Happy International Orangutan Day! As is probably obvious, orangutans are my favorite animal, so I’m glad that they get their own day.
I’m not entirely certain why I’m so drawn to orangutans. I think part of it is because, out of all the non-human great apes, I see more of myself in them than in any other. I think of them as intelligent and introverted (especially the adult males). They’re patient and good at problem-solving. They’re usually the hardest animal to keep enclosed at a zoo, with their strength, dexterity, and intelligence being enough to break out of all but the best-designed enclosures.
They’re just such marvelous beings. I really hope that humanity can preserve them for the future. It would be such a loss if this species went extinct.
Here are some resources for learning more about and helping orangutans.
Reflections of Eden, by Birute Galdikas, is a book all about the author’s experiences in Borneo studying orangutans. It’s an excellent book, and it’s full of interesting information about orangutans. Before Galdikas, scientists really knew very little about these solitary apes. Even the locals sometimes thought of them as ghosts, or as the adult males being an entirely different species from the females and sub-adults. Birute Galdikas was the first person to study them thoroughly.
Galdikas also wrote Orangutan Odyssey, which is more of a photobook. It’s filled with gorgeous images of orangutans.
Orangutan Foundation International “is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wild orangutans and their rainforest habitat. OFI also supports research on orangutans and forests, education initiatives, both local and international, and brings awareness concerning orangutans wherever it can.” The World Wildlife Fund also lets you help by “adopting” an orangutan.
The Ape Who Went to College is a documentary about Chantek, an orangutan who learnt sign language and grew up on a college campus, raised by humans. Orion Magazine has a good article about him, too. There’s also a Tedx talk about him, given by the woman who raised him, Lyn Miles.
The Palm Oil Guide and Scanner lets you scan bar codes of food and other products to see which contain palm oil. Palm oil plantations are the leading cause of deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia, where many orangutans live.
If you’re looking for some orangutan pendants or statuettes, Jason Shanaman makes the best I’ve found.
The San Diego Zoo has some good information about orangutans, too, as well as some beautiful orangutans at the zoo itself, some of whom you can see in my above photos.
And finally, these are all my posts about orangutans.