International Orangutan Day Date in the current year: August 19, 2024

International Orangutan Day International Orangutan Day, formerly known as World Orangutan Day, is celebrated annually on August 19. It was created to raise awareness of the critically endangered status of these amazing great apes.

Orangutans are great apes that make up the genus Pongo. They once could be found throughout Southeast Asia and South China, but today they inhabit only parts of the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutans are very intelligent primates that use a variety of tools made from branches and leaves for various purposes and build elaborate sleeping nests on trees every night.

There are three extant orangutan species: the Bornean orangutan, endemic to Borneo, the Sumatran orangutan, endemic to Sumatra, and the Tapanuli orangutan, found only in a small area in North Sumatra. The Tapanuli orangutan was only identified as a separate species from the Sumatran orangutan in 2017.

All three species of orangutans are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This conservation status means that they are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. According to wildlife organizations, there are about 104,700 Bornean orangutans, 14,000 Sumatran orangutans, and roughly 800 Tanapuli orangutans in the wild.

The main threats that orangutans in the wild face are results of human activities. They include poaching (for the bushmeat trade and as retaliation for eating crops), illegal pet trade, and loss of habitat caused by deforestation (for logging and palm oil plantations). According to some conservationists, orangutans will be extinct in the wild within the next five decades is nothing is done to save them.

International Orangutan Day, originally known as World Orangutan Day, was launched by World Orangutan Events, a non-partisan initiative that promotes orangutan conservation and brings together orangutan conservation organizations. Other events organized and promoted by the initiative include Orangutan Caring Week held every November and Missing Orangutan Mothers, a campaign to support orphaned orangutans. Alongside World Orangutan Events, International Orangutan Day is supported and heavily promoted by many other orangutan conservation organizations.

How can you observe International Orangutan Day? The best and most fun way to do it is to adopt an orangutan! Of course, this don’t mean that you actually get to keep an orangutan as a pet. Symbolic wildlife adoption programs raise funds for endangered species by assigning donors a specific animal from that species and giving them regular updates about their “adoptees”. Before symbolically adopting an orangutan, make sure to research the wildlife organization that offers symbolic adoptions to make sure it’s legitimate and your money will really go towards orangutan conservation.

You can also observe the holiday and support orangutans by simply donating to an orangutan rescue organization, learning more about these apes by reading a book or watching a documentary about orangutans, checking out the orangutan exhibit at your local zoo if it has one, and spreading awareness online with the hashtag #InternationalOrangutanDay.

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