Orangutans From Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia

These primates are seriously endangered, mostly due to logging, loss of habitat and poaching.
The Orangutan population is dwindling, Sumatra has some 6,500 and twice as much are left over in Borneo, now called Kalimantan.  The species are respectively Pongo albelii, with reddish colored hair and Pongo pygmaeus, with brownish colored hair. Orangutan is derived from the Indonesian words Orang for Man and Hútan for Forest. Thus Man of the Forest. The Orangutans share 97% of their DNA with humans.

phylogenetic tree
Phylogenetic Tree

See the Phylogenetic Tree, to know the evolutionary relationship of the primates. The Orangutan is the largest arboreal creature on the planet. They can’t survive elsewhere, as many tigers are roaming around in the same forest.  The ones from Sumatra are in general more social, although the male normally lives a solitary life. The offspring accompany the mother for some eight years. The orangutans of Kalimantan are also suffering losses due to poaching, illegal logging and loss of habitat.

In Northern Sumatra, 80 km west of Medan, I visited the Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, near Bukit Lawang. Bukit means Hill or mountaintop and Lawang means door or in this case gateway.  I stayed overnight in the guesthouse near the entrance of the park to be able to participate in an early mountain trip to the feeding site for the orangutans. On the way is a small compound where orphans are treated, fed and trained

The work of the biologists, who are trying to save these creatures, is a very important task. Due to poaching and other malicious behavior small orangutans frequently are ending up as orphans.  The biologists are taking care of them in 9 sanctuaries in North Sumatra and Aceh province, where they do not just have to teach them what to eat, but also how to eat it. In absence of their mother, who teaches them everything during many years, the caretakers have to show them also how to behave for their own safety and have to frequently do those things their mother normally would teach them by example. This is the only proven way to make re-adaptation in the wild a success. I would also, therefore, ask to donate to their organization to keep up this beautiful work.

While visiting the feeding site for those who live in the wild in this park, there were already quite some orangutans gathered. There was at least one female, two babies and a very suspicious male. The latter kept watching the visitors behind there fence. A cameraman, with lots of video equipment, posted his tripod near the fence. All of a sudden the male moved in near the video equipment and the public rapidly backed up, away from the fence. He evidently only had some thoughts of his own and luckily was not really aggressive, sat there, near the camera, with a face as if he wanted to say: “what do you think of me, this is my territory, you know”.  All in all, it was a very fine and gratifying experience.

These animals must be saved, from poachers and individuals, who want to cut down the forest to establish plantations such as oil palm etc. Although an adult Orangutan has a strength of up to 7 times, that of humans, they are defenseless against these intruders in their habitats.

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