Why Orangutans Are Going Extinct and What You Can Do to Stop It

Orangutans are at threat of becoming extinct. There are many reasons why orangutans are going extinct. But believe it or not, your everyday actions can help limit those threats, even if you’re on the other side of the world from the rain forests where orangutans live.

Orangutans live in the lush rain forests on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. In Indonesia, the word orangutan translates to “people of the forest,” from "orang" meaning “people" and "hutan" meaning "forest."

Why Orangutans are Going Extinct and How You Can Stop It

Orangutans depend on trees more than many other rain forest animal. They spend nearly all of their time in trees, between sleeping in tree nests that they make each night and eating fruit. Orangutans basically live in the rain forest canopy. Their bodies are adapted to swing through trees, rather than walk.

Unfortunately, their population has drastically declined over the past few decades. The World Wildlife Fund reports that 100 years ago there were more than 230,000 orangutans living throughout Southeast Asia. Today, that number has drastically fallen to about 41,000 Bornean orangutans and 7,500 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.

What is causing their dramatic population decline? Quite simply, it is human activity. The rise of palm oil harvesting means that their rain forest home is cut down and replaced with monocrops of palm trees. Other industries such as mining, timber, and small-scale logging also damage their rain forest habitat. Just as in the United States when ranchers and wolves have conflict, farmers often kill orangutans when they come too close to their crops. This happens, sadly, when orangutans can’t find the food they need in the forest, and they encroach upon settled areas.

Here’s what you can do to help:

1. Support organizations such as Health In Harmony that are working to protect orangutans and their habitats. Your donations make it possible for us protect and reforest Gunung Palung National Park, home to one of the last remaining viable orangutan populations.

2. Buy FSC-certified products. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council certified label (FSC) on wood products such as furniture and paper products. The FSC monitors sustainable forestry practices.

3. Avoid products made with unsustainable palm oil. Rain forests are often cleared to make room for palm oil plantations, causing orangutans to lose their homes. Palm oil is used in so many products now that it is here to stay, but your choices can make a difference. Choose products made from deforestation-free palm oil, and put pressure on companies that aren't responsibly sourcing their materials.

There are alternatives to products that contain palm oil but sometimes it can be hard to tell if a product contains palm oil. It can appear on labels under the following terms: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hydrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol

4. Make small changes in your day to conserve natural resources. Recycle, drive less, purchase products with less packaging, and throw away less waste in general. All of these practices help reduce the world’s load on its limited resources.

5. Talk to others. Talk with your friends and family to explain why you are not buying certain products and why you are trying to drive your car less often. Explain to them why those simple everyday actions can help orangutans. The orangutans need you.

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