It’s Endangered Species Day & Orangutan Foundation International Is WAN’s Rescue Of The Week!

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WAN talks exclusively with longtime animal advocate Patty Shenker about her experiences with Orangutan Foundation International. Shenker, pictured above with a baby orangutan in 2011 supplied the photos for this article.

Today is Endangered Species Day, a time designated to recognize some of the conservation efforts that are taking place to protect endangered species and their habitats.

While protecting endangered species is always our priority, today also provides a fantastic time to shine an extra-bright light on Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), a remarkable non-profit organization that is dedicated to the conservation of critically endangered orangutans and their rainforest habitat. An increasingly challenging feat as, per the organization’s website, an estimated 1,000 to 5,000 orangutans are killed every year as more and more virgin rainforest is cleared for the appalling yet expanding palm oil business.

WAN talked exclusively with longtime animal advocate Patty Shenker about her first-hand experience with OFI and its tireless work to rescue, rehabilitate, and release ex-captive and orphaned orangutans into safe and secure sites in the wild.

“Orangutan Foundation International is a wonderful organization run by extraordinary people,” said Shenker, a years-long supporter of the non-profit that was founded in 1986 in Borneo, Indonesia, by scientist, conservationist, and educator, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, and her associates.

Shenker first visited OFI in 2011 when she not only participated in the release of four male orangutans into the forest but she also had the opportunity to meet Pushka, a female orangutan that Galdikas, the world’s foremost authority on orangutans had named in honor of Shenker by using her childhood nickname.

It was in 2017, when Shenker visited again, that she realized the enormity of the problem produced by the palm oil industry.

“This time, it took a seven-hour drive, an estimated 40 minutes by boat and another 40 minutes by foot to find a place suitable to release five orangutans, including a large male cheekpadder, into the wild,” Shenker told WAN noting that the extensive trip to a safe location shows how much forest has tragically been decimated.

“It’s a mixed bag,” a reflective Shenker said of the experience, “You’re happy to bring them back to where they belong but at the same time, you can’t help but worry about them.”

Sadly, according to OFI, orangutan populations declined by as much as 97% in the 20th century due to hunting and forest destruction, with an estimate of less than 40,000 Bornean and 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remaining in the wild.

“What we are doing to the animals of this fragile planet is a man-made global tragedy,” noted Shenker. “Thankfully, we are also now a global community which is growing at a remarkable pace. We need to help in other countries, especially those with little or no anti-animal cruelty laws.”

OFI currently operates Camp Leakey, an orangutan research center, within Tanjung Puting National Park. OFI also runs the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine (OCCQ) facility in the Dayak village of Pasir Panjang near Pangkalan Bun, which is home to 330 displaced orangutans, and helps manage the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, where rehabilitated wild born ex-captive orangutans were released into the wild.

Ways you can help Orangutan Foundation International and its work to help protect and save orangutans and other endangered species in their natural habitat, are available HERE!

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