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International Orangutan Day: Help protect these fascinating creatures

International Orangutan Day is observed annually on August 19th to raise awareness about the plight of these great apes. Orangutans, which are native to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, are critically endangered due to habitat destruction caused primarily by deforestation for palm oil plantations.

The day aims to highlight the urgent need for conservation measures to protect and save orangutans from extinction. Various conservation organizations and advocates participate in events, campaigns, and educational programs on this day to shed light on the challenges faced by orangutans and ways in which people can help.

Individuals can support the cause by reducing their consumption of products containing palm oil, supporting sustainable palm oil initiatives, and donating to or volunteering with organizations that work on orangutan conservation.

More about orangutans 

Orangutans are one of the world’s largest primates and are known for their intelligence, strong parental bonds, and unique behaviors. Here’s a brief overview of these fascinating creatures:

Species and distribution

There are three species of orangutans:

  • Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)
  • Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)
  • Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)

The Bornean species is found on the island of Borneo, while the Sumatran and Tapanuli species are native to Sumatra.

Physical characteristics

Orangutans have a distinctive reddish-brown fur. Adult males have large cheek pads and a throat pouch that they use to make loud calls. They have long arms, which are well-suited for brachiation (swinging from branch to branch) in the canopy.

Behavior and lifestyle

Orangutans are mostly arboreal, which means they spend a majority of their life in trees. They construct nests daily for sleeping. They are largely solitary creatures, especially adult males, who can be territorial.


Orangutans are primarily frugivorous, meaning their diet consists largely of fruits. However, they also consume leaves, flowers, bark, insects, and, on rare occasions, small vertebrates.


Orangutans have a long inter-birth interval, one of the longest for any animal. A female may only give birth once every 7-9 years, leading to a slow population growth.


Orangutans are highly intelligent and are known to use tools in the wild. They’ve been observed using sticks to extract termites or honey and leaves as gloves or makeshift umbrellas.

Conservation status

All three species of orangutans are critically endangered. The primary threats they face are habitat loss due to logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations, illegal pet trade, and hunting.

Cultural significance

In Malay and Indonesian, “orangutan” means “person of the forest” (from “orang” meaning “person” and “hutan” meaning “forest”). They play an important role in the cultures of the regions where they are found and are considered symbols of the wild and untamed jungle.

Protecting orangutans and their habitat is vital not only for the species themselves but also for the overall health of the ecosystems they inhabit, which have a direct influence on global climate and biodiversity.

How to celebrate 

Celebrating International Orangutan Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the plight of orangutans and to promote actions that can help save these magnificent creatures and their habitats. Here are some ways you can observe and celebrate the day:

Educate yourself and others

Read about orangutans, their habitat, and the challenges they face. Share this information with friends, family, and colleagues.

Social media campaigns

Use social media platforms to share facts, images, and stories about orangutans. Use relevant hashtags like #InternationalOrangutanDay or #SaveTheOrangutans.

Support orangutan charities

Donate to reputable organizations that work on orangutan conservation, such as the Orangutan Foundation International, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, or Save the Orangutan.

Adopt an orangutan

Some organizations offer symbolic adoptions where you can “adopt” an orangutan, helping fund care and conservation efforts.

Reduce palm oil consumption

Check product labels and reduce or eliminate products that contain unsustainably sourced palm oil. Look for products with the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) label, which indicates sustainably sourced palm oil.

Host an awareness event

Organize or participate in events at schools, community centers, or parks to educate people about orangutans. This can be through presentations, documentaries, or interactive activities.

Visit a zoo or sanctuary

If there’s a zoo or sanctuary near you that has orangutans and supports conservation efforts, consider paying a visit. This can offer a closer look at these animals and learn more about them.

Buy orangutan-friendly products

Support companies and products that are committed to sustainable practices, especially when it comes to palm oil.

Petitions and advocacy

Sign and share petitions calling for the protection of orangutans and their habitats. Advocate for policies and practices that promote conservation at local, national, and international levels.

Every small action counts. The more people become aware of the challenges orangutans face and take steps to help, the better chance they have for a future in the wild.


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