We ran this a few years ago but thought we would reprint for some of our newer blog visitors:
The Orangutan is a fascinating ape which is in serious decline on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo – the only two places on earth they can be found in the wild. “Orangutan” in the native language means “people (orang) of the forest (utan or hutan).” Their decline is mostly due to habitat loss, development and hunting pressures. It is believed that if this rate of decline and habitat fragmentation continues, we will lose the orangutan within the next 50 years. Actually, since we ran this piece a few years ago, the orangutan situation on both islands has become increasingly dire due to habitat loss pressures.
A Malaysian tale: The Orang-utan
Long ago, human beings (or orangs in Malay) lived in the virgin jungles of Borneo. They stayed in groups, sharing their long houses, subsisting on plants and animals provided by Mother Nature. Within the different groups, this peaceful way of life was however troubled by all sorts of problems and conflicts involving treacheries, malices, gossips and other issues that are specific to humans. A peace-loving minority of orangs decided to split from the major group in order to escape the clamors of the village life and went deep into the jungle. They established a new home and lived happily for years. More and more orangs from their former community decided to join this idyllic existence, up to a point that the newly created village became overcrowded and full with problems that follow humans at all times and places (pollution, noise, habitat destruction, cruelty and meanness).
The original group decided to break up one more time and wandered far away from this place. They established themselves on the mountains where life was paradise. Of course they didn’t stay on their own for long: more and more people joined them and troubled this peaceful existence. Fed up beyond belief, the original orangs decided that enough was enough: because they wouldn’t be able to find peace below the trees, they decided to climb up to the treetop and to settle down in the forest canopy.
They also decided to not have any kind of relations with ground-dwelling orangs any more. From this day, this group became the orang-utans, or “people of the forest” and today can only be found living among the trees.
Learn more about our partners at HUTAN’s Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project
To learn about how Palm Oil is having a devasting effect on orangutan habitat and how you can be a responsible consumer – view our Palm Oil Page