Save the Orangutan: A Comment From Michelle Desilets

I don’t often move a comment from the comment section to a post of its own, but I am doing so with the following comment for two reasons. First, it is a heartfelt and articulate plea on behalf of orangutans. So heartfelt and well written, in fact, that it brought shivers to my spine and I felt it deserved wider notice. Second, it got caught in my spam queue, where it went unnoticed for a day. The comment is from Michelle Desilets, Founding Director Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK. You can find out more about Michelle’s organization at Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK I hope it moves you to action.

It is often asked, “How many orangutans are left?” The numbers themselves do not matter. What matters is that the rate of decline is increasing, and unless something is done, the wild orangutan will go extinct. Once remaining populations become so small and fragmented, there will be no way to recover the species, as these small populations will be genetically unviable in the long run.
What also matters is the welfare angle of this decline 5000 are dying unnaturally–either from starvation as a result of habitat destruction or from human-wildlife conflict. Working with orangutans for 14 years now, I see them as individuals capable of emotions and pain. The loss of just one of these is heartbreaking. 5000 is genocide.
We have a moral obligation to save these sentient, intelligent cousins of ours from this brutality. I do not subscribe to the view that we need to keep orangutan numbers up so our children have a chance to see them in the wild. Orangutans do not exist for our benefit. They themselves have a right to life, regardless of whether we get the added benefit of gazing upon them in their world one day.
The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is the largest primate rescue project in the world. We look after close to 1000 rescued orangutans presently, and have rescued and released more than 1000 others so far. We are the only organisation actively rescuing the wild orangutans from certain death in these oil-palm plantations. 2 weeks ago we released a further 25 wild orangutans rescued from oil-palm plantations into a remote protected forest in the north of Central Kalimantan. This release site could potentially support more than 1000 orangutans, making it a viable population. BOS also manages the Mawas Reserve, a forest of 360,000 hectares, home to some 3500 wild orangutans. If BOS can continue to protect populations like those in our release site and in Mawas, we can prevent the extinction of the orangutan in the wild. Find out more at
Michelle Desilets
Founding Director
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK

3 Responses

  1. Great comment and certainly deserving of its own post.
    You may want to use the quote tool for her comment though as I didn’t realize we made the shift from your writing, to hers, until the very end.

  2. Fixed it…

  3. Another fact to keep in mind – some day, there will come another severe El Nino, as occurred in 1997-1998. In those two years, abnormally dry & hot conditions combined with indiscriminate slash-and-burn farming to result in huge forest fires rampaging through dipterocarp forests that had not seen forest fires for hundreds of thousands of years (or more). Clouds of choking smoke covered much of Indonesia for months at a time. If burning is still a normal way to clear land for farming when the next severe El Nino arrives, huge forest fires will again occur, destroying large tracts of rainforest habitat.

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