Saving Orangutans, One Bridge at a Time

While people around the world celebrated orangutan day this past Sunday, we took the opportunity to reflect on the work our partners at Hutan Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP) have done, and continue to do, in order to save one of the world’s most endangered apes from extinction. KOCP’s primary focus is to study orangutans in Borneo, which is home to some of the last remaining native habitat for wild orangutans. With over 50 highly trained staff, their work includes: assessing and monitoring orangutan population health, studying how orangutans adapt to living within degraded or fragmented forest patches, developing policies for population management within and outside of protected areas, and promoting community engagement and education in the conservation of orangutans and habitat, including environmental education programs for Malaysian school children. Just last year, environmental education programs reached 12,370 students and 914 teachers!

A focus on education is a must, but equally as important is coming up with creative solutions to keep orangutan populations happy and healthy while work is done to create protected areas and replant vital habitat. Logging to make room for palm oil plantations has made it almost impossible for orangutans to find tall old growth trees which they need in order to cross rivers and tributaries that divide sections of their habitat. If orangutans cannot move freely within their home range, they lose access to vital resources, and lack the ability to mate with other orangutans which leads to a decrease in genetic diversity. A lack in genetic diversity can have disastrous effects on a species whose numbers are already declining. So, our friends at KOCP had to figure out a system that would allow orangutans to navigate terrain easily, without having to rely on old growth trees. The answer, as it turns out, actually came from within the zoo world in the form of artificial bridges! Bridges made out of various materials like rope are used by orangutans in Zoos as a form of enrichment, and as a way to navigate their enclosure. You can see an example of one of these bridges here at the Houston Zoo when you visit our orangutans! In 2003, KOCP established the first orangutan bridge in the wild, and in 2010, after many years of waiting, they finally obtained camera footage of an orangutan using the bridge. The rest, as they say, is history. Last year, with support from the Houston Zoo, KOCP was able to refurbish 2 orangutan bridges, ensuring that orangutans will be able to continue to move freely across forest patches.

 

Of course, artificial bridges are only a short-term solution. Ideally, forest patches will be restored through replanting efforts and the cooperation of government and non-governmental organizations, as well as players within the palm oil industry. It will be a long process, but the hope is that one day artificial bridges will no longer be needed.  Texans can help save orangutans in the wild by shopping smart, and only buying from companies that support sustainable palm oil practices, and by visiting the Houston Zoo! A portion of every ticket to the Houston Zoo goes to help save animals like orangutans in the wild.

 

The Orangutan Workshop – Coming Together to Make a Difference

By Tammy Buhrmester

Have you ever wondered how the staff at the Houston Zoo stays current on taking care of the animals? Many keepers, supervisors, curators and administration staff attend workshops and conferences to learn as much as they can to make the animal’s lives at the Houston Zoo the best they can be.

Tammy BuhrmesterFrom October 12-15, more than 70 orangutan experts gathered for the 9th annual Orangutan SSP Husbandry Workshop, which was held in Wichita, Kansas.  Two keepers from the primate department were included in this assembly of experts. The workshop covered many topics, including husbandry, behavioral enrichment, veterinary techniques, training and conservation.  Each day specific topics were presented and discussed.  The first day covered SSP (Species Survival Plan) updates and ongoing projects to aid the orangutans in zoos and in the wild. Did you know that 54 North American zoos house 219 orangutans?  We learned that Cheyenne, one of our orangutans, is the 3rd oldest hybrid female in captivity in the United States. We discovered that this is the first time in a very long time that we have equal amount of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans in captivity. We discussed how taking pictures of and notes about our orangutan’s teeth can aid in establishing the age of orangutans in the wild.  Did you know that they have the same number of teeth that we do?  Aging is done by counting how many teeth the youngsters from the age of 0-12 have behind their canine teeth and when they come in.

We also were honored to hear a lecture by Lone Droscher Nielsen, a woman who founded the world’s largest orangutan rehabilitation center in Borneo.  Through all of her dedication and hard work, Nyaru Menteng is the biggest orangutan sanctuary in the world, with over 600 young orangutans in its care. 148 of these animals have been released and another 100 currently are eligible for release as space becomes available. Each confiscated baby orangutan that they care for represents one adult female who was killed when her forest home was destroyed.

