A Responsible Guide to the Orangutans of Borneo
With their beautiful shaggy red coats and broad, hairless faces, the Bornean Orangutan is one of the most unique and recognisable primates. Sadly, they are on the critically endangered list with around 55,000 remaining in the wild.
Why is the Bornean Orangutan so special?
The orangutan is the face of so many conservation campaigns because it never fails to pull on the heartstrings of donors. But why is that? What makes them so special?
Firstly, they are truely majestic. As the world’s largest tree-dwelling mammal, it is incredible to see them swinging through the forest canopy. They are usually solitary animals so they are hard to see, but when you do spot one, you will quickly notice how human they seem.
The Bornean Orangutan is similar in size and weight to humans, reaching up to 4.6 ft and weighing between 30 and 100kg. They are primarily vegetarians with fruit making up about 60% of their diet. The WWF has identified up to 500 different plant species in their diet meaning they play a crucial role in seed dispersal necessary to keep the forests healthy.
What threats do they face?
In one word: humans. We humans are the biggest threat to the Bornean Orangutan through habitat loss, illegal hunting, fires, habitat fragmentation, lack of awareness and climate change. A lot of these factors can be linked palm oil plantations, logging and other forms of agriculture.
A lack of awareness surrounding the endangered status of the Bornean Orangutan has seen the illegal pet trade for baby orangutans flourish. Despite their low reproductive rates, around 250-500 baby orangutans enter the illegal trade each year where they are sold in the cities for a few hundred dollars.
As their habitat continues to shrink they are more likely to come into contact with humans as they search for food. Sadly, many are killed if they stray into agricultural areas where they destroy the crops.
What can we do to help?
Humans are the biggest threat to the Bornean Orangutan but we are also their best chance for survival.
The international community is strengthening the enforcement of laws prohibiting the capture and trade of orangutans by training special officers to identify, arrest and prosecute offenders. Conflict between humans and orangutans can also be reduced through education programs, which help farmers develop new plantation management methods. Habitat conservation and restoration is one of the most important elements of conservation efforts as well as the creation of ecological corridors through selective logging.
Eco-tourism is an important new industry which is providing an economic incentive to conservation. As more tourists come to Borneo to see the orangutan they bring economic benefits to those living nearby and increase the commitment of locals to protecting these animals.
It can still be difficult for tourists to see which projects genuinely support conservation, so Eco Companion has done the hard work for you. Here are three of our favourites!
The Orangutan Wildlife Rescue and Community Project sees volunteers work alongside local staff to rehabilitate animals and prepare them for release back into the wild. You can also help at a local education club to improve awareness within the community.
At the IAR Orangutan Project, volunteers help build new enclosures, grow food and maintain the conservation site. The centre provides veterinary services and support to ensure the orangutans will flourish when they are released into the wild.
If you are looking for more of a mix between holiday and volunteering, then make sure you check out the Orangutan Adventure Holiday. During the week you will sleep on houseboat and in tents deep in the jungle, hiking through the jungle looking for wild animals, or helping with reforestation efforts.
While humans are the biggest threat to the orangutan, we are also the key to their survival. Through eco-tourism, you are able to actively make a positive impact on conservation projects to ensure their survival.