forest survival skills of climbing, nest building and searching for the proper food. Consequently, the rescue workers take over the job of mother and teacher. Many rescue workers carry the babies around all day (just as their real mother would), feeding them, nurturing them, and serving as a guide and protector until they are old enough and ready enough to make it on one of the reserved pieces of rain forest set aside for them.

All this takes a lot of training, effort, dedication and funding.

A rescued orangutan orphan in Indonesia that suffered from a debilitating skin disease after being found in a card board box.
A rescued orangutan orphan in Indonesia that suffered from a debilitating skin disease after being found in a card board box. | Source

Please Help These Sweet Babies

Please take the time to learn more about these endangered primates by reading about them and their plight as much as you can and helping spread the word of their condition. Spreading love and kindness begins with us humans and should extend to all animals, especially those as defenseless and voiceless as baby orangutans.

You can also donate online to various organizations around the world to help fund their rescue efforts and preservation of the orangutan habitats.


A map of Sumatra where many orangutans  once made their homes.
A map of Sumatra where many orangutans once made their homes.

© 2019 Marma

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    • Marma profile imageAUTHOR

      Marma 

      5 weeks ago from United States

      I completely agree with you. Thank you for reading and sharing your comment here.

    • Stina Caxe profile image

      Cristina Cakes 

      5 weeks ago from Virginia

      That is extremely heartbreaking. I had no idea that was happening to orangutans. How sad. I hope that we can put an end to this. I used to do volunteer work at a place that took in and tried to rehabilitate abused and abandoned animals that people get because they wanted and "exotic pet" and then realised they could not take care of it. It's amazing the creatures that people think would make a good pet and very sad what happens when an animal is not allowed to thrive in its natural habitat.

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