Saturday, December 05, 2009

Orangutans, Why We Should Protect Them


Do you know the orangutan? Many people around the world know the orangutan, a great ape that lives in Borneo (Kalimantan) Island and Sumatra Island. But, recently, there are only a small number of them, about 5,000 to 10,000 in Sumatra, where they live only in the province of Aceh, about 20,000 to 30,000 in Borneo, and the others live in the zoo. Why this situation happened, and why we should protect them are my points of this presentation. Before that, I would like to explain about their kinds, where they live, their everyday life, and their latest condition.

I choose this topic because I am interested in wild animals and wild lives especially orangutans. And I would like to tell you anything that I know, and I also use many resources like encyclopedias, the articles in the internet, and the other books.

I divide this presentation into the following parts:
1. Kinds and Characteristics of Orangutans
2. Where They Live
3. What Make Them Rare
4. Why We Should Protect Them
5. What We Should Do to Protect Them
6. Some Organizations that Concern about Orangutans
7. Conclusion


The word “orangutan” comes from Malay language that means man of the forest. “Orang” means the man, whereas “utan or hutan” means the forest. So, when we combine these two words, it means the man of the forest.

The scientific name for orangutan is Pongo pygmaeus. There are two subspecies of orangutans, Kalimantan orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) and Sumatra orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus abelii). There are only a few differences between these subspecies, except that Sumatra orangutans are a little bigger and their color is a bit lighter than those in Kalimantan.

The male weights about twice as much as female. The male weights 75-100 kilograms, where-as the female weights only 35-45 kilograms. Furthermore, orangutans that live in the zoo are heavier than those living in the forest.

Since they have short legs, they can only reach 1.37 cm tall when they stand on their legs. Although their legs are short, they have long arms that enable them to move from branch to branch easily. This condition also brings advantage for them because they will be safer being on the top of the tree than on the ground, since it has many enemies, especially illegal hunters.

Adult males have big cheeks that differs them from an adult females, and it also makes them unique than the other animals.

Pregnant period for them is about 8 months (255-275 days), and newborn baby weights 1.1-1.6 kilograms. The baby is with its mother for 3 years, and at the age of 4 it leaves its mother and joins a group of orangutans of the same age. At the age of 10, it gets its maturity.

They are semisolitary, which is unique among the apes. They live mostly in the trees and are good climbers. They use all four limbs to climb, or travel by arm-swinging alone, only over short distances. They rarely spring jump. When walking on all four limbs, they use the outside edges of the feet and the fists. Although they occasionally stand on only two legs, these stances appear to be difficult.

Orangutans in the forest eat fruits, vegetables, many kinds of flowers, leaves, whereas those in the zoo sometimes eat rice or food the zoo visitors give.


There are about 5,000 to 10,000 orangutans in Sumatra, where they live only in the province of Aceh, about 20,000 to 30,000 in Borneo, and the others live in the zoos. Sumatra orangutans mostly live in the Mount Leuser National Park, whereas Kalimantan orangutans live in Tanjung Puting National Park, Samboja, Wanariset Research Forest (Indonesia), Sepilok Rehabilitation Center, Kalabakan, and Kinabalu National Park in Sabah, and Semenggoh Rehabilitation Center in Serawak (Malaysia).

a. Gunung Leuser National Park

Gunung Leuser is one of the most important parks in Southeast Asia because of its size and diversity. It covers 9,500 square kilometers and ranges in altitude from sea-sevel to mountains, with Mount Leuser as highest peak at 3,145 meters. 12 major rivers flow from the park, supplying domestic and agricultural water to more than 2 million people.

