An upclose of an orangutan that appears to be smiling.
Naughty smile An orangutan photographed in Kalimantan, Indonesia. © Yayan Istyan/TNC Photo Contest 2019

Our Priorities

Top 5 Things You Can Do to Save Orangutans from Extinction

Orangutans are critically endangered—that’s the highest degree of endangerment, according to the Red List of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)—and it means they are in extreme danger of extinction.

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! There is still so much we can all do to help rescue these magnificent creatures from the brink of extinction. Grizzly bears, West Indian Manatees, and one species of grey whale are all examples of species making a comeback—thanks to people like you, and your commitment to saving wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Here are five choices you can make to help orangutans become the next endangered wildlife success story:

1. Read labels. Whenever possible, avoid purchasing products made with palm oil. It’s used to make everything from face cream to candy and it’s almost impossible to avoid completely, but the less demand there is for this product, the less incentive there will be to turn native forests into palm plantations. When palm oil is unavoidable, know that TNC is helping palm oil producers find ways to make their product less damaging to Indonesian forests and the wildlife who dwell in them, including orangutans

2. Check for FSC. Indonesian timber is used to make furniture, cabinets, paper and much more. Some of that timber is harvested sustainably, in ways that allow forests to keep standing and providing habitat for orangutans, gibbons, birds, and much more… While much of it is not harvested sustainably. If you search for products that bear a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, you can feel more confident that your purchase isn’t destroying orangutan habitat.

VIDEO (8:02) Watch this video to learn how TNC supporters are helping save Indonesian forests, for orangutans and other wildlife.

3. (It should go without saying, but…) Orangutans don’t make good pets, or good meat. Don’t buy orangutans or orangutan meat, don’t accept them as gifts. It’s highly illegal and can cost you lots of money in fines and land you in jail for years. The illegal pet trade is responsible for about one thousand orangutan deaths each year, and traffickers often hunt and kill multiple females before finding an infant to kidnap.

4. Research who you tour or volunteer with. If you’re lucky enough to visit orangutan habitat, carefully research any tour operators or volunteer opportunities you’re considering. While there are several excellent orangutan protection and rehabilitation facilities and organizations, sadly, some actually do more harm than good. For example, letting tourists hold baby orangutans can be very dangerous for the animals: a human cold can cause them great harm, so respectable facilities actually won’t let you come near orangutans without quarantining and extensive training.

A man holds a recording device that looks like a box onto a tree trunk.
deploying acoustic recorder TNC lead scientist Eddie Game deploys an acoustic recorder in Papua New Guinea © Justine Hausheer/TNC

5. Help save orangutans and their habitat by supporting The Nature Conservancy through a one-time or monthly gift. TNC and several local and international partners are working urgently to reduce deforestation in Indonesia and save orangutans and other wildlife. Your donations make all the difference in our ability to do this kind of work!