Dear Friends of OFI,
The babies need our help!
Each day, thousands of acres of tropical rain forests are clear‐cut, burned, and reduced to ash. The scorched earth, once home to variegated wildlife, becomes a deafeningly silent monoculture plantation. Wild orangutans who once roamed these now stricken ashen landscapes are starving, their deaths often carried out by men armed with weapons and tools of destruction. Orangutan mothers who find their way into palm oil plantations in a desperate search for food to feed themselves and their infants are met with homemade shotguns, machetes, and spears. Innocent infants are wrested from their dead mother’s bodies, only to be sold and trafficked into captivity which often leads to their death. The worst orangutan death I ever witnessed was caused by workers who, a few days earlier, had slashed a fleeing orangutan with the razor‐sharp tools used for cutting down oil palm fruits. After being brought to us, the badly wounded orangutan survived only a day or two despite intensive medical care.
Unfortunately, this year a number of orangutan orphans have come to our Care Center.
In the wild, an orangutan infant stays with his/her mother for the first eight years of life and is carried as mother moves from tree to tree until the youngster is over five years old. Sometimes immature orangutans stay close to their mothers even after she gives birth to another infant.
Rehabilitation is a long and arduous process. Rehabilitating orphan orangutan infants takes years of care, nurture, and monitoring. You
cannot just throw infants back into the jungle! We have to wait until they are old enough and ready to go! The process often takes ten years!
Even so, we must not despair. We can save these orphans, but we
must act now. Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) continues to
save orphan orangutans and other wildlife. We care for them so they
return to complete health, nurture them so the traumas of their infancy do not disrupt normal mental and physical development, and
finally when they are old enough and ready to do so, they go back home to the wild. After release wild born ex‐captive orangutans are monitored for their safety as long as it seems necessary. We provide them with feeding stations to which they can return in search of supplementary food. Fortunately, many ex‐captive orangutans take to the great forest immediately and subsequently rarely return.
In over 50 years, we have returned over 800 wild born ex‐captive orangutans back to the great Bornean rainforest which is their original home. The majority of OFI’s orangutan returnees survive in the wild. We are especially proud when released rehabilitated females come back to camp with a newborn baby. This often happens. One orangutan female stayed in the forest for three years before she returned with an infant. Some female orangutans whom we released to the wild in the 1970’s have grandchildren and at least one has great‐grandchildren! OFI’s rehabilitation work also involves protecting the forests where infant orangutans will one day return. Without forests, orangutans have no future.
However, there are many orphan orangutans currently in our care, both infants and older youngsters, who are growing and in need of further care and rehabilitation. Orangutan orphans don’t need to go to college but it is almost as expensive to raise an orangutan orphan as it is a human child. It’s not just the cost of supplies and equipment such as baby blankets, formula, baby bottles, cribs, and other items but also the salaries and food of surrogate human “mothers”, medical care, enrichment items, and supervision and protection of small forest sanctuaries where orangutans can play, travel, and naturally learn to be orangutans again. When released during the day, infant orangutans need to be monitored and usually held and often fed. The youngest ones need to sleep with caregivers. Never mind the cost of repairing enclosures! Some juvenile orangutans are as strong as adult men and can rip through the ironwood of the sleeping enclosures without a moment’s thought.
Please help OFI raise, care for, and nurture our youngsters, as well as protect their forests. The need is immediate. Please support OFI so that these orphans can grow into healthy young orangutans who can return to their rightful home in the wild. They deserve no less! It goes without saying that taking care of young orangutans means that we are also taking care of the forests to which these orangutans will one day return.
In deep gratitude for your love, concern, and continuing support which gives innocent orangutan orphans a chance to grow and return to a free life in the forest. Let us save all orangutans!
Biruté Mary Galdikas
President & Founder
Orangutan Foundation International