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Our Orangutan Cousins Need Help

by Luca Inamoto-Martinez

We’ve all heard of the Orangutan, the big orange ape that swings through the forests of Indonesia; their name actually means “person of the forest.” Also, they have incredible strength, and also incredible intelligence; did you know they share 96.4% of our genes? Yet can you believe that some people actually kill and torture these animals just for personal gain! It’s true, and without our help, Orangutans WILL go extinct. In the last century, the population of Orangutans has more than halved! Read on to find out more about Orangutans, what they’re facing, and how you can help.

There are three species of Orangutans: the Bornean Orangutan, the Sumatran Orangutan, and the newly discovered, Tapanuli Orangutan, and all three species are sadly endangered. There are about 100,000 Bornean Orangutans, 7,500 Sumatran Orangutans, and only 800 Tapanuli Orangutans. All of the species are very similar, though Sumatran Orangutans seem to be more arboreal, have more facial hair, and be more social than their cousins.

Orangutans are omnivorous meaning they eat plants and meat. 60% of their diet consists of wild fruits including lychees, mangoes, and figs. while the other 40% consists of leaves, insects, eggs, and small vertebrates. There is one plant called Dracaena Cantleyi Plants that scientists have observed Orangutans not eat, but chew up into a mushy paste and rub all over their bodies like lotion. They do this because it treats muscle soreness, and because Orangutans are so closely related to humans this also works on human muscle soreness, just don’t rub anything on your body that has been in someone’s mouth.

Sadly, Orangutans have many threats. One of them is deforestation; people are cutting down the trees of the Indonesian rainforest to replace them with farms. Orangutans need trees for food, shelter, and medicine, and without them, they won’t survive. Another threat to Orangutans is hunting/wildlife trade. Orangutans get hunted frequently because they are large and slow targets, also now they’re starting to lose their protection of trees. Mothers are the most vulnerable, this is because some hunters kill them just to get their hands on a baby to sell on the black market, sometimes 3-5 additional Orangutans die in the process.

Orangutans are not just cool creatures, they are important to the whole Indonesian rainforest because they are the gardeners of the forest. When they eat fruits, they drop the seeds which grow into trees, and many animals depend on the Indonesian trees. So the survival of Orangutans will affect many Indonesian animals including Javan Rhinos, Bornean Elephants, Clouded Leopards, and more.

There are many things you can do to protect Orangutans. One of them is donating to organizations that are helping them like WWF. Another thing you can do is just make other people aware of what Orangutans are facing so they can try and help too.

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