Celebrating Orangutan MOMs on Mother's Day

Orangutan mothers and babies have an incredibly close relationship. In the wild, orangutans stay with their mothers until they are around seven or eight years old.
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Photo courtesy of Orangutan Outreach. 2014 Banner for Orangutan Outreach's MOM -- Missing Orangutan Mothers. This year's poster girl is Astrid and her baby boy Astro. They are now living in a safe forest in the Heart of Borneo.

Mother's Day is the perfect day to celebrate not only human mothers -- but orangutan mothers, too.

Every year on Mother's Day Orangutan Outreach teams up with zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and orangutan lovers everywhere for a global event called MOM -- Missing Orangutan Mothers. We do this in order to bring attention to the crisis facing orangutans in the wild and encourage people to help protect them. This year marks our seventh annual MOM event and we're looking forward to it being a very special day!

Why Orangutan Mothers?

Photo courtesy of Jessica McKelson for SOCP. Gober and her twins are being cared for by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. Gober was blind when she was rescued from certain death. At the care center she was housed next to a blind male. Several months later the staff had a surprise. Gober gave birth to twins. Following cataract surgery her sight was restored and she could see her babies for the first time.

Orangutan mothers and babies have an incredibly close relationship. In the wild, orangutans stay with their mothers until they are around seven or eight years old. Infants almost never even let go of their mothers for the first few months of their life!

Baby orangutans don't have an extended family to show them the many life lessons of finding food, building nests and countless other survival skills. Instead, they rely solely on their mothers to teach them everything they need to know about survival in the forest before they eventually set out on their own.

Orangutans vs. Palm Oil

Orangutans are critically endangered in the wild. Thousands of them have been killed over the past few years because of growing international demand for something most people haven't even heard of: Palm Oil.

Palm oil is in roughly half the items found on grocery store shelves. This unhealthy additive is used in foods such as cookies, crackers, chips, candies, cereals, chocolate and peanut butter, margarine, yogurt and even milk! The list is endless. Most pre-packaged food contains palm oil. In the bathroom you'll find it in your shampoo, soap, lotions, skin cream, lipstick and cosmetics. Take a look. It's everywhere.

With such high demand for palm oil, the orangutans' rainforest home is being wiped out to make way for more oil palm plantations -- leaving hundreds of helpless orangutans with nowhere to go. Desperate and starving they end up as easy prey for poachers and hunters.

The rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place orangutans live, and when the forests are destroyed, most orangutans do not survive. These peaceful, sentient beings are beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and often eaten. Adult males are shot on site. Babies are literally torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets. This has been documented time and again.

Large-scale deforestation is also a leading cause of carbon emissions and a major contributor to global warming. When the peat forests of Indonesia are burned they release so much carbon into the atmosphere that Indonesia now ranks third behind only China and the US in carbon emissions. If you're looking for a sensible way to reduce global warming and help mitigate the effects of climate change, the answer is simple: Save the orangutans' forests.

Photo courtesy of Annie Musselman. Orphaned baby orangutans being taken to Forest School at BOS Nyaru Menteng. The center cares for approximately 600 orphaned and displaced orangutans.

The orangutans who are lucky enough to survive the destruction of their forest are rescued and brought to special care centers where they are looked after by trained, professional vets and staff until they can be released back into the wild. Orangutan Outreach supports several major rescue centers that are managed by our partners: the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS), International Animal Rescue (IAR) and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). Together the centers look after upwards of 1,000 orphaned and displaced orangutans!

Baby Rickina is being cared for at the Ketapang Orangutan Rescue Center in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). The center is operated by International Animal Rescue. When Rickina was confiscated she had a gaping machete wound in her head. She has fully recovered.

It's all about MOM

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Adams for the Houston Zoo. Cheyenne and Baby Aurora at the Houston Zoo. Cheyenne has been a surrogate mother to many orangutans over the years. Aurora is her latest!

MOM -- Missing Orangutan Mothers is a positive way for orangutans in zoos and sanctuaries to be ambassadors for their wild cousins. With tens of thousands of visitors on Mothers Day, this is a perfect teachable moment for conservation and environmental awareness.

Every year we choose a special orangutan mom & baby to be the face of the event. This year's MOM banner features a new mother named Astrid and her beautiful baby boy, Astro.

Since summer 2012 the team at BOS Nyaru Menteng -- the world's largest primate rescue & rehabilitation center -- has been accomplishing something truly amazing. They've successfully released more than 100 rehabilitated orangutans into a safe forest in the Heart of Borneo. These orangutans -- all of whom were raised by human caregivers -- are not only surviving... they're thriving! How do we know this? A year after the first group was released, the post-release monitoring team had a wonderful surprise. They spotted Astrid one day and she was not alone. Holding onto her with an iron grip was a little orange bundle of joy! Astro is the first wild baby orangutan born to rehabilitated parents. When he grows up he will be the King of the Jungle.

Photo courtesy of BOSF for Orangutan Outreach. Baby Cinta (Indonesian for 'love') is being cared for at BOS Nyaru Menteng where she is one of the youngest orangutans in Baby School.

This Mother's Day we ask you to please take a moment to remember all the orphaned baby orangutans who are missing the love and tenderness of their mothers. Together with our dedicated partners, we're doing the best we can for them, but we need YOUR help! To learn more and help the orangutans please visit the Orangutan Outreach website.

How can you help? Learn about the crisis facing orangutans. Visit your local zoo and say hello to the orangutans. Adopt a baby for your own MOM. Orangutan adoptions make great gifts! Make a donation, large or small. Spread the word! LIKE Orangutan Outreach on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.