Posted: November 1, 2017
A team of people waits in the forest to spot a huge, fuzzy orangutan. Heavy rain pours down. It is hard to walk or even see. But wait. They glimpse something swinging through the treetops. There he is! Shoot!
A tranquilizer dart flies through the air. The ape drops—down and down and down. He hits a tree branch on the way. In a few minutes, he has fallen fast asleep. Believe it or not, the people with the darts aren’t hunters. They are rescuers.
You can find orangutans in only two places in the wild: the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the island of Borneo, which Indonesia shares with the countries Malaysia and Brunei. But people fear the apes may soon disappear even from those places. Chainsaws roar to life all over the jungle. Little by little, loggers, farmers, paper makers, and poachers push the endangered apes out of their only home.
Remaining orangutans live in tiny patches of rainforest. Palm oil plantations box them in on every side. That’s because people around the world have grown very hungry for palm oil. They use it in everything from cookies to lipstick! Most of the world’s palm oil comes from Indonesia. Farmers need more space to plant palm oil trees. So they destroy huge areas of rainforest. Often, they break the law by burning the forest down. Many orangutans starve. Others are killed by plantation workers when the apes come out of the jungle looking for food. Mothers often die protecting their babies, which are taken and sold as pets.
Orangutan rescuers find hungry, injured, and suffering apes. They tranquilize them. Then they carry them away in stretchers. Sometimes, they have to cut bullets out of the orangutans. (Farmers shoot the apes while trying to protect their crops.) Eventually, rescuers release the apes into safer parts of the jungle.
Ape rescuers wish they had another option for saving orangutans. But they are desperate. Capturing orangutans is very risky business—and not just for the apes. A full-grown male orangutan can weigh 300 pounds. You don’t want to meet one of those in a bad mood!