Bornean orangutan male Charlie Bornean orangutan male Charlie CREDIT: Auckland Council

Join Zoo in race to save orangutan

Monday 5 November 2012, 4:57PM
By Auckland Council


The Great Ape Race – a mini ‘amazing race’ around Auckland Zoo to raise funds to help conserve orangutan in the wild, takes place on Thursday 15 November (6pm-9pm) as part of Orangutan Caring Week celebrations.

“The world is in a race to save this unique and magnificent great ape from extinction. The race is a fun and powerful way for Kiwis to help and show they care,” says the Zoo’s primate team leader, Amy Robbins.

Auckland Zoo has teamed up with Lactic Turkey Events to hold the early evening navigational race that is open to adults and children. Plenty of energy and teamwork are the only requirements, and participants are in to win great prizes.  All profits from the event will go to the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund in support of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme’s (SOCP) work – rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orangutans and protecting habitat.

Other activities on daily at the Zoo during Orangutan Caring Week (10-18 November) include orangutan encounters at 12.30pm, story time and orangutan nest making at 10am, plus craft and other interactive activities and displays.

Celebrated annually around the world, Orangutan Caring Week has taken the theme ‘Safeguarding habitat for a secure future’ for 2012.
Illegal logging and the burning of rainforests and peat swamp forests to plant oil palm plantations in Borneo and Sumatra remains the biggest threat to the orangutan, which could be extinct in the wild by 2022 if current trends continue.

As wildlife advocates, Auckland Zoo believes the only way to save these species and habitat and slow the uncontrolled and unsustainable expansion of the palm oil industry is to reduce palm oil consumption, and therefore demand.

“Palm oil itself isn’t bad. The problem is the destruction of rainforest habitat and consequent loss of orangutans and many other rainforest species to produce it – despite deforested land being readily available to use,” says Ms Robbins.

“Taking part in The Great Ape Race to support the vital work of SOCP and, as much as you can, choosing to buy local and unprocessed foods and products that are palm oil-free are great ways to help. The Zoo has an online Palm Oil-Free Shopping Guide, containing hundreds of supermarket products to help you shop, that will also soon be available as a smartphone app,” she says.

Notes for editors:

Event details

*       Orangutan Caring Week 2012 is being celebrated at Auckland Zoo from 10-18 November with a range of daily activities. Normal Zoo admission prices apply.

*       The Great Ape Race, Thursday 15 November, 6pm-9pm. Cost: $25 for adults, $10 for children and $60 for a family (2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children) – includes Zoo admission. Pre-registration required. To register and for full details, visit or phone (09) 360 3805. This event is to raise funds for the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund to support the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. Refreshments and palm oil-free food will be available for purchase

Fast Facts

*       The orangutan is the largest tree-dwelling animal on Earth. 97.4% genetically similar to humans, it is the only great ape from Asia. Its home range is restricted to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

*       The biggest threat to the survival of the orangutan is illegal deforestation of its rainforest habitat, primarily to make way for oil palm plantations and logging by the paper industry, as well as the illegal pet trade.

*       Indonesia alone converts 3,400km2 (340,000 ha) of forest annually – that’s 54 rugby fields every hour.  At this current rate of deforestation, the Sumatran orangutan could be extinct in the wild as early as 2015.

*       In northern Sumatra’s officially protected Leuser Ecosystem, including Tripa peat swamp forest (home to the world’s highest density of orangutans), illegal logging and fires have decimated 90% of the population, which has plummeted from 2000 in 1990 to an estimated 200 today. The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) warns that if deforesting of this area does not stop now, this local population could all be gone by 2013.

*       SOCP is working hard to ensure this great ape’s future. View an 18 October NBC interview with SOCP director, Ian Singleton, in northern Sumatra <>

*       Palm oil is the world’s most widely produced vegetable oil, and is in at least one in 10 supermarket products, including food, cosmetic, bath and cleaning products. 90% of its production comes from Indonesia and Malaysia

*       In New Zealand, there’s currently no legal requirement to label palm oil or its derivatives, making it difficult to know whether or not you are consuming it. Use Auckland Zoo’s online Palm Oil-Free Shopping Guide, soon to be available as an app. Visit