11 July 2008
Taronga Zoo's ‘cool-dude' Orang-utan, Jantan, will today celebrate his 21st birthday.
Although this is a milestone for Jantan, it brings focus to the plight of his species due to the massive clearing of forests for palm oil plantations.
Orang-utans are clinging to survival in lowland and mountainous tropical rainforests of Northern Sumatra and most of lowland Borneo. These forests are rapidly being cut down to plant palm oil plantations due to the rapidly increasing demand for the oil.
Palm Oil is the cheapest vegetable oil in the world and is commonly used for cooking and found in detergents, soap, toothpaste, and chocolate. Plantations will flourish in areas where heat and regular rainfall occur.
The devastating loss of habitat has caused a major decline in Orang-utan numbers as well as other wildlife that depend on these forests for survival. It is estimated that approximately 5000 Orang-utans are killed every year. At this rate, complete extinction of one of our closest relatives would occur within 10 years.
Australasian zoos are working together to help safeguard the species against extinction with internationally-coordinated breeding programs, support for in-situ release projects and by raising public awareness.
Jantan and Willow [Taronga's female Orang] are important ambassadors for their declining species and their Taronga home simulates a rainforest clearing in their natural habitat and endeavours to educate Zoo visitors on how they can assist in protecting it.
Taronga Zoo's Primate Senior Keeper and Unit Supervisor, Louise Grossfeldt said, "People can help stop the expansion of Palm Oil plantations by choosing products which are Palm Oil free. Another way to help is to encourage companies to use sustainable alternatives to palm oil".
To celebrate Jantan's special day, a birthday cake has been especially prepared made with banana and all his favourite vegetables. Other birthday surprises will include yoghurt drizzled around his rainforest home for him to search for, buckets covered in honey to lick and also fig and apricot pieces which are big favourites as fruit comprises at least 60% of an Orang's diet.
Senior Primate Keeper, Mandy McLellan said, "Jantan is a beautiful Orang-utan. He has a very mellow temperament and really enjoys the company of his keepers. Everyday he loves to make big nests of hessian sacks to rest on and then likes to cover his head with one. We think he likes the sacks for comfort and to protect him from sun, rain or wind".
Jantan and Willow are a favourite of Zoo visitors and can be seen in their Rainforest home or jungle gym. Jantan can also be spotted on the tallest vantage point with his nest of hessian sacks from the Zoo's scenic Sky Safari cable car.
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