Issue 91 is out now
Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

15th January 2009

Once widespread throughout the forests of Asia, orangutans are now confined to just two islands, Sumatra and Borneo. Numbers are in steep decline due to the destruction of their native forests, mainly for palm oil production. Find out how you can reduce your impact.

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

15th January 2009

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

15th January 2009

Orangutans breed more slowly than any other primate, with the female producing a baby on average only once every 7-8 years. Infants are dependent on their mothers for at least five years, learning about survival in the forest. Orangutans live for around 45 years in the wild, and a female will usually have no more than 3 offspring in her lifetime. This means that orangutan populations grow very slowly, and take a long time to recover from habitat disturbance and hunting.

Orangutans are highly intelligent and gentle animals. They use tools in the wild and have excellent memories to make mental maps of their forest home in order to find fruiting trees throughout the seasons.

Following the steps below will help to reduce pressure on the world’s natural resources, helping to protect the habitat of the orangutan and many other endangered species.
Buy certified wood
The greatest threat to the orangutan is habitat loss, and one of the main causes is illegal logging. This is fed by the high demand for timber in Europe and in countries such as Japan, the United States and China. Use recycled paper and avoid timber products that have not been sustainably produced. Not all eco-labelling is reliable, so it is best to avoid all tropical hardwoods, such as teak, mahogany, ebony, sandalwood, ironwood, or ramin.

Encourage shops to ensure products use sustainable palm oil
A large amount of remaining orangutan habitat is under threat of being converted into oil palm plantations. Palm oil is found in one in ten products on supermarket shelves (including bread, crisps, margarine, cereals, lipstick and soap) yet the vast majority of manufacturing companies don’t even know where their palm oil comes from. Encourage your supermarket to take action to source more sustainable palm oil by joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Boycotting products containing palm oil is not the solution – you should instead demand that the palm oil in the products you buy comes from genuinely non-destructive, sustainable plantations. If you are not sure whether a product contains palm oil or has been sustainably produced, ask the retailer for details. Expressing concern about where products and ingredients come from encourages companies to be environmentally sensitive.

Reduce your carbon footprint
Electricity is one of the biggest producers of carbon emissions. Turn off electrical devices when not in use (lights, television, DVD player, Hi Fi, computer etc.), unplug your mobile phone as soon as it has finished charging and fit energy saving light bulbs.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Reducing consumption lowers energy use and waste generation, and can make a great impact on protecting our environment. Use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags. Try purchasing durable, long-lasting goods and seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxins as possible. Reusing items is the next best choice, better than recycling because no processing is required. Consider repairing, donating or selling an item before you throw it away. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. In addition, it generates a host of environmental, financial, and social benefits. Materials like glass, metal, plastics, and paper can be collected, separated and sent to facilities that can process them into new materials or products.

Support conservation projects
You could make a donation to the SOS. Or if you fancy a light hearted affair, check out the comedy night at Oxford’s New Theatre – OrangAid takes place on 31st of January to raise awareness and funds for the man of the forest.

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