On the second day, we covered maternal care, nutrition, cardiac care and veterinary care. We heard how Utah’s Hogle Zoo taught their 9 year old female orangutan to mother her new little brother after their mother passed away.  We discussed pregnancies (normal and high-risk), births, and maternal care training for mothers expecting babies. Two zoos presented together on how they are helping other zoo’s monitor cardiac care.  The number one cause for death in orangutans in captivity is heart disease. Many zoos are training their orangutans to present their chest to their keeper and vet in order to take ultrasound pictures of their hearts.  It is a training technique that takes time, patience and trust.  It is very hard to explain to an orangutan that we are going to smear a gooey substance on their chest and then take a plastic stick that is hooked to a machine and place it on their chest!

The veterinary portion covered many topics such as parasite control, teeth cleaning, dry skin treatment, chronic respiratory disease, how to disinfect properly, cardiac care, weights, diet preparation and vitamins.

The third day consisted of management and husbandry practices. We discussed many topics, such as nesting behaviors, shifting, enrichment, training, growth charts for infants, exhibit design, introductions, and problem solving. This was our day to do a presentation about flexible social housing of orangutans.  We use this technique as a management tool that mimics what can happen in the wild.  If you spent a couple of days in front of the orangutan exhibit, you would see a different combination of animals out on exhibit. You might see Kelly and Rudi on exhibit together, then another day you may see Kelly and Indah together.  You might see them alone. (Orangutans in nature are semi-solitary and do spend time on their own, with the exception of mothers and infants.)

Orangutan

On the last day, topics included past, present and future management, and conservation. We learned about several zoos that are designing new exhibits and night houses.  We were honored to watch two presentations on two elderly female orangutans, Maggie and Daisy, who have helped their species because their keepers have shared knowledge about their husbandry. A presentation followed by a discussion of how zoos and keepers can educate their guests about orangutans in the wild was also held.

Going to workshops and conferences offer many educational opportunities for zoo staff.  No matter how experienced we are, there is always room to learn more.  Networking with peers offers time to discuss problems, spark ideas and get to know each other.  Discovering new products, husbandry tools, and enrichment and training techniques will only make the animal’s lives better.  Attending workshops has allowed the staff to learn new things which help to make each individual animal at every zoo enjoy a high quality of life, and that is the goal that all of us share.

Houston Community Comes Swinging in to Help Our Orangutans!

Post by Tammy Buhrmester

What do firemen, Girl Scouts, and primate keepers all have in common? They all played a role in helping the Houston Zoo orangutans swing around their exhibit. The orangutans at the Houston Zoo needed more ways to swing and climb. Previously, we used thick ropes strung across the exhibit, but between the Houston humidity and the heavy use of the orangutans, the ropes kept fraying and coming down. The decision was made to make stronger man-made “vines” to help the orangutans move more naturally as they would in the wild.

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Orangutans are very arboreal; they are the world’s largest tree dwelling animal. (Recent studies have shown that they do come down to the ground fairly often, but they prefer to move in the trees.) Orangutan’s forearms are 30 percent longer than their legs, and both their hands and feet are equally capable of gripping branches of trees. They have opposable thumbs just like we do, but they also have the extra benefit of having opposable big toes (Wouldn’t that be handy?). Orangutans travel in the canopy of trees and maintain hold of branches with at least two limbs and can hang upside down from both feet.

Not only do the orangutans travel using trees, they also sleep in the trees at night. Orangutans make a new nest every night. Orangutans fold branches inwards and underneath them, as well as weave in smaller, leafy branches to build a comfy bed at night.

So how did we help the Houston Zoo orangutans swing and climb? First, we reached out to local fire stations and asked them for any old fire hoses that they were not using. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that several fire houses wanted to help the orangutans. We had over 60 rolls of fire hoses donated from many fire stations in the Houston area and from many outlying suburbs.

So now that we had the fire hoses, how did we make them look like vines? A local Girl Scout, Megan Contreras, was working on her Gold award, which is the highest award achievable in the Girl Scouts. She approached the primate staff wanting to learn about enrichment for the primates in the Houston Zoo. With help from her friends and chapter members, Megan was able to come to the Zoo and paint the fire hoses. With some splatters of brown, dark green, light green and yellow, the “vines” were coming alive.

