The orangutan, with its distinctive red-orange hair, is the only ape that inhabits Asia. Weighing up to 90 kg (200 lb.), the Bornean orangutan is about 1-1.5 m tall (3.5-4.5 ft.) with an arm span as long as 2.5 m (8 ft.).
Boasting a Malay name meaning "People of the Forest," orangutans share 97% of the same DNA as humans. Not surprisingly, they possess great intelligence as well as other human-like qualities.
In prehistoric times, orangutans inhabited forests as far north as China. Now, due to deforestation and poaching, Bornean orangutans have been restricted to the island of Borneo with their population reduced to 50,000-60,000. They are currently classified on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as an endangered species.
Many of the issues surrounding orangutan depopulation stems from the impoverished state of Indonesia. Facing poverty and starvation, many Indonesians have turned to eating orangutan meat, illegal logging, capturing babies for pet trade, and using slash and burn techniques to turn portions of the rainforest into palm oil plantations. Slashing and burning has resulted not only in a reduction of fruit trees and habitat for orangutans, it has also exacerbated natural forest fires, causing widespread destruction.
What You Can Do to Help
Aside from donating to the many orangutan charities around the world, there are many other things you can do to help save the orangutan on day-to-day basis. For starters, avoid purchasing tropical or exotic plywood and hardwood, palm oil-based products, and rayon viscose clothing. In addition, reduce your consumption of paper, and seek out recycled "treeless" paper sources.
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