Orangutans are endangered primates, consisting of three species that only live in two places — the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
They are very intelligent and second only to chimpanzees in relation to human beings, matching 97 percent of our DNA. Orangutans are not as social as other animals — they are mostly loners, sleeping in amazing nests they build in trees each night. Dedicated female orangutans carry the responsibility of caring and protecting their young. Reproduction is slow, with females conceiving only about every eight years. Populations have dwindled due to the usual human activity: hunting, habitat destruction, and the pet trade.
As one might imagine, baby orangutans are adorable! They have big eyes and goofy red hair. They use their long arms to cling to their mothers as they learn their way around the rainforest. The problem is that they are so adorable that some people want to keep them as pets.
We live in a world in which people will do almost anything to make a few dollars. It’s a constant battle of good versus evil. It’s a battle between those who are willing to abuse and exploit other people, animals, or the environment for personal gain and those who are left to deal with the consequences of their actions. Loving and caring people donate time and money to help those in need, create regulations, and enforce laws.
For every person who throws a tire in the river, there is a group of people who give up their Saturday to fetch it out. For every animal that is rescued from an abuser, there are compassionate people who rehab and care for the animal. For every company that exploits its workers or the poor, there are agencies dedicated to holding them accountable and offering assistance those in need.
It’s exhausting. And it’s unfair that so many people have to spend their lives fighting the digressions of others.
The list of consequences is tragic: Poverty, lack of clean water, slavery, extinction, unemployment, climate change, pollution, child labor, animal cruelty, physical pain, lost homes, mental anguish, bankruptcy — and I’m just getting started.
The illegal pet trade is a billion-dollar activity and baby orangutans are often sold for a few hundred dollars to wealthy families and other cultures. Horrifically, the only way to really get a baby orangutan is to kill the mother and pry it from her dead hands.
Baby orangutans feed from the mother up to six years of age, so it is no surprise that many die in transportation from the poacher to the buyer. The baby orangutans are not just orphaned from their mothers, they are taken from their habitat and are now at the mercy of the human beings who view them not as animals, not as primate cousins, but as dollar signs.
It is an amazing sight to see baby orangutans sitting in wheelbarrows, one on top of another. Many have been seized from poachers and those who purchased them illegally. While rescued, the lifelong consequence is that they will grow up without their mother in a rehab center. It will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (from taxpayers and personal donations) to care for these orphaned orangutans — to clean up the mess of disgusting poachers.
Incidentally, baby orangutans are place in wheelbarrows, whether they being rescued or because they are going to a rehab activity, because they have little legs that aren’t made for long walks. They are adapted to live their lives in trees and accordingly have strong arms and hands. There are plenty of photos and videos of adorable baby orangutans in wheelbarrows on the Internet if you want to laugh and cry.
Unfortunately, for me it’s more tears than laughter. As cute as they are, they belong in the rainforest with their mothers, not in wheelbarrows. Those images, and those responsible, will haunt me the rest of my life.