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Now that our vines were made, it was up to the staff to hang them in places that would benefit the orangutans. In one afternoon, the staff was able to hang 14 “vines” and 2 hammocks. With extra “vines” left over, it was possible to hang some in the chimpanzee exhibit which added to the chimpanzee’s ability to locomote arboreally, as well.

Now, when you come to the primate section at the Zoo you will see our orangutans and chimpanzees swinging, climbing, playing, and resting on the “vines” created by our generous Houston community. We thank you all!!

Cheyenne’s Story: What Happens When a Zoo Animal Gets Sick?

The Houston Zoo is very lucky to have a great veterinary team: a Director, a Manager, 4 Veterinarians, 3 Veterinary Technicians, and a myriad of other important players like zookeepers, purchasing and record-keeping staff. It takes a village to keep our animals healthy! Because of our continued, professional veterinary care at the zoo, the clinic staff’s daily schedule involves  routine health checks and monitoring newborn, chronically ill or geriatric animals. But what happens when an animal becomes acutely ill and needs veterinary attention? And, what special considerations needs to be made to treat an animal as large as an orangutan?
Cheyenne & Vascular Team 6.14

Recently, one of our most beloved animals fell very suddenly ill: Cheyenne, our 42 year old orangutan who has been a devoted mother to four adopted kids. She quite abruptly started refusing food, and more alarmingly, water, and all she wanted to do was lie in her nest. Her most recent adoptee, 3 year old Aurora, was happy and active and thankfully did not seem too worried about her mama, but her keepers and the vet staff were extremely concerned.  So, an action plan was developed and Cheyenne was sedated for a thorough physical exam. Indah, our 10 year old Sumatran orangutan female was selected to babysit Aurora while Cheyenne was away, as the two of them had a mutually friendly relationship already.

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Cheyenne’s blood values were not looking good as her kidney function seemed compromised and several other important numbers were severely out of whack. Any number of problems could have been the reason for these aberrant results, and after consulting with a number of human doctors it was decided to do an exploratory abdominal surgery in case she had appendicitis or an internal abscess. Fortunately, neither of these were the case, so she was closed up and other veterinary specialists were consulted. It became obvious that she would need extended supportive care, which for an orangutan is not an easy task. A neonatal team of infusion specialists were called in to put an IV into a vein in Cheyenne’s foot, where she would be less likely to try to pull it out. It was covered by a cast once they successfully got it in, and she was kept partially sedated for her treatment and monitoring period that lasted two weeks. Through this IV lifeline, she received antibiotics, fluids and the sedative that kept her from being too active, while ensconced in a lovingly cushioned bed inside a recovery cage in the orangutan night house. She was watched carefully by the primate staff, who took turns staying overnight with her to make sure that her IV line was running properly and that she was resting comfortably. Keepers would offer her pureed fruits and vegetables via a long-handled spoon, and “milkshake” concoctions with everything from vanilla soy-milk to exotic juices, which she drank through a straw. Every 3 days, she was sedated more fully so that she could have additional blood tests done to check to see if her kidney values were improving.  At this time, her recovery cage was completely cleaned and she was given new bedding of soft hay, blankets and makeshift pillows. It was a long, drawn-out period where all of the staff who loves her rallied around her and did everything possible to maximize her recovery and comfort. And….it worked!

Cheyenne has been off the IV and back in with Aurora for a few weeks now, and is slowly but surely getting her strength back. She began going outside again after a couple of weeks, but only in the early mornings when the heat is not too intense. We feel so grateful for her progress and Aurora is very happy to be back with her mama again.

We can never predict when one of our treasured zoo animals might become ill, but when it happens, there is no more determined set of people than our veterinarians and keepers who try their best to make that animal well again. And, we are very lucky to have them.

Buy your own Houston Zoo's orangutan painted sun catchers to help save orangutans in the wild!

borangCome to the Houston Zoo to help us celebrate and learn about orangutans and their rainforest habitat. 

International Orangutan Caring Week is observed globally from Nov. 9 to Nov. 17.  And during that same period, the Houston Zoo’s primate staff will conduct a Meet the Keeper Talk at the Wortham World of Primates orangutan habitat daily at 3:30 PM.

