International Orangutan Day 2020

19th August 2020

Event Overview

The name “orangutan” literally translates into English as “person of the forest”. It comes from Malay and Bahasa Indonesian orang (person) and hutan (forest).

Orangutans are extremely intelligent creatures who clearly have the ability to reason and think. Their similarity to us is uncanny. Baby orangutans cry when they're hungry, whimper when they’re hurt and smile at their mothers. They express emotions just like we do: joy, fear, anger, surprise... it’s all there. If you take a few minutes and watch an orangutan, you'll swear they're just like us. And they kind of are...

Orangutans are large, but in general they are quite gentle. Adult males can be aggressive, but for the most part they keep to themselves. They are uniquely arboreal – living their lives quietly up in the trees away from predators… and only descending to the forest floor when they must. If not for the occasional squealing of a baby or calling out of a big male, you would hardly even know they were there. They don’t bother anyone. They don’t want anything to do with us. They're too busy getting on with their lives.

Orangutans used to live in many different parts of South East Asia, but the places where they can thrive and find food are quickly vanishing. In Borneo and Sumatra, their last remaining homes, large parts of the old growth rainforest are gone, ripped up for farmland, palm oil plantations and urban development. And the precious little forest that is left is disappearing rapidly as palm oil companies continue to illegally clearcut enormous areas of forest.

It's common practice to burn the land before developing a palm oil plantation, and many of these planned fires have spread uncontrollably with devastating effects. Orangutans often die because they can't escape the flames. Trapped up in the forest canopy, they simply have nowhere to go.

Conversion of orangutan habitat to palm oil plantations represents the single greatest threat to the survival of the orangutan.