Save the Orangutan!!
We invited volunteers to submit articles about orangutans and the issues to enlighten and inspire others. Here is our first submission.
Save the Orangutan!! by Aliyah Daniels, volunteer writer.
Orangutans are a keystone species, meaning their presence is essential in their specific ecosystem. Thus, their extinction poses extreme consequences for other species that share their habitat. Because the forest is being destroyed by human activities, orangutans are losing their habitat and have become endangered. Female orangutans have a very low reproductive rate, and give birth to one child every six to seven years on Borneo; eight to nine years on Sumatra – this makes it extremely hard for the orangutans to survive amidst human pressures.
Get Educated –
Unfortunately, many people vaguely realize that there is a great number of endangered animal species, but aren’t aware of the extremity or significance this has on the planet as a whole. Thankfully, I’ve rounded up the essential information you need to know.
Palm Oil and other large plantations
Large areas of forest are being cleared away to plant palm oil, the most versatile and productive vegetable oil in the world. Creating cheap oil at the expenses of rain forest and biodiversity is killing thousands of orangutans each year. And land rights of indigenous people are not respected. Frequently, irresponsible companies clear the forest only to sell the wood and just walk away. No jobs, only ecological disaster.
Logging, Mining, & Construction
Instead of choosing to relocate the orangutans to a safe, natural habitat, many logging companies instead wipe out the species, using illegal and unsustainable logging techniques. These processes often lead to deforestation, destroying the orangutans’ natural habitat.
Hunting & Trading
In Indonesia, orangutans are occasionally targeted for food by indigenous people who do not have a religious prohibition against eating primates. The illegal trade of orangutans is still occurring as a byproduct of deforestation or the killing of mother orangutans as pests, and infant orangutans are sold illegally as exotic pets in Indonesia.
Why You Should Care:
Because YOU are to blame for it! (Not you, specifically, but us altogether as the human race) It’s time to take responsibility for our actions. We cannot keep living under the Frontier Ethic (thinking that we are the only beings on the Earth and that the natural resources will never run out). Even though you in particular are not to blame for the illegal trade, or deforestation, you can help spread awareness of the consequences.
Because YOU can be affected by it, too! And this time I really mean you. You see, when dealing with organisms in nature, chain reactions are involved. Orangutans disperse seeds all throughout the forest. These seeds grow into plants, and feed the smaller animals in the forest. So basically, orangutans indirectly feed other species. Furthermore, with an increased number of plants, comes an increase in oxygen production and better air quality. Without the orangutans, you wouldn’t be able to breathe. (Not exactly, but you get the point).
How You Can Help
The Fight Against Palm Oil Production –
Palm oil consumption has increased drastically in the past few years, as more and more people became aware of its cooking, cosmetic, and industrial benefits. The problem is not that the palm oil is being consumed, but rather, how it is being produced. Companies that produce palm oil unsustainably use clear cutting techniques to initially rid the forests and then burn off any remaining brush. As a result, orangutans and other animal species are forced to flee their natural forest habitat, causing them to suffer from starvation.
The easiest way to stop unsustainable palm oil production is to stop consuming it. Palm oil is an ingredient in many products, ranging from shampoo to baked goods, which makes it hard to be aware of its presence. When buying food or cosmetics, look at the ingredients list before purchasing any product. Also see if the product is using certified sustainable palm oil. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has a certification program. If you can’t determine that, try to find an alternative that uses canola or sunflower oil. Some alternatives include LUSH cosmetics, Tofurkey, and Vegusto.
We are all aware of the constant ‘to label, or not to label’ debate, so it is no wonder that palm oil would be one of the primary culprits. Palm oil is often disguised as “vegetable oil” on ingredient lists, which falsely leads consumers to believe that they are eating healthy and buying sustainable goods. Even some vegan, “natural”, and “organic” products are fooling you. Nature’s Path granola? Guilty. Earth Balance? Guilty. Clif energy bars? You guessed it, guilty. And if the threat of damaging your body with the “authentic” bean and cheese burritos from Taco Bell wasn’t enough, remember that they also use palm oil. Surprising? Not really.
If you are an avid consumer of any of these products, and don’t want to give them up, fear not, for there are other ways to promote independence from palm oil. (Unless it’s Taco Bell you’re thinking of, in which case, you should re-evaluate your life choices). Most companies print their website or email address on their products and encourage feedback or inquiries. Write a polite (or not polite, if that’s your style) email addressing your concerns about the use of palm oil, perhaps suggesting the company join the RSPO, and encourage your friends and family to write one as well. Enough negative feedback should pressure these companies into considering a palm oil free or certified sustainable palm oil product.
Reach Out –
Many organizations are eager to enlist the help of new volunteers. Fundraising events, walks, and contests are perfect outlets to help the cause while having fun with a group of friends (and fulfilling your school community service requirement). If you’re lacking in free time but have money to spare, make a donation. If you are lacking in both free time and money, sign a petition to stop the illegal trade of orangutans. There are no excuses not to get involved, and anyone can help. From the kind words of Nike, Just Do It.
If you need more motivation, think of how volunteer work will boost your college applications. Every college loves to see applicants who help out their community, so why not help the orangutans while you’re at it? Are you an organizer? Create an Orangutan Awareness Club at your school, and hold a bake sale or car wash to raise money. Are you the creative type? Design t-shirts or sweatshirts that promote awareness, and sell them afterschool. Or write a skit about the dangers of palm oil and perform it for your school. The options are endless!
Post It –
Don’t underestimate the power of the hashtag. With Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram, it is easier than ever to spread awareness. Do you like to write? Start a blog documenting your school’s progress with their new project, or write reviews on sustainable products. Making a single status, creating a video, or tagging a photo with #savetheorangutans has the potential to reach thousands of people. You could go viral! And there’s no need to be serious or depressing - humor is a great way to appeal to a larger audience. To stay up to date, subscribe to organizations like WWF and Orang Utan Republik Foundation.