Plus, visit our booth at the orangutan exhibit on November 9 and November 10 to shop for painted magnets, photo note cards, orangutan painted jewelry and many other items to raise funds to protect them in the wild. We will have available the beautiful one-of-a-kind orangutan painted Christmas ornaments, that can only be purchased once a year at this event.

Orang paintingThis year we are debuting our own Houston Zoo’s orangutan painted sun catchers.  Our orangutans have painted beveled pieces of glass and then keeper add beads to make beautiful one-of-a kind sun catchers.

The staff will have activities for children to participate in — they will be able to try on an orangutan sized sweater to see how they measure up and color paper leaves and then the staff will send these leaves to companies that are committed to using 100% RSPO sustainable palm oil by 2015. 

All proceeds from Orangutan Caring Week sales will support the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project that helps orangutan and elephant conservation projects in Indonesia.

threatened_balance_6956What the Zoo is doing?

  • We assist with research and protection efforts to save orangutans in the wild. 
  • All candy at Zoo Boo, our Holloween event here at the Zoo was palm oil free!
  • We are hosting a palm oil workshop/planning session with orangutan researchers, Zoos and local companies dedicated to palm oil free products.

What can you do?  

Be a hero!  Become an orangutan-friendly shopper:

  • Read the label: so you know what’s inside
  • Whenever possible, choose local and unprocessed food-this is better for your health and for the planet!
  • Be an informed consumer: consult websites and blogs to find lists of palm oil free product ad support companies promoting the use and growth of sustainable palm oil products.

Join us at the Zoo November 9th and 10th for a special orangutan caring event.  Visit the orangutans and purchase orangutan painted items.  All proceeds will go to saving orangutans in the wild!

Every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in the wild.

Help the Houston Zoo save orangutans in the wild!

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Asia’s only great ape, orangutans are one of the most endangered species.  Many experts believe orangutans will become extinct in the wild over the next 20 years. 

Approximately 1,000 are thought to perish every year as the rainforests on which they depend are cut down for logging and palm oil production.

 Originally some 300,000 orangutans lived throughout Southeast Asia. Today they survive only in isolated pockets on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. In the past 20 years, 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed – and only about 2 percent of what remains is legally protected in reserves.

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Orangutans (the name means “man of the forest”) are one of our closest relatives, sharing about 97 percent of our DNA. Mothers keep their babies with them for 8 to 10 years, and have a single baby every eight years or so.  Their rate of reproduction – the slowest of all the great apes – makes them particularly vulnerable.

Orangutans have long been threatened by the pet trade for every one that is sold as a pet, five or six are thought to die. And they are also killed for meat.

But it is the destruction of the rainforest that is their greatest threat.  It has long been cleared for logging and agriculture, but this has accelerated to meet the booming demand for palm oil.  Palm oil can be found in cookies, crackers, frozen dinners, shampoo, lotions, cosmetics, pet food, and many other products, palm oil is now the most widely produced edible oil. It is also found in a wide array of products sold in natural food stores, and it is being used as a possible fuel alternative.

What the Zoo is doing?

  • We assist with research and protection efforts to save orangutans in the wild. 
  • All candy at Zoo Boo, our Halloween event here at the Zoo was palm oil free!
  • We are hosting a palm oil workshop/planning session with orangutan researchers, Zoos and local companies dedicated to palm oil free products.Aurora-Cheyenne-First Day Out-0024-3596

What can you do?  

Become an orangutan-friendly shopper:

  • Read the label: so you know what’s inside
  • Whenever possible, choose local and unprocessed food-this is better for your health and for the planet!
  • Be an informed consumer: consult websites and blogs to find lists of palm oil free product ad support companies promoting the use and growth of sustainable palm oil products.
  • Join us at the Zoo November 9th and 10th for a special orangutan caring event.  Visit the orangutans and purchase orangutan painted items.  All proceeds will go to saving orangutans in the wild! 

PalmOilProblems

If you work in the world of wildlife (or even if you don’t), you are constantly hit with messages about the problems facing wildlife in every corner of the world. Sometimes, it’s hard to take it all in. If you feel this way-you are not alone.

