How You Can Help on World Orangutan Day

Wednesday, August 19 is World Orangutan Day, a day when we try to bring some much needed attention and awareness to the crises facing these red apes.

This critically endangered species once lived in much of Southeast Asia, but their range and population have been dramatically reduced due to deforestation, the illegal pet trade, and poaching. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Bornean orangutan population declined by more than 60 percent between 1950 and 2010 and a further 22 percent decrease is projected through 2025.

From 1992-2000, the population of the Sumatran orangutan is considered to have declined by more than 50%. Its relative, the Bornean orangutan population fell nearly 43 percent in the past decade, from 35,000 in 1996 to 20,000 in 2006. Since these studies were done, deforestation rates have continued to climb which means the actual populations could be well below these.

Orangutans' dependence on an arboreal lifestyle makes them very susceptible to habitat disruption. Clear-cutting forest for extensive agricultural development, notably palm oil plantations in Sumatra and Borneo, have led to a rapid decline in orangutan populations and an increase in numbers of orphaned orangutans. Orangutans are being rehabilitated at several stations in Malaysia and Indonesia, where confiscated young pets or orphaned orangutans are trained to return to the wild. Clear-cutting primary forest and mature secondary forest important as orangutan habitat serves to extirpate orangutan populations. The rapid habitat loss has led to many hundreds of juvenile orangutans being cared for in sanctuaries. Sanctuary caregivers are challenged with the task of rehabilitating, socializing, and providing basic care for so many youngsters who have had their normal rearing disrupted through habitat loss.

The Chicago Zoological Society is a participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative population management and conservation program for the species. The program manages the breeding of orangutans in zoos to maintain a healthy, self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. The pairing of Sophia and Ben was based on a recommendation by the Orangutan SSP. Currently, 94 Bornean orangutans and 87 Sumatran orangutans live in North American zoos.

So how can you show your support and help raise awareness for orangutans on World Orangutan Day? Here are some options:

- Brookfield Zoo has partnered with Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to promote orangutan-friendly choices. You can help keep wild orangutans and their habitats healthy, by following the recommendations of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and choosing products containing palm oil certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO ensures palm oil is harvested in a way that reduces CO2 emissions, does not harm wildlife or the environment and guarantees workers and their families have a living wage. Learn more here about how you can support orangutans and companies committed to sustainable palm oil that is deforestation-free.

- Feeling crafty? Find some recycled cardboard to trace and create an orangutan mask that can be worn for a selfie. Or create your own selfie photo booth using simple crafts. Then share your orangutan-themed creations on social media with the hashtag #iheartorangutan and #brookfieldzoo.

- Consider adopting Kecil and Kekasih, two of Brookfield Zoo's orangutans. While Tropic World is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, you can directly support these ambassadors for their species. Plus, by helping care for the orangutans at the zoo, you are also helping research and conservation efforts within the zoo and around the world.

- Head to social media and spread the world about #OrangutanDay. Share resources like the sustainable palm oil guide. Let people know that you care about what happens to these beautiful animals. Show people how wonderful they are by sharing videos and photos of orangutan. Keep the conversation going!

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Posted: 8/19/2020 9:11:11 AM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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