”Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.”
~ Jane Goodall
Orangutan, old man of the forest, an inhabitant of rich tropical forests and endangered victim of the Palm Oil industry. These magnificent creatures have been facing extinction at the hands of deforestation in the name of industry for decades. International Orangutan Day was established to help raise awareness of their plights and aid in protecting them.
History of International Orangutan Day
Orangutans are only found in two places in the world, Sumatra and Borneo, and the two species of the orangutan who live there used to be considered a single species. Further research has revealed that these are actually two separate species who first diverged about 400,000 years ago. Orangutans have immense arm spans, ranging nearly 7 feet from tip to tip, remarkable when you consider that they only stand approximately 5’ above the ground. On the rare occasion that Orangutans actually stand upright, their hands nearly brush the ground.
The length of these arms suits their arboreal lifestyle, helping them move from tree to tree and creating shelters from the large leaves of their canopy homes. Orangutans have a tendency to spend 90% of their time in the treetops, making deforestation particularly devastating for them, as they spend the majority of their time there foraging for food. While primarily herbivores, the omnivorous orangutan will eat bark, insects, and even meat when they can get it. International Orangutan Day raises awareness that these people of the forest require protection before they disappear from the Earth forever.
How to Celebrate International Orangutan Day
First, take the time to research everything you can about these beautiful creatures. Find out where they live and what their lives are like, they have fascinating family lives and complex social relationships. Then, once you’ve learned everything you can, consider going to visit a nearby zoo that has them on display, nothing makes them more real than seeing them in the flesh.
Having seen the magnificence of these creatures, there’s no doubt you’re driven to ensure they never disappear from the Earth. Tell your friends and family what you’ve learned, work with petitions online to help protect them, and consider volunteering with one of the many organizations that work tirelessly each year to ensure the species lives on.