Save the orang-utan – yes, we can!

Whatever people’s opinions about global warming, habitat loss is a real and present danger for the world’s endangered species. In the face of logging, burning and the transformation of virgin forest into farmland for vast agribusinesses, the situation seems hopeless. Yet it is not. We can make a difference … in the next two weeks.

The Big Match Fortnight is a fund-raising effort by the World Land Trust.  The aim is to create wildlife corridors connecting areas of rain forest in Borneo. This will allow the orang-utan and other animals free movement through the area without coming into contact with cultivated land.

All the trust wants is to raise £300,000 in donations during a specified time period: the fortnight of 2-16 October 2013. That’s a minuscule amount in comparison with the millions recently paid for a 24-year-old to kick a ball around in Madrid.

The orang-utan is an animal that figures deep in our collective imagination. Its name means ‘old man of the woods’ and it was always seen as a species akin to ourselves. In his wonderful 1982 travelogue,The Sindbad Voyage, Tim Severin found clear links between this great ape and a figure from legend:

According to The Thousand and One Nights, Sindbad … came upon an old man sitting by the side of a stream. The Old Man did not speak, but with gestures indicated that he wanted to be carried across the stream. To oblige him, Sindbad put the old man on his shoulders, and waded across to the opposite bank. But when he stooped down to allow the old man to dismount his passenger refused, and suddenly tightened his legs around Sindbad’s neck until Sindbad nearly fainted. Looking down at his rider’s legs, Sindbad was appalled to see that they were the legs of a brute, covered in rough black skin. The unnatural creature now beat upon Sindbad’s head and back as if he were a beast of burden, and forced him to walk through the forest … Whenever Sindbad tried to rest or escape his tormentor, the creature kicked and choked him into obedience.

Severin believes that this old man was based on the orang-utan and he includes an illustration from The One Hundred and One Nights to prove his point.

Sindbad and The Old Man of the Sea

Nowadays of course, it is humanity that sits on the orang-utan’s shoulders and won’t release its stranglehold. Maybe we can make a difference and help get this monkey off the orang-utan’s back.

Please help spread the word: WordPress lets the whole world hear about these campaigns and spread the message beyond the borders of the UK. Donations can be made from 2 October to 16 October, so the system will go live tomorrow:


4 responses to “Save the orang-utan – yes, we can!

  1. Good post Alastair. Another way we can help the Orangutan is to avoid products which contain palm oil. This is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more products do contain palm oil.

    I’ve seen awful footage of forests burning, and Orangutans sitting in trees, burning, because they didn’t know what to do. All of this forest destruction is to plant more palms for oil.


    • Hi Lisa. Palm oil is a tricky one, isn’t it, because it’s one of those hidden ingredients. I guess that we as consumers can put pressure on big business not to engage in this kind of activity, because it’s normally outsiders who are responsible for this level of destruction. I have now given my contribution to the appeal, although it was probably barely enough to cover a small shrub along the way…

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