THERE’S A ‘PERSON’ IN THE FOREST!
by, J.E. Rogers
There is a ‘person’ in the forest, and he’s critically endangered because of human greed. In the Malay and Indonesian language, the word orangutan translates into English as ‘person of the forest.’ This ‘person’ is the focus of this week’s blog. The orangutan is one of man’s closest relatives, so let’s get to know him a bit better.
There are two species of orangutan, the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), and the Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii). Both species are critically endangered. They are the largest tree-dwelling and slowest breeding mammal. Females will give birth once every eight years. The males and females are sexually dimorphic, which means they are quite different in size and appearance. The females will weigh about 80 pounds, and the males can weigh up to about 132 pounds.
As their names imply, they live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. It is believed that in the distant past, the islands were connected and when separated, the orangutans evolved differently. It wasn’t until the 1990s that scientists decided that these two orangutans are indeed separate species.
Distribution of the Bornean Orangutan
Map Credit: IUCN*
The Sumatran species does not venture to the floor of the forest often. The fact that they prefer to remain in the treetops makes sense as the Sumatran tiger is indigenous to the island. The hair of the Sumatran Orangutan is paler, redder than its Bornean cousin, which appears more brown and darker. The Bornean orangutan has a broader face and a shorter beard than the Sumatran species. Also, there is a distinct difference in the cheek flanges of the orangutans. The Bornean species’ flanges grow wider causing the face to appear rounder. The face is also covered with fine hair.
Photo credit: WWF (https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/sumatran-orangutan)
Photo credit: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/bornean-orangutan
Orangutans have a very distinctive form. Their bodies are thin, and their arms and legs are long and sinuous. They have long grasping digits on both their hands and feet, which they use to move adeptly through their arboreal habitat.
Photo credit: franslanting.photoshelter.com
Although they have been hunted relentlessly in the past, their populations continue declining rapidly due to the destruction of their habitat. The desire for palm oil, which is used in many products, is the major reason for the reduction of the orangutan’s forest. According to what I have read, the need for palm oil has not slowed, and as a result the destruction continues. However, there are some who feel that this can be changed. To learn more about it, read the following article: http://www.eco-business.com/opinion/conservation-in-palm-oil-is-possible/
Can we live without palm oil? Can we find a substitute? Certainly, the orangutans cannot live with it. Only we can make a change.
Photo credit: the Orangutan Conservancy
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas has dedicated her life to protecting and rehabilitating orangutans. She continues her work from ‘Camp Leakey’ in Borneo Indonesia. “Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas has studied orangutans longer than any other person in human history and has worked ceaselessly to save orangutans and forests, and to bring orangutans and their plight to the attention of the world.”
To read more about Dr. Galdikas and her passion, visit the following website:
Photo credit: ecoteerresponsibletravel.com
Thanks so much for stopping by to read and learn a bit about this unusual and critically endangered great ape. We have an obligation to ensure that the orangutan survives in the wild. The ‘person’ of the forest has as much a right to live as we do.
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