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Spare a Thought for Orang-utan Mothers this Mother’s Day

The world is nothing without its mothers. They are the nurturers of the world’s inhabitants, who love unconditionally, and often put themselves second to the needs of their offspring. When we read in the news of children who lose their mothers due to ill health, accident, wars, abuse, family breakdown and a host of other reasons, our hearts instantly go out to the children left behind. If we read in the news about mothers who are unable to care for their young, or who are suffering horrific abuse, our hearts reach out to them in the same way, because if we don’t look after our mothers, then their children too are at risk. The important intrinsic mother-child bond, especially in the early years is well documented.

Spare a thought then for the very close bond between mother and child orangutans.

Orangutans share 97% of our DNA, and are our closest cousins. Did you know that female orangutans are also pregnant for almost 9 months? The same length of time as human mothers? In terms of offspring, they only have four to five babies in a lifetime, only giving birth every eight years. This is because in the wild, young orangutans stay with their mothers until they’re about eight years old, and in some instances even older. This is because mother orangutans won’t let their young fend for themselves in the forest until they’re satisfied that they have learned how to find fruit, build nests and establish other survival techniques. As orangutans are solitary animals they don’t learn these practices as a group in the same way human babies may learn in a family unit or together with little friends at day-care.[1]

Sadly, however, due to the impact of palm oil plantations and illegal logging on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, many mothers are killed due to their rainforest homes being cleared. If the babies are not left behind as helpless orphans, then they are sold into the illegal pet trade, and the numbers are in the hundreds.[2]

Palm oil plant

In fact, over 50 orangutans are killed every week due to deforestation, and with about less than ten years left in the wild before they are the first of the great apes to become extinct, orangutans are now on the highly endangered list.

While many animal species are facing extinction – saving orangutans not only helps to save many other endangered species which live in the same forests, but their survival is also key to our own survival, because those forests are also key to keeping our planet safe for us too.

Did you know?

  • Around the world 90% of the world’s palm oil production comes from Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • Over 300 football fields worth of forests are destroyed every hour in South East Asia.
  • In Kalimantan, at least 256 plant species and 51 animal species are facing extinction due to the destruction of these forests.
  • Many palm oil plantations are on peat soils; the drainage of which is causing massive greenhouse emissions.
  • Palm oil can be found in over 50% of items in the supermarket.
  • Palm oil is high in saturated fat – so the products we consume that have palm oil as an ingredient is not even good for us![3]

Now you have more good reasons to give up junk food!

In Australia, the second Sunday in May is always Mother’s Day. A day when we acknowledge our human mothers. Last year a campaign was launched to help raise awareness of the plight of Missing Orangutan Mothers. M.O.M. was a positive campaign to highlight the crisis being faced by our mother ape cousins by encouraging people to help protect them and even though this event has since passed, there are still ways you can help these beautiful primates and their habitats.

How can you help?

Firstly, be mindful of your shopping habits. There are many sites online which can tell you which brands come from legally and sustainably harvested palm oil plantations and which aren’t. One helpful Australian website is More information can be sourced at and another comprehensive listing can be found at Palm Oil Investigations.





Image Credits:

  • Feature Image of Mother and Baby Orang-utans cuddling: Skitterphoto via BY-CC0
  • Baby orang-utan: Alician2010 via BY-CC0
  • Palm oil plant: Sarangib via BY-CC0
  • Piles of harvested palm oil pods: Tristantan via
  • Cross section of palm oil seed pods: Tristantan via
  • MOM campaign banner: via

*Link to Article as Published on Gecko Hills to Headlands.







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