The Endangered – Orangutans

By Nk Soon, Youth Manager

Humans are known to be unique, one of a kind, but are we really? Orangutans are one of humankind’s closest relatives. We share about 97% of the same DNA and both humans and orangutans are born with the ability to think and reason. Orangutans have also been seen with tools and spurring huge leaves as umbrellas.

Why are they important: Mostly indigenous to Malaysia, Sumatra, and Indonesian Borneo, Orangutans are the only one out of the four great apes to come from Asia.  They have an humongous arm span that can reach the ground when standing up. An adult male can weigh up to 220 pounds, making Orangutans the largest tree-living animal. They have shaggy orange-reddish hair color that is unique in the ape world. These mammals are omnivores, and eat leaves, barks, insects, and many types of fruits.

Why are they going extinct: A century ago, there were more than 230,000 Orangutans living throughout Southeast Asia. Now, that number fell to about 41,000 Bornean Orangutans and about 7,500 Sumatran Orangutans in the wild. One reason Orangutans are extremely endangered is because of poaching. They are targets in illegal wildlife trade and an estimated 1,019 Orangutans were documented as captives for the illegal trade within the past seven years.

Habitat loss from deforestation is also one of the biggest reason why Orangutans are endangered. Deforestation causes Orangutans to venture into cash crop plantations to find food. Their homes are cut and burned to make room for agricultural plantations such as for palm oil, as well as for mining and infrastructure expansion. Also, Orangutans females only give birth once every eight years, making the population extremely hard to increase and recover. Orangutans sorely depend on trees, as they live, sleep, eat, and travel in the trees. They barely ever go down to the ground unlike other apes, and because of this, deforestation has a huge impact on them.

How To Help

  • Donate and volunteer at the Orangutan Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the conservation of orangutans and their rain forest homes.
  • Do your research! Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund report on brands that are linked to deforestation. In orangutan habitat products often responsible for deforestation  include toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, facial tissue and more.
  • Avoiding products with palm oil can help protect Orangutans, other wildlife, and the rain forest itself. Palm oil plantations are a major source of deforestation, causing Orangutans to lose their homes.
  • Spread the word and let others know about the endangered Orangutans.


Want more of The Endangered? Check out the growing list of articles on our Wildlife page.

One Green Planet
National Geographic
Orangutan Conservancy
World Wildlife Fund


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