There is surely no better feeling than getting up close to one of the world’s most iconic species. It is something which routinely appears on people’s bucket lists, whether it be ‘swimming with dolphins’, ‘snorkelling alongside whale sharks’, ‘hearing a lions roar’ or ‘seeing an orangutans in the wild’.
This blog post will focus on the latter experience. Orangutan literally translates as ‘man of the jungle’ which is apt as they inhabit the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia and Malaysia. They are the most arboreal (tree dwelling) of any of the great apes and, as such, spend the majority of their time in the rainforest canopy. They are the most solitary of the great apes and choose to be independent with the exception of mothers and dependent offspring. Orangutans are also some of the most intelligent of the great apes and use tools to build ‘nests’ in the treetops where they reside to escape predation and shelter themselves from the elements.
Sadly, human activities have caused the Orangutan to be classed as critically endangered. The main activities that have caused Orangutans to be classed as critically endangered are poaching, the illegal pet trade and habitat destruction. The latter factor is, perhaps, the most influential factor, especially on the island of Borneo which has seen mass deforestation as a result of Palm Oil agricultural development.
For more on palm oil please see this video:
Unfortunately, this has made the possibility of being able to see an Orangutan far more scarce and unpredictable as their numbers decrease with their range. About a century ago it was estimated there were about 230,000 Orangutans, experts estimate that only around 60,000 remain today. This population is particularly apparent in Borneo where the population has reduced by around 50% in only the last 60 years.
However, if you would still like to cross the experience off your bucket list perhaps the best way to help the Bornean Orangutan is to go and contribute to the rehabilitation of individuals affected by human activity. Not only does this experience offer you the opportunity to get closer to these animals than almost any tour or safari worldwide but it also affords you the unique opportunity to learn about these incredible creatures and really contribute to their survival.
Volunteering is perhaps the most rewarding way to travel as you make lifelong links with the people you visit and share the experience with, not to mention the animals with which you work. It is truly the most rewarding way to experience nature and the places that you travel. You can also leave with the knowledge that you have had a wonderful and direct impact on the place that you visit. However, it is of utmost importance to ensure that you find a project which truly has the interests of the local people and animals at heart and is, therefore, a sustainable place to volunteer. To find out about more sustainable volunteering projects in nature you can visit Eco Companion.