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The Endangered Orangutan and the Things That Threaten Its Survival

Updated on May 31, 2018
Casey White profile image

Dorothy McKenney is a former newspaper reporter turned researcher. Her husband, Mike, is a professional landscape/nature photographer.

Safe Haven in a Zoo

Source

Threats to the Endangered Orangutan

There are only two species of orangutans living in the wild, the Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) and the Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii). Both inhabit the rainforests and wetlands of the southeastern regions of Asia. Like many other species that are endangered, "we, the people" are their biggest threat to survival.

The survival of these endangered orangutans in the wild is threatened by all of the following:

  • Illegal hunting/poaching due to increasing access to the orangutan's habitat
  • Illegal pet trade - the Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia estimates that more than 1,000 orangutans are bought and sold each year, illegal under national laws and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
  • Loss of their habitat due to deforestation, making way for agricultural and other development
  • Palm oil plantations on Borneo and Sumatra, the large tropical islands where the only two remaining species of orangutans are found in the wild.

Too Tired to Receive Visitors

According to a report by the New York Times Magazine, orangutans raised in captivity do much better on cognitive tests that those in the wild.  Human interaction definitely helps, although this one looks as if he's too tired to interact right now.
According to a report by the New York Times Magazine, orangutans raised in captivity do much better on cognitive tests that those in the wild. Human interaction definitely helps, although this one looks as if he's too tired to interact right now. | Source

Baby Orangutans Bought and Sold Illegally

Everyone has heard the term black market - well, that's where you would illegally buy or sell an orangutan baby. They may fetch a high price, but just remember that every time you buy one of those babies, its protective mother has to be killed.

One reason for the high price - female orangutans give birth only every six to nine years and they are an endangered species, and for every baby animal obtained illegally, five or six adults are killed, adding to the declining numbers of the species as a whole.

The orangutans that are in the United States are bred in captivity, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service offers strict permits that DO NOT include pet ownership. They are the agency that regulates who can and cannot obtain orangutans (only zoological, research and educational institutions).

Orangutans Are Not Monkeys

The orangutan is one of the "great apes", included in that category along with only gorillas, bonobos, and chimpanzees. They are primates, but they are not monkeys. Monkeys have tails; apes do not.

They Often Appear to Be Posing

Source

Palm Oil Industry Wreaking Havoc

Palm oil is cheaper than vegetable oil and has a longer shelf life. It is found in everything from food and household products to make-up and other cosmetics. It is also being seriously considered as an alternative to the natural fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) that are (and it's only a matter of time) going to be gone. But, all of those things don't justify it's contribution to the continued decline of several important animal species.

Today, palm oil is grown throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. About 85% of all globally-produced palm oil is exported from Indonesia and Malaysia, most of the time using methods that are not sustainable in an industry that has been responsible for animal cruelty, deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, and indigenous rights abuses.

Currently, about a third of all mammal species in Indonesia are considered to be critically endangered as a consequence of the unsustainable development of the palm oil plantations that are rapidly encroaching on their habitat.

Palm Oil Plantations Replacing Forests

Apparently, the palm oil industry is also wreaking havoc on the environment and human health.   Plus, in one year alone, around 1,500 orangutans were clubbed to death by palm workers.
Apparently, the palm oil industry is also wreaking havoc on the environment and human health. Plus, in one year alone, around 1,500 orangutans were clubbed to death by palm workers. | Source

Photos of Orangutans in the Wild

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Sumatran orangutan, one of only two species in the wild.A Borneo orangutan and her baby.  The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is the world's largest non-profit organization to protect directly endangered orangutans in Indonesia.Two young Borneo orangutans playing.  Newborn orangutans weigh only about three pounds, and they are not weaned from their mothers until they are about three to four years old.This wild-looking fellow is an elderly Sumatran orangutan in the forests of Borneo.
A Sumatran orangutan, one of only two species in the wild.
A Sumatran orangutan, one of only two species in the wild. | Source
A Borneo orangutan and her baby.  The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is the world's largest non-profit organization to protect directly endangered orangutans in Indonesia.
A Borneo orangutan and her baby. The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is the world's largest non-profit organization to protect directly endangered orangutans in Indonesia. | Source
Two young Borneo orangutans playing.  Newborn orangutans weigh only about three pounds, and they are not weaned from their mothers until they are about three to four years old.
Two young Borneo orangutans playing. Newborn orangutans weigh only about three pounds, and they are not weaned from their mothers until they are about three to four years old. | Source
This wild-looking fellow is an elderly Sumatran orangutan in the forests of Borneo.
This wild-looking fellow is an elderly Sumatran orangutan in the forests of Borneo. | Source

The Numbers

According to World Wildlife Federation, the Borneo orangutan population is estimated to be between 45,000 to 69,000 while there are less than 8,000 Sumatran orangutans left.