45 percent of the 9,000 plant species known for the West Indo-Malayan region found in the Leuser ecosystem. Leuser is the home of Sumatra’s terrestrial species and is one of the few places where viable populations of some rarer species remain. Although 90 percent of Mount Leuser lies in the province of Aceh, the main points of access are via North Sumatra province, starting from Medan. The most popular parts of the park are the Bohorok urangutan’s station.

b. Tanjung Puting National Park

Tanjung Puting offers important protection to a wide variety of Bornean lowland fauna and flora, and is best known to the outside world as its orangutan rehabilitation center. The park covers 3,550 square kilometers area of low-lying alluvial land on the southern coast of Central Kalimantan, with the highest elevation just 11 meters. Around one-third of the vegetation is tropical heath forest with low to medium sized trees.

c. Wanariset Research Forest

Wanariset Research Forest is located in East Kalimantan province and covers area of 3,500 ha. It is the province’s only orangutan sanctuary.

d. Sepilok Rehabilitation Center in Sandakan, Sabah, and Semenggoh Rehabilitation Center in Serawak

At these centers, adult orangutans are screened for disease before they are released, to ensure that nothing will be passed on to the wild population. Baby orangutans, on the other hand, are fed and taken care of as they are unable to survive in the wild unaided. They are reintroduced to the forest at about eight to ten years of age, when they have mastered survival skills.

e. Kalabakan Plantation in Sabah

A wildlife survey done by Sabah Wildlife Department said that an estimated 1,000 orangutans were found in the north-east part of the proposed 21,400 ha Kalabakan plantation and pulp and paper mill project.


There are several factors that make orangutan become rare. 

1. Illegal hunting 

Some illegal hunters kill them for food, souvenir (skull) and as a crop pest, some bring them to the other places and sell them, but many of them died in the journey to the other place. They kill them in large numbers, and they don’t just kill the adult but also the baby. This situation makes their population decreases in the 20th century. 

2. Human Activities in the Forest 

Many trees in the forest where they live are cut down and it makes them lose their habitat. Although the government has established a law that prevents trees from being cut down, many people still do their illegal activities. 

3. Forest Fire 

In 1997, forest fires in Indonesia destroyed 2 percent of the remaining habitat. This was the worst forest fire in Indonesia because it affected not only Indonesian territory but also Singapore and Malaysia. 

4. The breeding of orangutans is slow 

With birth intervals of eight years, they are the slowest breeding primate species. Adult females may have only three or four offspring during their reproductive time. 

5. The infant death rate of orangutans is high 

The infant death rate of orangutan is high because they have to face many diseases and illegal hunters. Out of 5 babies that are born, 3 of them will have chance to become adult and get offspring. 

6. Diseases 

Many diseases attack them like bronchitis, malaria, and other infections. These diseases are very dangerous for them because it causes their death rate high. 

7. Many orangutans become pets in houses 

Making orangutan become pets in houses is one factor that makes the population of orangutan decrease.
All the above factors I have mentioned above are the main factors that make orangutan rare. Beside the above factors, there are some factors that can affect their population, such as climate and the changing of their behavior.


There are many reasons why we should protect the orangutan. 

1. The orangutan is a endangered animal

The orangutan is an endangered animal. Their number has decreased during the 20th century mostly because the human activities like illegal hunting, cutting down many trees in the forest illegally, illegal trading of orangutans, and forest fire. If we do not protect them from the human activities that harm its life, we will not see them in the next 10 or 20 years. And it will be disadvantage for us because this animal is very special.

2. The orangutan is a big asset especially for Indonesia and Malaysia

Many people who want to see orangutan living in natural habitat come to Indonesia and Malaysia. And this condition can increase the national revenue income from tourism in both countries. Furthermore, the increased in the revenue can be used to provide the better home for orangutan and protect them from the danger. 

3. The orangutan is the only great ape that lives in Asia
The orangutan is the only great ape that lives in Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia). The other great apes, such as gorilla and chimpanzee live in Africa. Therefore, if they become extinct in the future, we will not see the special great ape that comes from Asia. 

4. It is interesting to study the life of the orangutan 

It is very interesting to study the life of orangutan because not many experts have studied them more specifically. If they become extinct, we will not have chance to study them more specifically. 

5. The orangutan is a cute animal 

The more you look at the orangutan the more you find that it is a cute animal. They are as cute as dogs and cats, but the difference is you cannot have them in your house. It is a kind animal and not easily gets angry. Since it is cute, you will be pleased after you look at it.

And I think if people have the same opinion as the above, I am sure they will stop hunting and trading orangutans.


