Proving that not all zoos care properly for their animals, one in Malaysia was allowing visitors to give cigarettes to an orangutan. Just recently an intervention by a state wildlife official halted the unhealthy practice by seizing the orangutan which will be sent to a wildlife center on Borneo soon. A zoo director said Shirley the orangutan is not addicted to cigarettes, but others said she seemed very agitated when she didn’t get them. Results from health exams are not available yet, so it isn’t clear how much the smoking impacted her health. Nor is it known how long she has been smoking.
Borneo and Sumatran orangutans are endangered. About eighty percent of their habitat has been destroyed through illegal and legal logging. Orangutans are orphaned when their mothers are killed by logging activities. The orphans sometimes wind up at wildlife centers. Also they can be captured for the illegal pet traded. Some orangutans have sold for $50,000 in Europe, but who buys them, knowing the parents were killed in order to capture the baby?
It isn’t clear what Shirley’s history is, but certainly her life worsened every time she came into contact with the bad actors around her. She is believed to be about twenty years old, and may live to the age of sixty in captivity.
Orangutans are fascinating creatures for many reasons. They can identify and eat over 300 fruits. Also the are the most energy-efficient primates.
They might be driven into extinction by logging and conversion of their habitat to palm oil farms. If you want to help save orangutans,don’t purchase any food or personal care products containing palm oil.
Image Credit: Public Domain