Yes, it's true! Orangutan babies look so cute and behave very like human children. Many people want a baby orangutan as a playmate for their child, even though it is illegal. People who can't have children also think that keeping a baby orangutan will solve their problems.

    People pay huge sums of money for the babies and are usually told they have been born in zoos. They like to believe this, but it isn't true. Orangutans rarely breed in captivity and if they do, the zoos want to keep the babies to attract visitors.

    So where do the babies come from?

    The baby orangutans are taken directly from the wild, like this:

    Mother orangutans have only one baby at a time, which they rarely let go of for the first three years. They always have bodily contact. They need to, because they do not live in a group and mustn't risk losing each other in the treetops.

    You can't climb into the trees and just take a baby from its mother. You would have to climb 30 metres high and the mother would not just give up her child to a human! If you did somehow manage it, she would follow you until she got her baby back. People have found an easier way:

    The mothers are simply shot dead from the ground. In Indonesia, they shoot them in their thousands. It still goes on today!

    Often the hunters aren't a very good shot and they accidentally shoot the baby as well, or the baby dies from falling to the ground with its dead mother.

    People who buy a baby orangutan are quickly disappointed: an orangutan is not a pet and certainly not a substitute for a human child. Captivity makes them aggressive and they are only cute when they are babies. Adult orangutans can grow to be 100 kgs, eat a huge amount of food and are far too big to be handled.

    Things start to go wrong very quickly as the baby starts to grow up. People lock them up and usually try to forget they exist. The babies are often beaten and they are fed human food that isn't good for them at all. When they are found they are often more dead than alive.

    In Indonesia, a few people have begun to fight for the orangutan's survival. Rescue centres have been set up which take in the half-starved orangutans from forest fires or those found in people's homes.

    We're going to look at one of those rescue centres now. Are you coming?
This way! back to the burning forest
© Meike Kunkel