Old Men of the Forest - Orangutans in Danger

Old Men of the Forest - Orangutans in Danger

Great Apes of Asia are Dwindling in Rapid Numbers

Orangutans are fascinating and beautiful creatures and they’re facing extinction in as little as a decade. As great apes, they’re amazingly intelligent and can display human-like behaviors such as using tools. Native to Asia, their populations were once widespread. Today, orangutans are found on only two islands: Borneo and Sumatra.

The name actually means into “man of the forest.” Orang translates into “man,” and “tan” means forest. Older adult males develop a flange of fleshy skin around their faces, giving them a grumpy appearance. Their docile behavior is a far cry from that of chimpanzees. In zoos, they frequently observe human visitors, seemingly with equal interest. They also like looking at each other as well as video with bright colors or activity. An attempt in 2009 to introduce iPads continues to draw attention, as the apes appear to like playing games with some keeper assistance. Wi-fi and Skype may be next so that orangs can “communicate” with their kind in other zoos.

Two orangutan species exist: Sumatran and Bornean. Their features are almost similar with a few minor differences. Both are in trouble, due to the habitat destruction, but also because of poaching. In remote areas, villages are hunting the animals for their meat, but it is difficult to track exact numbers.

Sanctuaries in Asia, as well as zoos around the world, continue to be safe harbors for these reddish, hairy and endearing animals. Some preserves offer tours into the wilds for an up-close visit. Agencies are also in place with teams to rescue oranges as logging operations leave them stranded in trees. Agencies are also working toward stricter laws against illegal trading.

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