Frequently Asked Questions

Are Orangutans endangered?

Yes. Both Bornean and Sumatran Orangutans are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Orangutan populations declined by as much as 97% in the 20th century due to hunting and forest loss, with an estimate of less than 40,000 Bornean and 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remaining in the wild.

Why are Orangutans threatened?

The main threat is the destruction and fragmentation of tropical rain forests, particularly lowland forests. Deforestation is the result of various human activity: intensive legal and illegal logging, conversion to agricultural lands, mining, settlements, and road construction. Other factors like illegal animal trade and hunting have also contributed to the decline of wild orangutan populations.

Why is Palm Oil a problem?

1,000 to 5,000 orangutans are killed in palm oil concessions each year. Palm oil trees grow best on land that has not previously been used, which means every day more and more virgin rainforest is cleared for the expanding palm oil business. Companies typically use “slash and burn” to establish their plantations, in which the land is set on fire as a cheap way to clear it for new planting. The resulting smoke and release of CO2 from peat bogs is a major cause of climate change.

The effects of Palm Oil
excavator digs the ground for palm oil

Why Save Orangutans?

Orangutans are the largest arboreal (tree-dwelling) animals; their fruit-eating and seed-dispersing behavior is of ecological significance, helping to shape and preserve tropical rainforests.

Orangutans are a keystone species. As orangutans disappear, it signals the disappearance of thousands of other animals and plant species in fragile tropical rainforest habitats. Conversely, by saving orangutans and their habitats, we can save those same species.

Orangutans are among the most intelligent beings to have evolved on land. As individuals, orangutans display unique and rich personalities. They provide models for human behavior, in terms of physiology, cognition, and evolution. As great apes and one of humankind’s closest primate relatives, orangutans are sentient beings that deserve respect and life.

Do orangutans make good pets?

Orangutans belong in the wild and should in no circumstance be kept as pets. Orangutans as individuals and as a collective species face many problems when well-meaning people want orangutans as pets. During the early 1990s, over 1,000 orangutans were illegally imported into Taiwan because children watched a TV show featuring a young orangutan and demanded one for themselves. A better choice for a pet would be a domesticated animal, like a dog, cat, or other house-trained animals.

A great alternative is to become a foster parent to one of the many orangutans that OFI is rehabilitating in Borneo! We are challenged to find funds to feed and care for hundreds of orphaned, ex-captive orangutans that need to return to the forest. Most of the orangutans in OFI’s care arrive as a result of illegal logging and the pet trade, and many arrive as infants.

The orangutan pet trade has contributed to the decline of orangutan populations. While illegal throughout the world, this brutal trade brings orangutans into captivity at a high price. Six to eight orangutans die for each one orangutan baby sold- the mother that is murdered in order to remove the clinging infant, the generations of offspring the now deceased mother would have produced, as well as many of the babies themselves due to poor handling, trauma in the capture process, malnutrition, and rough transport to market. Here are 3 Reasons Orangutans do not ‘make good pets’:

It is illegal. While some orangutans in the US are born in captivity, the US Fish & Wildlife Service prevents ownership and permits for individuals outside of zoological, research, and educational institutions. Orangutans in private hands, some of whom are owned and leased for commercial purposes, wind up in tiny cages, dank basements, or worse. The USFWS and the animal rights community keep close tabs on known orangutans in order to avoid such abuse.

Because orangutans are so much like humans, they would pose intense challenges to ownership. Orangutans in the wild live 35-45 years, and spend up to 9 years with their mothers before becoming independent. Orangutans share 97% of our DNA, so it’s no surprise that they can also transmit and receive respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases from humans. Improper medical care can result in a high mortality rate during the first year of captivity. Orangutans are strong and determined. They can be very destructive as they search for food items or play. As they age, they would pose increasing difficulties to a human owner who cannot keep them in humane conditions.

What goals do organizations like yours have?

Orangutan Foundation International’s chief goal is that orangutan populations survive in the wild. Orangutans, as individuals, should also be treated humanely and with respect. Concern for orangutans means concern for the tropical rainforests that orangutans call home.

In other words, the main concern encompasses a) insuring that wild orangutans are protected and have adequate habitat in which to survive in perpetuity, b) providing effective, safe, and humane procedures to repatriate and rehabilitate wild-born ex-captive orangutans to life in the forest, c) understanding the many factors that affect orangutans: their ecology, behavior, and cognition, d) making life for captive orangutans as optimal as possible, both physically and mentally; e) educating the public, school children, and governments around the world about orangutans and the need to protect them and their habitat.

How does the Orangutan’s reproductive biology affect their chances for survival?

Orangutans have the longest interbirth interval of any mammal: 6 -10 years, depending on the population. A female may give birth to only 2 to 3 surviving babies in the course of her reproductive lifetime. In the wild females may first give birth when they are sixteen years of age. The slow reproductive rate of orangutans makes them especially vulnerable to extinction.

Computer models show that, because of the slow reproductive rate, local population orangutan extinctions are predicted whenever small numbers of female orangutans are consistently killed by local aboriginal people hunting for food, palm oil laborers killing orangutans as agricultural pests, or by poachers collecting infant orangutans for the pet trade

As long as their forest habitats are being converted to other uses, orangutan survival in the wild remains perilous.

As a student, what can I do to help save orangutans?

Learn more about the orangutan. Visit your local library, purchase a book about orangutans, or surf the web. Knowledge gives you the power to talk or write about orangutans and the issues they face. Join Orangutan Foundation International. Students & Funds support OFI essentials like food and medicine for orphaned, ex-captive orangutans. Members also receive our newsletter with periodic updates on how you can help save orangutans. Reach out to your friends, family, and social media network regarding your concerns about orangutans and how you and OFI are taking action to save them.

Organize a small fundraiser for orangutans. We have received checks of $10, $50, and up from students and schools around the world who have raised money from car washes, bake sales, or collecting cans and bottles. Be creative and come up with a way that works for you.

Help increase future orangutan habitat by purchasing saplings which will be planted by local people in degraded forest areas outside the Tanjung Puting National ParkDonate to the Seed & Sapling Collection.

Become a Foster Parent to orangutans in OFI’s care in Indonesian Borneo. For $100 a year, you (or your class) can help buy food, and medicine and care for the orangutan orphans as they learn skills to return to the forest. You will receive a photo and biography of your foster orangutan and a certificate naming you or your class a foster parent to one of the orangutans. Foster Parents also receive updates every six months with a progress report on how their orangutan is doing as well as a new photo.

Ask your teacher about participating in this program! Write to officials in Malaysia and Indonesia about your concern for orangutans and request that they help make certain orangutans and their forests are protected. Ask them to keep supporting the work of people who are protecting orangutans in the forest. Keep the letters short and positive, and write them often.

Help patrol the forest. Donate to the Land Protection Appeal. One day’s patrol of the Park with police officers and rangers costs about $560 USD. Designate the day and try to raise funds for the patrol. Volunteer on one of the OFI teams in Borneo. Volunteers stay for three weeks and do hands-on work, helping orangutans and forests directly. It’s up to you to do something to help. Please take your interest and turn it into action. We hope you will help the orangutans!