It's Orangutan Awareness Week - Find Out How You Can Help To Protect These Already Endangered Animals!

It's Orangutan Awareness Week - Find Out How You Can Help To Protect These Already Endangered Animals!

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on 7th Nov 2016

All this week and worldwide, we will be celebrating Orangutan Awareness Week. Annually, organisations across the globe shine a light on orangutans and the hardships they face as a species. Here at The Great Projects, we too will be doing our bit to highlight some of the severe injustices these fantastic animals go through on a daily basis, and will also be offering advice as to how you can get involved.

What exactly is Orangutan Awareness Week? This week is held between the 7th and 13th November each year as we as a population lend our focus to orangutans and the threats they face in today’s world. Each day, there are numerous events held to raise funds for orangutan research and conservation, as well as a number of facts floating around to best educate as many people as possible about habitats and infrastructures that are vital not only to orangutans, but also to every creature that calls the rainforest home.

Baby orangutan

First up, it might be best that we give you a bit of a background on orangutans themselves, and why they deserve at the very least a week’s worth of undivided attention. Down below is a list of facts that you may find fascinating, frightful, or in some way fruitful to the cause itself:

  • The name ‘Orangutan’ is derived from the Malay term ‘orang’ (‘person’) and ‘hutan’/utan (‘forest’) - a name that both humanises these amazing animals and references their (currently endangered) habitat.

  • Humans and orangutans are actually 97% alike – which is why we must give 100% of our care to protecting them and their habitats. In fact, orangutans have been said to be some of the gentlest animals on the planet, rarely being aggressive and much preferring to spend their time gazing in peace – we owe it to them to be left in harmony.

  • Between 52,000 and 76,000 orangutans are left in the wild (specifics unknown); this is down from more than 230,000 around a century ago – that’s almost more than 2/3rds killed over the space of a hundred years. How can we excuse this severe loss of life, especially when our own population continues to grow so rapidly?

  • Orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling animals on Earth, often spending over 90% of their time above in the treetops. And, while this alone is a strong enough case to leave our rainforests alone, just think about all of the smaller creatures that also call this area their home.

  • Orangutans hold their relationships very dear, with mothers and their young having the most intense connection of any non-human mammal on earth. Carrying them for the first five years, and nursing them for a total of six or seven, mother orangutans are the closest companions that the youngsters have – yet another reason as to why we must ensure all orangutans get to live out long and healthy lives. The notion of a child losing its mother at such a formative stage in its life is a tragic one, as well as simply unthinkable.

Baby orangutan hanging on a tree

So, how is it that orangutans became so endangered? Unfortunately, much of the reason behind the dwindling numbers of these animals is due to human activity. Our own selfishness can be blamed for a large percentage of orangutan deaths – take, for example, the palm oil trade. Despite the fact that African palms can be found the whole world over, the vast majority of oil is sourced from the Malaysian rainforests – 85% percent of it, in fact. Now imagine that percentage, combined with the fact that over 50 million tonnes of palm oil is accumulated each year – with harvest this harmful, you have to wonder…are our cosmetics, cleaning products and even our snacks really more valuable than the lives of the orangutans?

Realistically, the answer is: no. While palm oil is wonderfully versatile, it pales in comparison to the ecological worth of an orangutan. What many people might not be aware of is the fact that orangutans play a massive role in keeping not just the rainforest, but the whole planet healthy. By dispersing seeds, not only do orangutans keep their habitats healthy for themselves and their neighbours (the similarly endangered tigers, elephants and rhinos, for example), but vitally they are maintaining the planet’s overall health, which benefits us too. It is important, therefore, to promote smarter use of palm oil and to encourage similar attitudes towards other harmful activities, such as timber harvesting, logging and mining.

Baby orangutan

But even if we did put more consideration into harvest, there are still other ways in which we are killing these poor animals. Even today, illegal pet trade is rife, with young orangutans typically being snatched at infancy, and their mothers being killed during the poaching. It’s heartbreaking that our sense of entitlement can lead to families being split up or murdered – as that is what this is – and thus we absolutely must make our voices heard, as to stamp out this horrific trade.

It's in this way that you're able to help. By speaking up for the animals who cannot speak for themselves, or by actively taking part in conservation, there is much that we can do as a collective power to slow down and hopefully put an end to the unjust treatment of orangutans, their loss of habitat, and their loss of life. We've compiled a list of ideas for you just below, but if anybody out there has any further suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

How you can help to support Orangutan Awareness Week

  • Plant trees as a symbol of support to the project, and to better your own world too

  • Educate others – why not suggest a school assembly based around orangutan awareness? If not, perhaps make use of your social media page and link your friends to further information on orangutan awareness.

  • Raise funds – dress up days, for example, can be a fun way to raise both awareness and donations for the projects worldwide!

  • Petitions – public outrage will surely be heard, we just need to commit ourselves to the cause. Petitions have made huge changes throughout history, so we can do it again!

  • Promote sustainable use of palm oil - take care when selecting cosmetics that may contain oils, or do some research into those that use palm oil responsibly.

  • Or, of course - take part in one of our many fantastic projects - there are plenty of options to choose from, all of which are absolutely fantastic and help towards saving these brilliant, brave primates.


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