The truth is, nobody is perfect (including me!). Although I work in the world of wildlife conservation educating others about how they can help save wildlife and habitats, I too fall in with bad habits. The use of palm oil is one of those things that is very tricky for me, and a lot of us, to avoid. Let me tell you a little about my PalmOilProblems.

Palm oil plantation in Malaysia. Photo by Jeremy Hance.

The Palm Oil 411: Palm oil is a product that is used in every day items like soap, shampoo, snacks, etc. Many palm oil plantations take over homes for animals like orangutans. Some companies work to protect wildlife while farming palm oil, others do not. The ones who set aside space and resources for wildlife we refer to as “sustainable”.

Palm oil fruit. Photo courtesy of Rhett Butler and Mongabay.

Back to my PalmOilProblems. The other day I was sitting at my desk, brainstorming ways to message to the public about how to avoid buying products with palm oil. One of the suggestions provided was to read the labels of ALL your products (beauty, food, etc.) to see what is inside. So, I decided to test myself. I keep a bottle of water-less hand wash and lotion at my desk (for the few times the humidity drops below 90% in Houston) and I had never actually looked at the ingredients in those items. I typically buy all natural/organic items when I can (that’s better, right?) so I laughed at the fact that these items could even contain palm oil-of course they wouldn’t!!! I am a wildlife conservationist!

First up-water-less hand wash. Ingredients include: ethyl alcohol (great, what’s next?), I peel open the secret cover to see more ingredients-water (no problem), and then…glycerin and in parentheses “naturally occurring palm oil”. WHAT!? What does that even mean? It says “naturally occurring”-so, is that okay? I did a bit of research, and I still can’t tell whether this is bad for orangutans or not. Looks like glycerin comes from either coconut or palm oil. I’m not sure if it’s sustainable or not, so I give myself an “F” for the water-less hand wash.

Houston Zoo orangutan, Aurora. Orangutans are losing their homes to palm oil plantations.

Up next-hand lotion. Ingredients include: dimethicone (what’s that and why am I putting it on my hands??), allantoin, oat, kernel flour, isopropul palmitate, sodium chloride, ….wait, what was that “palmitate” one?!? It sounds like palm oil, but it doesn’t actually say “palm” and “oil”. Well, thanks to Google, one quick search and I find out this thickening agent is from palm oil. Man, things are getting tricky. With even more research, I stumble upon lists and lists of ingredients that are actually palm oil, but have fancy names! Geez! How are we supposed to protect wildlife when it is just so confusing? I give myself another “F” and fail both tests. This sure doesn’t empower me to want to save wildlife, so it probably won’t work for you either. I better think of ways to get this message across in a more positive light!

So, instead of telling you to do a whole bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, avoid products, do lots of research (blah, blah, blah),  I’ll help you to save orangutans and other wildlife by telling you all about the awesome organizations that use no palm oil, or use the sustainable stuff. And, I’ll challenge you to eat healthier and live healthier by doing some of these things and I promise you’ll have less PalmOilProblems.

Palm oil fruit. Photo by Intan Shafinaz.

1. Buy products with less than 10 ingredients. Yeah, I said it…10 TOTAL ingredients. Sounds like a Sunday grocery store challenge to me!

2. Buy/use/eat products that contain ingredients you can actually pronounce! Mmmhmmm..your heart will thank you (so will orangutans).

3. Support companies that are doing things right! While I write this blog, I’m enjoying some crunchy unsalted peanut butter thanks to Trader Joe’s. Ingredients you ask? DRY ROASTED PEANUTS! Who knew? How simple! Thanks Joe the Trader!

Need to buy some makeup or beauty products? Avon is part of the sustainable palm oil companies.

Maybe you’re in the mood for some junk food after all this talk about healthy stuff? Thanks McDonalds and PepsiCo for jumping on board the sustainable palm oil train! I hope other companies like yours will join as well!

Want to find out about other companies helping to save wildlife and people through sustainable palm oil use? Visit: http://www.rspo.org/.

Want to support orangutan conservation through the Houston Zoo? Visit us! (Part of your ticket purchase goes back to helping save animals in the wild). Or, check out our orangutan donation page, here from the comfort of your own couch.

