ConservationOrangutan Caring Week

November 10, 2015

Orangutan Caring Week is a worldwide event held annually every November to promote awareness and action to save these incredible red-haired apes and their rainforest homes.

Facts about Orangutans

  • Orangutans are divided into two species: the Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus) and the Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii).
  • An orangutan’s arms can be more than six feet long, while the legs are 30 to 50 percent shorter. This body type suits an animal that spends most of its time swinging from branch to branch; a movement known as brachiating.
  • They are omnivorous, eating fruit, young shoots, bark and insects.
  • Orangutans are born with an amazing ability to reason and think. They share nearly 97% of the same DNA with humankind.

Palm Oil and How it Threatens Orangutans

Both orangutan species are considered to be endangered, with the Sumatran orangutan being Critically Endangered. Human activities have caused severe declines in the populations and ranges of both species.

A large factor in orangutan endangerment is palm oil. Viewed by many as a good alternative to trans-fats, it is found in candy, cookies, baked goods, shampoo, cosmetics, pet foods and even cleaning products.

Palm oil trees are an introduced agricultural crop, primarily grown in Borneo and Sumatra. When palm oil is produced at certified sustainable plantations and mills, rain forest areas are protected. However, non-sustainable plantations result in the destruction of critical habitat for orangutans, elephants, tigers, sun bears, rhinos and many other animals. Orangutans in particular are predicted  to become extinct in the wild within 15 years if the palm oil industry, deforestation and burning of peat forest do not change.

Taking Action – How You Can Help

Manufacturers, government organizations and others have collaborated to create the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and are committed to supporting certified sustainable palm oil consumption. Many companies have joined the RSPO and made a pledge to use only sustainable palm oil in their products, and thereby protect vulnerable habitats and animals.

It’s nearly impossible to ban palm oil completely, but the Virginia Zoo is committed to being part of the sustainable palm oil solution both by choosing palm oil free products and by purchasing products from organizations that are part of the RSPO as much as possible.

For a list of US companies that are members of the RSPO, click here.

Orangutans at the Virginia Zoo

Get to know the orangutans at the Virginia Zoo – visit Dara, Solaris, Schnitz & Pepper in Asia – Trail of The Tiger exhibit.


  • Female born on Sept 23, 1999
  • From Seneca Park Zoo, Rochester NY
  •  Paired with Solaris
  • She is easy-going, very smart, and very food motivated.
  • Loves to train with keepers and explore new enrichment items/toys
  • Favorite foods include: nuts, fruit


  • Male born on June 22, 2003
  • From Houston Zoo, TX
  • Paired with Dara
  • He is easy-going but can be timid/stubborn in new situations.
  • Loves attention especially from his favorite female keepers.
  • Favorite foods include: juice, nuts, alfalfa


  • Older male born on June 27 1982
  • From Brookfield Zoo, Chicago IL
  • Paired with Pepper
  • Typically quiet and shy, like to have set a routine.
  • A favorite among keepers for his quiet, sweet nature.
  • Loves his blankets/burlap and fluffy straw beds
  • Favorite foods include: juice, yogurt, fruit, nuts


  • Older female born on May 22, 1980
  • Born at Como Park Zoo, MN but came from the Brookfield Zoo with Schnitz
  • Paired with Schnitz
  • She is very smart, even tempered but can be mischievous at times.
  • Great nest builder with her blankets and straw but also likes to nap in her hammock
  • Favorite foods include: juice, fruit, yogurt, nuts