An orangutan recounts his experience of being snatched out of his comfortable home in the rainforest.

Dear Aristotle,

I know many of your species are either Vulnerable or Endangered according to IUCN’s Red List. At a time like this, how could some animals write about some frivolous things? Perhaps, I should tell you the story of my life so you may understand how close we all are to extinction. Read about an orangutan’s great escape to … captivity, to the safety of an urban zoo.

I remember quite vividly, the first three years of my life in the safe arms of my mother up in the canopy of Sumatra’s rainforests. I clung to her as we moved from a treetop to the next in search of food.

My sister aged seven and my brother aged four also stayed close by her side. She taught us to walk, swing from trees and make nests (yes, we do make nests of leaves and twigs and small branches in trees at maybe 100 ft above the ground, to sleep in at night); she also showed us 300 odd things we could eat.

From durian, mangoes and mangosteens to barks of trees, from young leaves to insects and birds’ eggs, our great mother guided us on how and when to eat them. Life was wonderful with her around.


Then our troubles began on one morning at the crack of dawn. A pop sound woke me up. I was still in my mother’s arms when she fell dead from our nest. I was on top of my mother when she hit the forest floor. Terror gripped me as two men grabbed me. I refused to let go of her reddish brown fur. They yanked me off her and stuffed me into a gunny bag. I never saw my family again; nor my dear home.

I wish to forget the time between my capture by poachers and my rescue by wildlife officials. Stuffed into tiny wooden crates, shipped from port to port, hidden in dark backrooms of exotic pet shops around the world nearly killed me. I also wanted to die like other baby orang-utans, Sumatran tiger cubs and Birds of Paradise who could not take the stress. Enough of that! Let me take you to my home, the rainforests of Indonesia.

Sumatra and Borneo (a part of it), along with over 17,500 islands that straddle the Equator make up the Republic of Indonesia. There are numerous unique habitats in these islands and many species of birds and mammals and flowering plants are found only here. Orangutans, for example, are found only in Sumatra and Borneo. The question is for how long? We are an endangered species. Would we become a great ape of the past? Apart from poaching, we face many more threats. Our trees in the rainforest, especially the ramin trees are being logged. If our habitat escapes natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, forest fires and earthquakes, man cuts down canopy trees or clears large areas of forest for oil palm plantations. What are our chances of survival? Who cares about orangutans?

I appeal to humans to save us by stopping all actions that are hurting us. Gorilla, chimpanzee, man and we make up the family of Great Apes while gibbon makes the Lesser Ape family. I ask man how he could kill members of his own family. Is he not put in prison for taking the life of another human?

I have had a lucky break. Will my species get one too?