Thank you for taking small actions and making changes to help save wildlife around the globe. I hope these solutions will help alleviate some of your PalmOilProblems…they sure did for me!

Let’s make sure animals like orangutans (among many others) have a home for the future!

Why am I in Borneo? By Peter Riger, Vice-President of Conservation, Houston Zoo

We have had three main partners in Sabah since 2004;

1) Hutan which runs the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project and Elephant Conservation Unit as well as a number of other programs.

2) Danau Girang Field Centre which is a partnership of the Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University.  They conduct field research with a focus on priority species that will lead to conservation management plans for the region.

 3)The Sabah Wildlife Department itself.

 

Radio collared Bornean Elephant

The Houston Zoo has supported numerous conservation efforts in Sabah which include Orangutan, Elephant, Banteng, small carnivores, amphibians, and have assisted with projects ranging from education to ecotourism. The reason for this latest visit is to look at new priority projects to partner with over the next few years. Although we keep in constant email and SKYPE contact with our international conservation partners we try to visit thier sites and the people involved at least once a year to see how we can enhance our support.

Proboscis Monkey Photo courtesy of Paul Swen

 

Sabah is an amazing region and is considered a biodiversity hotspot. There are 10 species of primates including the Bornean Orangutan and Proboscis Monkey, 5 species of cats: Leopard cat, Clouded Leopard, Marbled cat, Flat-headed cat and the extremely rare Borneo Bay cat ( I can guarantee most people have only heard of one of those cat species). There are actually two dozen carnivores on the island ranging from otters and civets to Bornean Sun Bears. Bird life is just as diverse including 7 different species of Hornbills as well as pheasants, storm storks, and sea eagles. But all these species are threatened by fragmented habitat due to land use for agricultural purposes such as Palm Oil which is a blog unto itself one day. The species in the most trouble here is the Sumatran Rhino whose worldwide population us around 100-150 with potentially 20-25animals on the island of Borneo and the rest on the island of Sumatra. I was lucky enough to visit a young male Sumatran rhino named Tam in the Tabin Reserve a few years ago who had been rescued in a palm oil plantation, and it really was a special day for us.

 

Photo courtesy of Paul Swen

 

The goal for conservation in this region is to protect as much of the remaining habitat as possible, and develop corridors between the fragmented forests, while keeping conflict between the local communities and wildlife to a minimum.  Although I will spend time in meetings in the city, there will be time to hit the field so expect at least one note  about leeches and or getting caught in a tropical downpours along the way. And no, I do not mind either, they are part of life here on the island and easy enough to work around.

If want to learn about how you can help our conservaiton partners in Borneo click here.  Stay tuned for more updates from Peter in Borneo!

The Year in Blogs

I do not even know where to start to make sense of some of our blog posts in 2012, all written to try and bring your attention to both the successes and issues facing our environment. I really have no idea what may or may not have caught your attention. No matter how often our IT and web team send me graphs and charts showing reader algorithms, viral feeds (unrelated to a blog on emerging infectious diseases), hits and views – it is beyond my grasp of the new world we live in. Remember, I have a smart phone and do recall saying it was making us all a little dumber, me especially.

So a quick look back at MacGyver, Cheddar Bacon and Peppermint Shakes, Chicken Pants and the fact that  Groundhogs are not the Nostradamus of the rodent world as they can barely remember which drawer they left their pants in, let alone predict the changing of the seasons.

These were all very important topics, near and dear to my heart from pollinators to climate change and even Chicken Pants which I have no idea what I was thinking of at the time that spurred that thought process. But the point is simply this – the world is a messy place, our role in the zoo is to focus on wildlife and so most of what you see and read here is about the environment and the people who work tirelessly to protect wildlife and their habitats around the clock.

We can do more to help our partners and the environment and it is so simple it hurts my head to think about it.

Have 30 seconds to spare? Try this: Recycle a cell phone – protect wildlife in Africa. Lets make this a friendly disease called the Responsible Consumer Syndrome. You can catch this syndrome by also understanding where the Palm Oil in your products originates – and protect Orangutans in Southeast Asia

The great plastic debate? Not really a debate – we are addicted to plastic shopping bags and water bottles. Do you think Krogers, Randalls, HEB and others realizes how much money they could save by not providing its customers millions of plastic bags every year which in turn would protect the environment and wildlife? Probably equal to the economy of a small country. Interesting someone thought enough of the water bottle issue to ban them from Grand Canyon National Park – I guess they think it is prettier than the other parks since it is the only one that bans plastic water bottles.

