Friday, October 18, 2013

Who We Support // Orangutan Outreach

More and more rainforests are disappearing due to deforestation and the expansion of palm oil plantations into their rainforest home. As a result, more orangutans are being captured, being smuggled out of Indonesia, or have become pets for plantation workers although it is illegal. They are also starving as a result of deforestation, or dying as a captured prisoner.

They are on the brink of extinction. It is critical that the rescued orangutans are rehabilitated and reintroduced into the wild with the skills needed to survive.

Baby orangutans normally live with their mother for the first six to seven years of their life– until they are strong enough to cope on their own. It takes years to teach the little ones the skills they will need to become independent, wild orangutans.

This is Gunung, a baby Orangutan we adopted this year.

Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) and International Animal Rescue are in favor of relocating wild orangutans to safer forest areas whenever possible. The BOS rescue center in Nyaru Menteng is the largest rehabilitation program for wild orangutans in the world. Once they arrive, they immediately go through health checks as they are malnourished and have contracted diseases because of contact with humans. After the orangutans have been examined and are deemed healthy they are placed in one of two groups depending on their age and skills. Either they will go to the nursery or to the socialization home.

Nursery School
At the nursery school, they learn to climb. In the wild the babies would be with their mother until they are about 7 years old. They are never alone, like humans they need constant care in first years.  At the nursery they are monitored 24 hours a day. 

The larger orangutans are carefully evaluated before deciding where to place them. As a general rule they will be place in so called “socialization” cages where they live together with 10-15 other orangutans and will learn how to live in a group.  Most of the confiscated orangutans have been brought up chained to something in order to restrict their movements and keep them tethered to the ground– lest they mange to escape, which they would naturally do. They have also been living with humans as their only companions. It is therefore imperative for them to get to know other orangutans and create their own social network before being released into the wild. When the orangutans have shown that they can handled themselves in the socialization cages without any problems it is time for the next move.

Halfway House
Once the orangutans can successfully fend for themselves it is time for them to move to a so-called “halfway house”– located a little more than half a mile from the center. Human contacted is purposefully limited. Once the orangutans have learned to build solid nests, find forest food and are choosing to stay in the forest instead of returning to ground homes, it is time for the next stage in the rehabilitation process: the Islands.

Orangutan Island
Close to the rehabilitation center, there are several uninhabited islands in the middle of the river. They are specially protected and still monitored by staff. It is here that Animal Planet’s series Orangutan Island takes place.

The Wild
After a long period of supervision the orangutans are ready to be released into carefully chosen areas in the wild. The release sites must meet a number of criteria including free from human beings and diversity of fruits and plants that can feed the orangutans. The site also has to be in the area of Borneo that the orangutans originate from in order to avoid genetic mix up with other wild populations. 

They are checked up on occasionally by scientific professionals to take blood samples to test for diet and disease. As you can see this is a very long, complex process that requires a lot of time, effort and resources. 

Please visit our support page to see more about what you can do to help save the orangutans.

Orangutan Outreach is a NY based non-profit founded by Richard Zimmerman whose mission is to save the critically endangered orangutans and protect their rainforest home. You can visit their website at

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