We caught up with orangutan expert, Leif Cocks, who reminded us of the importance of supporting one of the closest species on earth to man.

Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, Orangutans are currently found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra and are the most iconic victim of the ever-expanding palm oil industry.  In a bid to save this endangered species, entrepreneur Leif Cock’s founded, The Orangutan Project and chats to us about how the community can get involved.

What is the aim of The Orangutan Project?

To raise awareness and funds for orangutan conservation. It’s also a time to recognise the danger facing one of the closest species on earth to man, and the most iconic victim of the ever-expanding palm oil industry.

What is your role in the campaign?

To provide the united voice that brings together all the efforts to help orangutans.

When did you first decide to get involved in this project?

I started The Orangutan Project 17 years ago and have been the President since its inception. I’ve worked hands on with and for orangutans for more than 25  years including the most successful breeding colony of orangutans in the world, orangutan rescues and the successful reintroduction of numerous orangutans.

Current positions include – President: Wildlife Asia, President: International Elephant Project, President: International Tiger Project, Conservation Fund Manager: Silvery Gibbon Project

What are the current dangers facing Orang-utans in the world today?

The current danger is extinction driven by habitat loss from the destruction of their habitat for unsustainable agriculture by large multi-national companies. The orangutans’ rainforest is being destroyed for palm oil plantations and other crops at an overwhelming rate. Remaining forest is decimated by forest fires, which are lit to quickly clear the forest all over Borneo and Sumatra.

Between 1992 and 2000, the Sumatran Orangutan population declined by more than 50%, and there is only an estimated 6,500 Sumatran Orangutans left in the wild today. The population of the Bornean Orangutan also fell nearly 43% in the past 10 years and it is now estimated there is only 45,000 Bornean Orangutans left in the wild.

How important is it that we take action and protect the Orang-utan species?

Very important, as the destruction of orangutan habitat drives many other species to extinction, takes land from indigenous communities, impoverishes local communities, destroys the economic future of Indonesia and is a major drover for global warming.

How can the public get involved and support this cause?

Donate to The Orangutan Project, or sign up a regular Adopter of an orangutan orphan.

Only 1 out of 6 orphans are lucky enough to be rescued – over 1,000 orphaned orangutans are living in rescue and rehabilitation centres. Care of these infants is costly and requires 24hr staff, veterinary, and nurse care to ensure they are in a healthy condition and have the best chance to survive – and possibly even return to the wild.

From as little as $55 people can make a real difference and help these infants survive. All adoption money goes directly to helping the orphans at the various care centres we support:

What are your hopes for the future of this species?

That all orangutans can live in the wild in secure and viable populations.