Red hair is a rare and wonderful thing and so are orangutans. That is why, to mark World Orangutan Day on Saturday 19 August, Twycross Zoo will be open for free to any person with red hair, be it natural, dyed or a wig. This is to encourage the public to take action in helping to conserve this magnificent great ape species and raise awareness of the many threats they face.
Populations of orangutans in the wild have dramatically declined in the recent years. There are now only an estimated 14,600 Sumatran orangutans and 55,000 Bornean orangutans according to the International Union for Conservation on Nature (IUCN), which lists both species as Critically Endangered.
While there are many factors, the crisis of the orangutan is above all linked to unsustainable farming of palm oil – a popular type of vegetable oil that is derived from the African oil palm tree, which flourishes in climates that have abundant heat and rainfall. The growing demand for palm oil leads to mass deforestation across Indonesia and Malaysia where the rainforest is slashed and burned to make way for plantations. Orangutans, who make nests in trees and only occasionally descent to the ground, thus lose their natural habitat and many deaths are also caused as the animals are caught up in the deforestation process.
Twycross Zoo has five Bornean orangutans and is one of only two zoos in the world to have welcomed two orangutan babies in the past year. The oldest of the group, 40 years old female Kibriah gave birth to the youngest group member, girl Kayan, born in June 2017. The older baby, boy Basuki, was born to Maliku in March this year and the group is complete with the boy’s seven years old sister Molly and the impressive male Batu. During the World Orangutan Day keepers will be at hand to provide more details about the zoo’s own group, highlight the plight of orangutans in the wild and explain what simple steps visitors can take to help save the species that could face extinction in the next 10 to 20 years.
Visitors coming to Twycross Zoo can help orangutans by joining the Zoo’s animal adoption scheme, which helps support the conservation of endangered species, or by direct donation at the Guest Services. The Zoo also uses the funding from entry fees and gift shop items to invest in, and carry out, conservation work, including breeding of endangered species, not just at the Zoo, but around the world too.
Another way to help alleviate the pressures on orangutans is to choose products which use sustainably produced palm oil. Twycross Zoo is also working to help other types of great ape in the wild and has set up a mobile phone recycling scheme earlier this year to encourage recycling of precious materials in consumer electronics which reduces the pressure on natural resources and wildlife, including bonobos, gorillas and chimpanzees.
Loraine Miller, Great Apes Deputy Team Leader at Twycross Zoo says, “Since Twycross Zoo opened in 1963, orangutans have been a key species that we have cared for. They are among the most intelligent primates, using a variety of tools to forage and play and our visitors can witness this first-hand. World Orangutan Day is crucial to help us raise awareness about the declining orangutan populations caused by poaching, habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. We want to offer our visitors a fun day out for all, but also encourage them to take action in preserving this amazing species.”
Visitors are asked to leave extra time to get to Twycross Zoo when coming for this event as it was very popular last year. The Zoo is open from 10am to 6pm and the offer is valid throughout the whole day, so even those arriving later can enjoy their free entry.
For more information call 0844 474 1777, or visit www.twycrosszoo.org.