Because the number of orangutans has decreased in the 20th century, we have to do some things that can protect them from the danger, such as: 

1. Making law that enables total prohibition of orangutans 

Because the orangutan is in dangerous condition right now, the government should forbid all kinds of hunting, both illegal and legal. In addition, the government should increase the number of forest police that patrol in the forest and the frequency of the patrol should be increased, so that the hunters will be afraid to hunt them. 

2. Not having them as pets in our houses 

Making them as pets is one factor that makes their population decrease, because they will not have a chance to have offspring. 

3. Limiting the human activities in the forest 

Many human activities in the forest, such as cutting down the trees and mining that harm them, be annoyed, and it will have more chances to live. 

4. Building some hospitals for orangutans and increasing the number of veterinarians who are specialized in orangutans’ problems 

By building some hospitals near the orangutan’s house in the forest, the orangutan suffering from disease can be brought to the hospital directly, so that it can be cured from the disease before it gets worse. By building some hospitals can also increase their quality of life, because the veterinarians in the hospital can check their health periodically.
 We should also increase the number of veterinarians who are specialized in orangutan’s problems, so that many problems that faced by orangutans can be solved immediately. 

5. Increasing the area of the forests or conservations where orangutans can live 

By increasing the number of the forest or conservations where they can live will help them to spread their population and will make them safe because there will be a safe place for them to live.

At least, by doing these, I hope the orangutan will be saved from extinction.


There are many organizations that concern about orangutans. Some of them are:

1. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 

It helped the establishment of Bohorok Rehabilitation Center on the periphery of Gunung Leuser National Park. Since it first opened, more than 150 wild juvenile orangutans have benefited from this place, and have been returned to the forest. 

2. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 

This organization’s duty is to protect orangutans from illegal trading. 

3. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna 

This organization has banned worldwide trade of the orangutan, except those for non-commercial, scientific purposes such as captive breeding. 

4. Perlindungan Hutan dan Pelestarian Alam (PHPA) 

It means The Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation in English. It is the government body in charge of national parks and nature conservation, nor tour operators, understands what wildlife tourists expect. Indonesia now has 350 protected areas under this government body. It also has cooperation with WWF. 

5. Balikpapan Orangutan Society-USA (BOS-USA) 

BOS-USA is an independent U.S. nonprofit organization, formed to support orangutan conservation and to raise awareness of the plight of the orangutan. They are operated by dedicated volunteers. BOS-USA supports a variety of projects in Indonesia and Malaysia that protect orangutans, wild and rehabilitated, as well as their natural habitat. 

6. Orangutan Foundation International 

The mission of the Orangutan Foundation International is to support the conservation and understanding of the orangutan and its rain forest habitat. 

7. The Forestry Research Institute in Samarinda, East Kalimantan

8. Sabah Wildlife Department

9. Center for Orangutan and Chimpanzees 

Its mission is to provide a permanent sanctuary in a safe and enriched environment for orangutans and chimpanzees in need of permanent life time care.

10. Orang-outang
It campaigns to save orangutans and the rain forests where they live from extinction.
And there are many other organizations that cannot be written here.


So far, I have explained about many facts about orangutans, such as their kinds and characteristics, where they live, what make they become rare, why we should protect them, what we should do to protect them and some organizations that concern about them. Why this situation happened, and why we should protect them are my points of this presentation and I have explained all.

In conclusion, from the above statements, orangutans are special animals but they are in critical condition because the activities that many humans do. We should concern about them because they become rare and rare, and if we want to see them in the next 10 or 20 years, we should protect them.

And this is the end of my presentation.


Compton’s Encyclopedia 2000 Deluxe (CD), Broderbund2000. 
Indonesian Encyclopedia for Fauna (Mammals I)PT Ichtiar Baru-van Hoeve, Jakarta, 1988. 
Stone, David, Biodiversity of Indonesia. : Tanah Air, Archipelago Press, Singapore, 1997
Tang Cheng Li, “Man of the Forest” in the Firing Line (article). 
Yoga, S.S., Kalabakan Logging Threat to Orangutans (article), April 17th 2002.

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