20 August 2012 - Portland, OR - The Oregonean.  Some of the world's top experts in orangutans and conservation of the primates' habitats are meeting at the Oregon Zoo this week for a Species Survival Plan workshop. 

Caregivers, managers, researchers and field biologists expect to share information on husbandry, conservation and issues critical to captive and wild populations. 

Ian Singleton, director of conservation for PanEco's Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, will be keynote speaker. In addition to doing field work and monitoring the remaining wild Sumatran orangutan population, the former zookeeper confiscates illegal pet orangutans and returns them to the wild. 

"This is a critical time for orangutans," Jennifer Davis, Oregon Zoo curator and organizer of this year's workshop said in a zoo news release. "Habitat loss, palm oil plantations and an illegal pet trade have pushed them to the brink of extinction in their range countries. To ensure their survival, we need to dramatically increase our conservation efforts." 

Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans -- among the most intelligent primates -- are found in only the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. 

In the past 60 years, the Bornean population declined by 50 percent and the Sumatran population dropped by 80 percent in 75 years. The Bornean species is endangered and the Sumatran species is critically endangered, under CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. 

In their corners of the world, vast tracts of the animals' tropical rainforest habitat have been converted to oil palm plantations. Palm oil is used for cooking, cosmetics, mechanics and biodiesel. 

Orangutans also are hunted and captured for the illegal pet trade. 

reported by- Katy Muldoon; twitter.com/katymuldoon