Not in the Wild...But Safe

Every time we publish a photo of orangutans that were taken at the Albuquerque Zoo, there are always people who think it is cruel to keep them in captivity.  Putting them back in the wild would be like telling a young child to run onto a highway.
Every time we publish a photo of orangutans that were taken at the Albuquerque Zoo, there are always people who think it is cruel to keep them in captivity. Putting them back in the wild would be like telling a young child to run onto a highway. | Source

Illegal Hunting and Poaching

Believe it or not, souvenirs are created (and sold to tourists) out of the skulls of the dead orangutans that are illegally killed. Body parts of the orangutans also end up in medicinal products. These things happen due to the easier access and encroachment of people into the orangutan forest. One of the more recent, and popular prizes for people hunting and poaching orangutans illegally is the penis of the animal.

Baby Orangutans

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is a rescued baby orangutan named Gito.  This happy-looking guy was found in a box iand was suffering from sarcoptic mange.  Although available, we have chosen not to include that photo of Gito.This is Kecil, a Bornean Orangutan that has a surrogate mother, a 53-year-old Bornean Orangutan named Maggie. They are at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. His mother at the Toledo Zoo rejected him.These baby orangutans were all abandoned by their mother.  Now, they are taken to school by wheelbarrow  to the International Animal Rescue’s school in Keptang, Indonesia where they will learn to survive in the wild.
This is a rescued baby orangutan named Gito.  This happy-looking guy was found in a box iand was suffering from sarcoptic mange.  Although available, we have chosen not to include that photo of Gito.
This is a rescued baby orangutan named Gito. This happy-looking guy was found in a box iand was suffering from sarcoptic mange. Although available, we have chosen not to include that photo of Gito. | Source
This is Kecil, a Bornean Orangutan that has a surrogate mother, a 53-year-old Bornean Orangutan named Maggie. They are at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. His mother at the Toledo Zoo rejected him.
This is Kecil, a Bornean Orangutan that has a surrogate mother, a 53-year-old Bornean Orangutan named Maggie. They are at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. His mother at the Toledo Zoo rejected him. | Source
These baby orangutans were all abandoned by their mother.  Now, they are taken to school by wheelbarrow  to the International Animal Rescue’s school in Keptang, Indonesia where they will learn to survive in the wild.
These baby orangutans were all abandoned by their mother. Now, they are taken to school by wheelbarrow to the International Animal Rescue’s school in Keptang, Indonesia where they will learn to survive in the wild.

References

  1. http://www.orangutan.com/threats-to-orangutans/ Retrieved 02/20/2018
  2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/deforestation-and-orangutans/ Retrieved 02/20/2018
  3. https://memim.com/borneo-orangutan-survival.html. Retrieved 02/20/2018
  4. http://www.worldanimalfoundation.org/articles/article/8949999/186251.htm. Retrieved 02/20/2018
  5. http://www.orangutans.com.au/Orangutans-Survival-Information/Poaching.aspx. Retrieved 02/21/2018

© 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

Comments

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    • Casey White profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

      7 months ago from United States

      Thank you so much. The story of the orangutan is, indeed, a sad one.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      7 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      "Illegal hunting/poaching due to increasing access to the orangutan's habitat" - So, I understand that the Elephants are killed for their tusks. Rhinos are killed for their horns. (Both terribly awful things to do.) Why are people killing Orangutans for though? What do You get out of an Orangutan that's monetarily valuable?

      That third photo that You posted is just ... wow! I look at it and I just see another Being, like me, or You. Maybe a little more orange than me and a little more hairy than me but other than that: we're the same, just living creatures.

      "Body parts of the orangutans also end up in medicinal products." - Okay, You just answered my question from earlier. I know this sounds terrible but any Human putting the life of an engendered animal at risk, should be hunted down and put in a cage. Or, maybe fed to alligators.

      It's pretty sad. Sometimes I think Humans are like Carpenter Ants. We just eat through Forests constantly, until there will be nothing left I suppose. Before that happens though, we'll see some really hard times.

      "Only after that last tree has been cut down,

      Only after the last river has been poisoned,

      Only after the last fish has been caught,

      Only then will You find that money cannot be eaten."

      Thank You so much for your article!

      May Wakan Tanka guide your path.

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