'Orang' and 'utan' are the Malay words meaning 'person' and 'forest'; the orangutan is literally a 'person of the forest'.

The Trade in Baby Orangutans

Many unscrupulous private zoos have in the past paid high prices for baby orangutans. Today, orphaned orangutans are sold as pets in Borneo and Sumatra. Baby orangutans are obtained by shooting their mothers and many babies die before they are sold. A few are lucky to be rescued and taken to special rehabilitation centres to be reared and returned to the forest. The forests to which the orangutans are returned must be protected to ensure their survival.  Deforestation simply opens up the jungles to poachers who have even greater access to the babies.

Mining for gold causes about a tenth of the damage done to the rainforests, even in protected areas where open pit mining scars the landscape and mercury pollutes the rivers and kills fish and other animals.

These threats have resulted in a huge reduction in the number of orangutans and their slow breeding rate is not sufficient to boost numbers in the wild. As a species they are seriously endangered and could become extinct within the next ten to twenty years.  Although breeding them in captivity may be a way to prevent orangutans from becoming extinct, the only way to ensure their survival in the wild is to protect their forest habitat.

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