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Orangutan....in Malay is 'orang', meaning person, 'hutan', meaning forest, translates to person of the forest and that's a perfect description. Orangutans are great apes and share 97% of our DNA. They are large, strong, arboreal apes and can live up to 60 years of age. Their arms outstretched, can reach up to 8feet. Like humans, orangutans have opposable thumbs. Their big toes are also opposable. In the wild, females usually give birth to their first offspring when they are 15-16 years of age, with bub clinging to Mum for the first 4-6 years.
The Bornean orangutan lives in tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Bornean lowlands, as well as mountainous areas up to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) above sea level. This species lives throughout the canopy of primary and secondary forests, and moves large distances to find trees bearing fruit. The Sumatran and Bornean Orangutans' rainforest habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate due to deforestation and clearing of the land for pulp paper and palm oil plantations, with the remaining forest degraded by drought and forest fires. Reportedly, extinction in the wild is likely in the next 10 years for Sumatran orangutans and soon after for Bornean orangutans. Both the Sumatran species (Pongo abelii) and the Bornean species (Pongo pygmaeus) are classified as Critically Endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
I saw this tiny ball of orange fuzz on my 3rd day in Borneo. We were on a river boat, only a few kilometres from our accommodation. It was around 7:30 in the morning and our guides pulled the boat up to the edge of the forest and there he was. It was incredible to see this precious baby. You can look at them on tv and in books and on your computer screen, but to see them there, in their forest, just being themselves is a gift, and a blessing. There were 2 adults maybe 10metres away in another tree, but I couldn't get a clear shot of them. This baby was so cute! He was curious and playful and hungry, eating the fruits of the tree he was on. We were able to watch him for around 20 minutes. In that time we never heard a sound, and got to watch him return to the adults. We were so lucky and blessed to have seen this family in their dwindling habitat. Personally, I can't believe we have allowed their plight to come to this. Upon leaving the resort the next day, our bus drove through six hours of continuous palm oil plantations. Six hours. I couldn't believe my eyes. After the first hourn, I thought....surely this plantation will end soon, but no, there were more, on both sides of the road and as far as the eye could see for hour after hour. I cried for them that day, and have many times since coming home to Australia. The next day we attended the Orangutan Rehab Centre in Sepilok. Here they are cared for where needed, the babies are nursed and helped to be eventually released if possible. This centre has an open forest with no fence, so the adults are free to come and go as they please. It's a fantastic place. I mention this because upon leaving Borneo, I asked my guide how I can best help his country, he said adopt an Orangutan through this centre, or donate what you can.