Who would have thought the National Park System would be following the lead of these countries  (mild disclaimer – these countries have banned plastic bags but they still drink water): Papua New Guinea, Germany, Kenya, South Korea, Belgium, Sweden, Bhutan, Botswana and a handful of others. You may recall I ranted about this on my  bestselling blog Doggie Doo’s and Doggie Dont’s (another disclaimer, my blogs are not for sale but I found a quarter after posting that one).

So for 2013 – we can do better. Smartphones and Smart tablets can inform us but cannot lead us to action – that is a human trait that we need to figure out how to enhance if we are going to continue to protect the worlds wildlife in the face of growing human populations and habitat loss. We have to care more to do more.

One thing I really do not care to learn more about is Poutine which my Canadian colleague tried to poison me with this year. I like my french fries with ketchup thank you, not brown gravy and curd cheese. But what we want you to learn more about are all are wonderful partners which can be found on our website or at a few of the links below:

Niassa Lion Project Mozambique, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Hutan-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation, Danau Girang Elephant Conservation, Painted Dog Conservation Zimbabwe, Gorilla Doctors, Education for Nature VietnamFaleme Chimpanzee Conservation Senegal, Coastal Prairie Partnership, Lowland Tapir Project Brazil, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Panama, Jane Goodall Institute, International Rhino Foundation, Art of Conservation Rwanda, NOAA’s Sea Turtle Program, USFWS, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas State University, National Marine Fisheries Service, Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, Terra Incognita EcotoursWildlife Conservation Network, Galapagos Tortoise Program, Natural Habitat Adventures, and a Thank You to all of our zoo staff, zoo members and supporters including Land Rover UAE, Anadarko, Chevron, numerous private foundations, individuals and followers.

Legend of the Orang-utan

We ran this a few years ago but thought we would reprint for some of our newer blog visitors:

The Orangutan is a fascinating ape which is in serious decline on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo – the only two places on earth they can be found in the wild. “Orangutan” in the native language means “people (orang) of the forest (utan or hutan).” Their decline is mostly due to habitat loss, development and hunting pressures. It is believed that if this rate of decline and habitat fragmentation continues, we will lose the orangutan within the next 50 years. Actually, since we ran this piece a few years ago, the orangutan situation on both islands has become increasingly dire due to habitat loss pressures.

Bornean Orangutan, Sabah, Malaysia

A Malaysian tale: The Orang-utan

Long ago, human beings (or orangs in Malay) lived in the virgin jungles of Borneo. They stayed in groups, sharing their long houses, subsisting on plants and animals provided by Mother Nature. Within the different groups, this peaceful way of life was however troubled by all sorts of problems and conflicts involving treacheries, malices, gossips and other issues that are specific to humans. A peace-loving minority of orangs decided to split from the major group in order to escape the clamors of the village life and went deep into the jungle. They established a new home and lived happily for years. More and more orangs from their former community decided to join this idyllic existence, up to a point that the newly created village became overcrowded and full with problems that follow humans at all times and places (pollution, noise, habitat destruction, cruelty and meanness).

The original group decided to break up one more time and wandered far away from this place. They established themselves on the mountains where life was paradise. Of course they didn’t stay on their own for long: more and more people joined them and troubled this peaceful existence. Fed up beyond belief, the original orangs decided that enough was enough: because they wouldn’t be able to find peace below the trees, they decided to climb up to the treetop and to settle down in the forest canopy.

Bornean Orangutan, Sabah, Malaysia

They also decided to not have any kind of relations with ground-dwelling orangs any more. From this day, this group became the orang-utans, or “people of the forest” and today can only be found living among the trees.

Learn more about our partners at HUTAN’s Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project

To learn about how Palm Oil is having a devasting effect on orangutan habitat and how you can be a responsible consumer – view our Palm Oil Page

Palm Oil Plantation after secondary forest is cut down and area cleared of vegetation.
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