The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
A popular orangutan at a zoo in England is making headlines again after he was seen on video having a touching moment with a pregnant woman.
Kayley Bettany was visiting Colchester Zoo in Essex with her husband, Kieran, when the zoo's 48-year-old great ape, Rajang, came over and started caressing her belly through the glass.
"When he started playing around with my bump through the glass it amazed me," Kayley told The Daily Mail. "I never thought the orangutan would react this way—he even had a tear in his eye."
The Bettanys have since been back to see Rajang with their daughter, Brooke.
This isn't the first time Rajang has been seen on video completely enthralled with a bun in the oven. Last year, Maisie Knight was at the zoo when her partner Jamie Clarke told her to put her baby bump up against the glass.
Clarke caught the sweet exchange on video, which he later posted on YouTube, of Rajang kissing her bump through the glass.
"Me and my 37 week pregnant partner visited Colchester zoo and [were] amazed when we visited Rajang the orangutan," he wrote on the post. "She is heavily pregnant and before long he was trying to kiss my partner's belly through the glass ... Truly a special animal that has touched our hearts."
As the video gained the attention of the world via social media, the zoo acknowledged Rajang's curiosity and penchant to interact with visitors:
"Rajang has always been a curious orangutan! He loves belly buttons, scars and of course baby bumps! His inquisitive way means he loves to interact with visitors particularly those who might be expecting!"
Following Rajang's most recent exchange, two keepers at the zoo who are expecting are taking his interest one step further to see if he can predict what the sex of their baby will be.
In Indonesia, scientists say the extraordinary Leuser Ecosystem is among the most important forests left in Southeast Asia and is critically important to the continued survival of species including orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants. However, it is being lost to palm oil production.
The issue was recently exposed in a short video from the team behind the film Racing Extinction. The video shows how the blind growth in demand for palm oil—the cheapest vegetable oil on the planet which is found in more than half of all packaged goods in an average local supermarket—has recklessly pushed massive, industrial-scale plantations deeper into the heart of Indonesia's rainforests.
"Given the scale of the climate and biodiversity crisis, we must act now to stop the bulldozing of the Leuser Ecosystem for palm oil," Chelsea Matthews, forest campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, said upon the film's release.
By Chelsea Matthews
As Conflict Palm Oil companies move into priceless rainforests like Sumatra's Leuser Ecosystem, they are leaving a trail of destruction behind. Chocolate the orangutan is one of the few lucky survivors of this destruction and his is a story of hope.
Chocolate, a Sumatran orangutan, was orphaned at a young age. He was violently ripped away from his mother to be sold into the pet trade after his rainforest home in the Leuser Ecosystem was destroyed to make way for massive industrial palm oil plantations. As the Leuser Ecosystem continues to be destroyed for palm oil, more forests are being fragmented, giving poachers easy access to Sumatran orangutans like Chocolate and other species hunted for trade on the black market.
Chocolate shown as an infant orphan orangutan while being held illegally by wildlife traders in a small village on the outskirts of the Tripa peat swamp in Indonesia's Leuser Ecosystem. Paul Hilton / SOCP
The rainforests of the Leuser Ecosystem are the last place on Earth that can support viable populations of Sumatran orangutans and other critically endangered species. Protecting this extraordinary place is essential if the Sumatran orangutan, tiger, rhino and elephant are going to continue to survive in the wild.
Driving this crisis is Conflict Palm Oil: the world's cheapest vegetable oil which is found in roughly 50 percent of packaged goods, including foods made by snack food giant PepsiCo. The skyrocketing demand for cheap Conflict Palm Oil has driven industrial-scale palm oil plantations deep into the rainforests of Indonesia, including the critically important Leuser Ecosystem.
Chocolate, a critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, is released into the wild after four years in rehabilitation.Paul Hilton / Wildlife Asia
PepsiCo is the largest globally distributed snack food company in the world and uses an immense amount of palm oil: Its annual consumption could fill enough Pepsi soda cans full of palm oil to circle the earth at the equator four times.
Right now, PepsiCo and other mainstream companies are failing to use palm oil in their products that is truly conflict-free. As palm oil is such a pervasive ingredient, boycotting products that contain it would be nearly impossible. This is why there is a growing movement calling for truly responsible palm oil—a benchmark that ensures no deforestation, no species extinction and no human rights abuses for the production of palm oil.
This approach is already proving successful as each year more and more of the companies that buy, sell and use palm oil in their products have adopted responsible palm oil commitments. But PepsiCo has fallen behind its peers by failing to raise its standards to the new global benchmark for responsible palm oil use. PepsiCo must clean up its palm oil supply chain to ensure it is not driving iconic species like the Sumatran orangutan to extinction.
Join the movement. Demand PepsiCo adopt a truly responsible palm oil policy and break its link to the destruction of critical forests like the Leuser Ecosystem.
Although we continue to see destruction for palm oil, there is hope. Every day more people are standing up, fighting back and holding the line against further destruction. Together, we can win for Chocolate, for the Leuser Ecosystem and for all the people and animals who reply on it.
- Palm Oil - The Orangutan Project ›
- The Effects of Palm Oil | Orangutan Foundation International ›
- Endangered Orangutans Gain From Eco-Friendly Shifts in Palm Oil ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A Bornean orangutan with baby at Camp Leakey Tanjung Puting Reserve in South Kalimantan, Indonesia.Photo credit: World Wildlife Fund
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published an assessment this week that found hunting, habitat destruction and degradation, and habitat fragmentation to be the biggest drivers of Bornean orangutan population loss, Mongabay reported.
The authors wrote that "the combined impacts of habitat loss, habitat degradation and illegal hunting equate to an 86% population reduction between 1973 and 2025," according to Mongabay.
Only 59.6 percent of Borneo's forests were suitable for orangutans in 2010. Most of the land, Mongabay reported, is protected by Indonesian, Malaysian and Brunei governments. But illegal logging and uncontrolled burning continues to threaten the population.
"This is full acknowledgement of what has been clear for a long time: orangutan conservation is failing," Andrew Marshall, one of the authors of the assessment, told Mongabay.
Even with the remaining forest, it might not be enough to sustain the current Bornean orangutan population, Mongabay said:
In addition, the smaller patches of remaining forest may be unable to sustain the groups currently living there. These zombie orangutan populations can adapt to survive for decades in degraded or isolated habitats, but the poor health or low numbers may prevent successful reproduction.
Habitat loss is not the only factor contributing to the decreasing Bornean orangutan population. Females reproduce once every six to eight years—the longest birth interval of any land mammal—making the population slow to rebound even if improvements to conservation are made.
Bornean Orangutan female 'Tata' and her unnamed baby aged 2-3 months portrait at Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia. Photo credit: World Wildlife Fund
This new classification for the Bornean orangutan shouldn't be a cause to give up hope though. Marshall said that recent studies have found the species to be "more adaptable, and fare better in degraded forests than once predicted," Mongabay reported.
He believes placing a higher conservation value on degraded lands could help the Bornean orangutans avoid extinction.
"Although I think things will likely get worse before they get better, it's not too late for orangutans," Marshall said.
The World Wildlife Fund reports that there are currently 41,000 Bornean and 7,500 Sumatran orangutans in the wild. Sumatran orangutans have been listed on IUCN's Red List as critically endangered since 2000.