SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND IMAGES ON THIS PAGE DISTRESSING.
Cute, innocent, traumatized.
Palm oil plantations are destroying the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, along with thousands of helpless orangutans.
These poor creatures are either killed, or they are captured and live a life behind rusted metal bars, or a life of humiliation and exploitation, as they are made to perform amusing tricks to large crowds.
These gentle apes need our help.
Orangutans On Site
These are the scenes that orangutan rescue teams must witness each day. Orangutans beaten, set on fire, buried alive, hacked with machetes, run over and left to die amounts the destruction and chaos.
Many orangutan mothers are brutally murdered and their babies are taken to be sold, kept as pets or used in zoos, circuses and animal parks.
These cute, cheeky, gentle apes are certainly a species we cannot lose. But unfortunately, if this continues, they are estimated to be extinct in the wild within 3 to 10 years.
Photo in bottom left: "When we saw the big male approaching our camp we were afraid. So we quickly ran over to him, doused him in petrol and set him on fire." - Fermin, a bulldozer driver at a logging sight in Borneo.
Locked Away ~ Chained Up ~ Boxed In
Once you take away their homes, you take away their souls.
Many orangutans are captured from logging sites and palm oil plantations. They are then confined to small cages, boxes or chained-up. These human-like creatures, which have the intelligence of a 6-year-old-child, sit behind bars; with nothing to play with, nothing to do, nothing to keep their active minds entertained. This leads to serious boredom-induced stress problems. Imagine a small, innocent, 6-year-old-child being confined to a metal cage, or chained-up to a post. Why are orangutans any different?
These poor animals are often malnourished, skinny, dehydrated and have high hair-loss caused by stress and trauma. For a species accustomed to moving freely through the rainforest canopy, and spending so much time travelling, orangutans simply cannot be kept in confined areas.
Many of these apes are either sold on the illegal pet trade market or kept as pets by the local people. Rescue teams confiscate these innocent, human-like prisoners from the native people, who have been keeping them as pets in small wooden crates often made from the very trees that they once lived in.
Some orangutans are even used as a form of entertainment in animal parks, circuses and zoos (see more in the 'Zoos, Circuses and Animal Parks' section). If only these beautiful creatures could speak, maybe we could listen to their traumatizing stories of sorrow and abuse.
Rescues by COP - Centre for Orangutan Protection
Dedicated rescue teams, such as COP, devote their time to rescuing orangutans from logging sights, palm oil plantations, zoos/ animal parks and pet owners. These strong teams face the reality of the palm oil crisis each day, being their first-hand to save the orangutans from their horrible fate.
Groups like COP rescue many orangutan from the local people who have been keeping the apes as pets in small cages, boxes or tied-up on chains.
Deforestation is a big issue for all wildlife living in Borneo and Sumatra. Most deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra is to make way for palm oil plantations.
The loggers often use the rivers as a way to transport the timber (as seen in the bottom right photo) for there are not many roads to transport the timber out of the forest.
Over 300 football fields of lush, tropical rainforest is logged each hour in Borneo and Sumatra. Some of the most popular, valuable timbers consist of teak, ironwood, ebony, mahogany and sandalwood. These timbers are sold and exported around the world, to be used to make much of our furniture. So before you buy timber or wooden furniture, ask, "Where did this timber come from?"
Palm Oil Plantations
The land is transformed; it goes from pristine, beautiful rainforest full of life and colour, to a smoldering, death landscape of charcoal and dirt, to finally, to rows and rows of palm oil trees.
Palm oil plantations are by far the biggest threat to orangutans in the wild. Palm oil plantations can reach as far as the eye can see, spread across the land like a plaque. Unfortunately, sights like these are very common in Borneo and Sumatra, with the growing demand on palm oil.
There are a few different reasons why the Indonesian and Malaysian government is allowing this devastation in their land, but almost every reason comes down to money. The governments are 'thinking short-term', apposed to realising the long lasting affects on their countries, and the whole planet, by clearing mass amounts of this pristine forest.
Mining is another factor when it comes to deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra. As seen in the photos below (situated in Borneo), the land is completely transformed into large, dirty, dust bowls. The majority of mining in Borneo is to source Gold, Tin, Coal and Diamonds.
Fires and Land Destruction
Fires in Borneo and Sumatra are often lit after the valuable timber has been logged, in order to burn non-valuable timber to make way for palm oil plantations.
The forest is sectored, logged and then burnt, all at an alarming rate and on extremely big scales; this is called the 'slash and burn' method. If animals like the orangutan get in the way of this fast and violent process, their chances of survival are very slim.
In the process of clearing this rainforest, bulldozers are often used for a quick and affective way to clear land in a short amount of time.
Zoos, Circuses and Animal Parks
Palm oil plantations open up the rainforest to poachers and animal smugglers. Many orangutans are captured and sold as pets, or end up in Asian Circuses, Zoos and wildlife parks. As seen in the first row of photographs, orangutans in Asian zoos often live in very poor conditions. They must live a life of concrete buildings and iron bars. Their enclosures get littered by tourists throwing in rubbish, and often, the poor apes consume that litter, as seen below.
Orangutans are also used in the entertainment business, where they are made to preform for tourists. These gentle creatures are often beaten in order to do what the trainer wants them to do, where that is to ride a bike, play mini-golf, dance, weight lift, wrestle, kick-box or smiling for a photograph.
But orangutans are not the only animal that stuck in this inhumane world of torture for entertainment. Many Sumatran tigers are taken from their habitat and used in circuses, where they are made to ride bikes, tightrope walk and ride on moving horses.
Rehabilitation and Release
Once the orangutans are rescued, they go to one of the many fantastic orangutan rehabilitation sanctuaries in Borneo or Sumatra, to begin the process of rehabilitation. For many of the young orangutans, they must learn basic forest skills that their mother would have taught them in the wild. Each one of these beautiful, gentle animals have their own unique characters and personalities; the staff and volunteers at these centres find it hard to believe that people could treat these gentle animals in such inhumane, cruel ways.
These wonderful rehabiliation centres and sanctuaries open their arms to hundreds of new orphans each year. But unfortunately, most centres are struggling to home all these poor, homeless apes, especially considering that each orphan costs approximately $3,500(US) in food, housing and medical needs each year. This is why they need your help! Visit the 'How to Help' page to find out how you can donate money or volunteer today.
An important part of orangutan conservation is educating and involving local communities. Education is an important key when it comes to the native people. Many of them do not understand the situation, and the seriousness of it. So organisations like COP go out and educate the people about orangutan conservation and what palm oil is doing to their beautiful country, and the wildlife within it.
Leaders in Orangutan Protection
People like Lone Drosher-Nielson, Birute Galdikas, Hardi Baktiantoro, Willie Smits, Sean Whyte and Richard Zimmerman are the pioneers in orangutan protection and conservation.
Lone Drosher-Nielson ~ Nyaru Menteng Centre, BOS
Birute Galdikas ~ Camp Leakey Centre, IOF
Photos: Hardi Baktiantoro, Sean Whyte & Jean Kern
Graphs, Maps and Diagrams
Diagrams from mongabay.com, Reuters and the Sumatran Orangutan Society.
Deforestation in Borneo 1950 - 2020
Current orangutan distribution across Borneo (right) and Sumatra (left).