On International Orangutan Day, we celebrate one of humankind’s closest relatives.
We share a remarkable 97 percent of our DNA with orangutans, and with their impressive array of cognitive abilities – like logic, reasoning, and tool use – it’s little wonder that they are considered one of our closest relatives. In fact, their name comes from the indigenous Malay “orang hutan“ for “person of the forest.”
But despite their similarity to us, we’re not treating them very well. The endangered Bornean orangutan (like the mother and baby pictured here) and the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, face no shortage of threats compliments of Homo sapiens. Logging, mining, hunting and the radical deforestation in support of palm oil tree plantations have reduced habitat by 50 percent in the last two decades. The orangutan population numbers have been halved as a result. Thankfully there are a number of organizations working on conservation plans for these imperiled primates, but with palm oil being the most widely used plant oil in the world, it's a tough battle ahead.
Wildlife and nature photographer Thomas Marent took this photo in Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo – a wildlife preserve dedicated to the conservation of orangutans and other threatened creatures.
The multimedia magazine, bioGraphic, writes of the photo:
Clutching a batch of leaves over her head as a makeshift umbrella, she cleverly provides some dry relief for the baby nestled against her chest. Like other orangutan mother-offspring pairs, this duo will spend nearly a decade together – the longest parental investment of any non-human animal on Earth. During this time, the mother will teach the baby how to climb, eat, sleep and travel through the canopy at great heights.
Not to mention how to fashion a rain hat out of leaves.
While we love orangutans every day, International Orangutan Day is observed yearly on August 19th as a way to help encourage the public to take action in preserving this important species. For more on how to help protect orangutans, visit Orangutan Foundation International.
For more incredible nature and wildlife images, check out the site of Thomas Marent. And for more thought-provoking nature and wildlife stories, follow bioGraphic on Facebook or Twitter, or see them at their website.
And for more sweetness: Watch these adorable baby orangutans go to 'forest school' (video)