Zoo to host Orangutan Awareness Week Nov. 11-17

November 8, 2012 - 9:44am

Keeper talks will address challenges faced by orangutans in the wild

The Oregon Zoo will mark Orangutan Awareness Week, Nov. 11-17, showcasing the highly endangered apes and their struggle to avoid extinction.

Daily keeper talks and feedings will take place at 1 p.m. at Red Ape Reserve, where Inji, a 52-year-old Sumatran orangutan, and her grandson Kutai, 18, share a home with the zoo's white-cheeked gibbons.

"Orangutans are at a really critical point right now in their native lands," said Asaba Mukobi, senior primate keeper at the zoo. "Habitat loss, palm oil plantations and an illegal pet trade have pushed them to the brink of extinction in Sumatra and Borneo."

The name "orangutan" comes from the Malay "orang," meaning man, and "hutan," meaning wilderness or jungle. According to Mukobi, many zoo visitors are struck by the orangutans' close resemblance to humans.

"Visitors feel a strong connection to Inji and Kutai," Mukobi said. "Building on that connection, we're trying to create awareness about what's happening to orangutans in the wild and let people know how they can help."

During their daily talks, keepers will distribute pocket-size shopping guides (while supplies last) that help consumers make orangutan-friendly choices at the supermarket.