On December 3, Colleen Reed, a representative from Orangutan Outreach, discussed the issues of illegal capture of orangutans, the palm oil crisis, and deforestation in Indonesia during her talk centering on “Reaching out to Save the Red Ape.”

“The more people that know, the more that can help,” she said.

There used to be 315,000 orangutans in the 1900s. Now, after 70 years, there are only 60,000 orangutans left and about 5,000 are being killed each year.

“This isn’t like 20 years from now we can turn this around.” Reed said. “We only have a few years left.”

Just this past April, said Reed, Orangutan Outreach had their youngest baby orangutan stolen from them.

Katrina Spirko, a senior elementary and early childhood education major at Edinboro, said, “the crisis that is facing the apes and the disappearance of Luna told me that the time to raise my voice in their defense is right now… if you love something, you won’t quit on it.”

According to Edinboro University’s website, the Orangutan Outreach event was organized thanks to the passion of Spirko and the teamwork of Students of Edinboro for Environmental Defense (SEED).

Some of the biggest problems for the apes is the palm oil crisis and deforestation, Reed said.

The palm oil tree has to grow on its own soil, so logging companies have to come in and clear the rainforest. They clear access roads to get into the forest and, once their in, they use the slash and burn method to completely get rid of the trees and brush, said Reed.

Palm oil is cheaper to use than vegetable oil and is considered a clean burning fuel, but “if you have to tear down an entire rainforest in order to get a cleaner burning fuel, you’re losing a whole lot more,” Reed pointed out.

A majority of the products in grocery stores contain palm oil, since it’s used as a preservative, said Reed. Cookies, candy, ice cream, shampoo and deoderant are some of the products that use palm oil and it can be found in the ingredient listings under different names: such as palmitate or palmate.

Reed said that with the largest rainforests getting torn down daily, there are fewer and fewer trees around to reabsorb the carbon that is being produced. 

According to Reed, there is a lot of practical ways that people can help save the orangutans. There are volunteer opportunities at Orangutan Outreach, people can donate, or they can adopt an orangutan virtually for $120 per year.

All the information about how you can help can be found at their website: www.redapes.org.

“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, can we help, and only if we help, shall they be saved.” Jane Goodall, considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. 

– Taken from The Spectator (Vol. 3, Issue 13) December 8, 2011 

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